Orioles' offense, bullpen fold in Royal pain of loss Fernando's 1-0 lead turns to 7-1 defeat

July 06, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- If and when the Orioles get around to writing an epitaph for the 1993 season, it very easily could be dated July 5.

What happened here last night almost defied description. On a night when they again found evidence of magic in Fernando Valenzuela's left arm, the Orioles lost a game by the deceptive score of 7-1.

But they didn't lose this one because of poor pitching. Rather, it was an inept offense that deserted Valenzuela.

Hitting against a collection of four relievers with a combined 4.56 ERA, the Orioles managed eight hits, but their best weapon was a wild pitch. Three times they had runners on third base and less than two out and were unable to score.

"It can't get any worse than that," said manager Johnny Oates. "It's tough to believe it could be any worse."

The lack of offense is what set up the crucial elements of the game and forced Oates' hand. The Orioles had no margin for error.

Valenzuela was seven outs away from taking over as the major-league shutout leader (he's tied for the lead with two) when he issued back-to-back walks to Gary Gaetti and Kevin McReynolds in the seventh inning.

Trying to protect a 1-0 lead and having seen enough evidence to suggest the Orioles were finished scoring for the night, Oates didn't hesitate to make a move. The Orioles' bullpen has been the best in the American League all year, but Oates called on it once too often.

Oates brought Brad Pennington into the game because of the hitters Kansas City manager Hal McRae had on his bench -- not the ones in the lineup. Oates preferred the matchup of the rookie left-hander against right-handed hitters, and initially it paid off.

Pennington struck out Hubie Brooks to end the seventh inning, but an inning later he was knee-deep in kerosene faster than you could ask for the matches.

Rico Rossy, with a total of 38 big-league at-bats for a background, lofted a 1-and-0 pitch over the left-field fence with one out in the eighth to tie the score. Two pitches later, Brian McRae did the same thing and the parade was in full swing.

Mark Williamson replaced Pennington after McRae's homer, but he brought little relief to the party. By the time the inning ended the Royals had added five more runs, which was way out of the Orioles' range on this night.

"I didn't think Rossy could take me deep," Pennington said of the first home run. "I was just trying to come at him with hard stuff and he got around on it.

"With McRae, I missed my location and he took me deep, too. But I know he's capable of doing that."

Oates later explained why Pennington was in the game. "He was in there to keep their left-handed hitters out of the game," he said. "Who would you rather face -- George Brett or Rico Rossy?"

In addition to Brett, the Royals also had the left-handed hitting Chris Gwynn (.325).

Asked if he was surprised, as Pennington had been, that Rossy was able to homer in that situation, Oates said: "The odds were probably against it, but anybody who goes up there can do it.

"Maybe he took him for granted. If you do that, if you don't give the guy enough credit, that's your problem."

As ineffective as Pennington and Williamson were last night, however, the game probably was decided much earlier, when the Orioles left runners stranded all over the base paths.

It didn't take them long to get rid of Kansas City starter Kevin Appier, but they did it in unconventional fashion. And it didn't do them any good.

With one out and runners on first and second, Harold Baines hit a line drive through the middle that hit Appier flush on the upper right arm. The ball deflected to third baseman Gary Gaetti, who threw out Baines as the runners advanced.

But that would be the last pitch Appier would throw. Instead of seeking his 10th victory, he settled for a hot shower. Appier was replaced by Bill Sampen, who was followed by three others.

Mark Gubicza picked up his second win in four days, after having lost his first six decisions, by pitching 3 2/3 scoreless innings, making two extraordinary escapes in the process.

After scoring on a wild pitch in the first inning, the Orioles rejected all scoring opportunities the rest of the night as Kansas City manager Hal McRae maneuvered like it was the seventh game of the World Series.

David Segui hit into a double play after Chris Hoiles led off the second with a walk; Cal Ripken grounded into a double play with runners on first and third to end the third; Baines was unable to advance after starting the fourth with a single; and Ripken again hit into an inning-ending double play, this time with the bases loaded and after McRae had made two pitching changes.

Sampen departed in favor of left-hander Frank DiPino after Jeffrey Hammonds singled and Harold Reynolds was hit by a pitch. McLemore loaded the bases with a looping single to left, and Gubicza was summoned to replace DiPino.

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