Tigers' 3-for-all slams to close Demolished O's go down swinging, 17-11

August 13, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

DETROIT -- The Orioles came to Tiger Stadium hoping to build on a lengthy winning streak and take over first place in the American League East. Instead, they found themselves playing the fall guys for the baseball version of Superslam '93.

That's right, pinch hitter Chad Kreuter hit a tie-breaking grand slam in the sixth inning yesterday to put the Tigers on the road to a 17-11 victory in the heartbreaking finale of a four-game series that included the worst three-game pitching performance in Orioles history.

"You can throw batting practice sometimes and not get that many hits," Orioles manager Johnny Oates said. "You've got to give them credit. They swung the bat the last three days."

The Tigers scored 47 runs in the final three games and had a grand slam in each, tying a major-league record for bases-loaded home runs in consecutive games.

Outfielder Dan Gladden had hit the first two, both of them game-breaking shots that sent the explosive Detroit lineup on the way to a 15-run performance. But each of them came after the Tigers had taken a significant lead.

Kreuter's slam had to be much more painful for the Orioles, who had fought back from a 7-0 deficit and tied the game on a two-run homer by Mike Devereaux in the top of the sixth. The Tigers came back to load the bases -- with the help of a throwing error by Tim Hulett, one of four Orioles errors -- and set the wheels in motion for another Motor City mauling.

Travis Fryman had opened the inning with a double to center and Cecil Fielder was safe at first when Hulett bounced a throw past David Segui at first. Both runners moved up on a sacrifice bunt by Alan Trammell before Oates ordered an intentional walk to Tony Phillips.

This is where it gets interesting. Tigers manager Sparky Anderson sent Mickey Tettleton into the game as a pinch hitter, but reliever Todd Frohwirth got him to pop to short for the second out of the inning.

Anderson sent up Kreuter to pinch hit for Skeeter Barnes and Oates countered with left-hander Jim Poole to force Kreuter to hit from his weak side.

Kreuter entered the game hitting 91 points lower right-handed than left, but the percentages are only percentages. Kreuter drove an 0-1 pitch off the billboard that graces the second deck in left field for the record-tying grand slam.

The only other time a major-league team has hit grand slams in three straight games was in 1978, when the Milwaukee Brewers did it in a season-opening three-game series against (drum roll please) the Orioles at County Stadium.

It was a devastating blow, especially to Poole, who came into the game with an outstanding record of keeping runners on base. He had allowed only seven of his previous 42 inherited runners to score this year, but that ratio took a beating in a hurry.

"I felt very confident in that situation, and I just failed to do the job," Poole said. "It was all set up and I made a bad pitch and it doesn't matter who's up there."

The 47 runs in the final three games of the series broke another dubious Orioles record for runs allowed in three consecutive games -- set in the same series as the original grand slam record, when the Brewers scored 40 runs.

"I can't believe that," the Tigers' Anderson said. "I've never seen anything like that and I guarantee you that if you ask Johnny, he's never seen anything like that either. You sit there and you knew that he [Kreuter] was going to get a hit. When Chad did that, it didn't surprise me."

How did yesterday's game get to that point? The same way it did in each of the previous two blowouts. Another Orioles starting pitcher couldn't get off the launching pad and left the club scrambling to fill the rest of the innings.

Left-hander Fernando Valenzuela did an impressive imitation of Rick Sutcliffe's performance the night before, lasting just two-thirds of an inning and giving up seven runs. The Orioles spent the next five innings getting it back, only to be rocked again in the late innings.

"I can't explain this game," said Valenzuela, who pitched to 10 batters and gave up seven hits and a walk. "I thought I was throwing really well when I warmed up, but you saw what happened. That was the game. The Tigers are swinging the bat right now. Everything they did, they did well."

Shortstop Cal Ripken cut the deficit to three runs with a three-run homer off the left-field foul pole in the third, which was just another strange coincidence in a series where each of the past three games bore strange similarities. Pinch hitter Sherman Obando hit a three-run homer off the same foul pole on Wednesday night.

Detroit added a run in the fifth, but the Orioles tied the game in the sixth, scoring four runs off Tigers reliever Greg Gohr. Jack Voigt brought home the first run with a double and Harold Reynolds contributed an RBI single before Devereaux laced a ball into the left-field stands for his 10th home run of the year.

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