Thin bullpen no relief in 6-4 O's loss Williamson, Pennington ineffective as Red Sox rally

September 14, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

BOSTON -- Johnny Oates doesn't have much use for excuses, though he could have pointed to a number of good reasons the Orioles came from four runs ahead to suffer a discouraging 6-4 loss to the Boston Red Sox last night.

Left-hander Arthur Rhodes delivered another two-headed performance, looking very strong for a few innings and flirting with trouble in others.

The bullpen, which was short a late-inning closer to begin with, entered the game without right-handed setup man Todd Frohwirth, who returned home to be present for the birth of his first child.

Right-hander Mark Williamson, who has struggled to an 8.10 ERA in his past 14 games, gave up four runs in the sixth inning as the Orioles passed up a chance to inch to one game behind the first-place Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East.

Nothing like a bullpen blowup to put a streaking club back into a funk. The mood swing was delivered by Red Sox third baseman Tim Naehring, who lined a 1-2 pitch to center field to score two runs and bring the Red Sox from behind.

The Orioles' relief quandary became even more apparent when Oates brought on rookie Brad Pennington to try to hold things together. He walked the only two batters he faced to force home an insurance run before Oates turned to another rookie, right-hander Kevin McGehee, to get the club out of the inning.

Would things have been different if the Orioles bullpen had been closer to full strength? Who can say?

Perhaps the pitching progression would have been different if Frohwirth had been in the bullpen, but he wasn't and the others were.

"They're going to have to pitch," Oates said. "That's what we've got out there. You only have so many choices. You've got choices you've got to make, and they have to go out there and do the job."

Williamson was quick to accept blame for the two-run single by Naehring that decided the game. He had jumped ahead in the count 1-2 before serving up a fat pitch.

"It's really frustrating," said Williamson. "You think you're throwing well and then you throw a pitch like that. I was in a position to walk off the field with a lead and I throw a [poor] pitch like that."

The Red Sox had a pair of two-out, last-strike singles. First baseman Mo Vaughn delivered the first one in the fifth inning off Rhodes to break up a shutout bid. Rhodes started strong again (( and finished with a fizzle, leaving with a two-run lead one out before he would have become eligible to get the decision.

Williamson came on to get out of the fifth inning, but gave up a single to Billy Hatcher to lead off the sixth and an RBI double to John Valentin to make it a one-run game. He made things worse with a walk to Carlos Quintana, but took advantage of a great play by Cal Ripken to get within an out of escaping with the lead.

Ripken made a great lunging catch to rob Scott Fletcher of a run-scoring single, setting up an intentional walk to Mike Greenwell to bring Naehring to the plate.

"Cal saved me," Williamson said. "I was thinking, he just picked you up, so now it's your turn to pick the team up. I threw a couple of good pitches and got ahead and then made a terrible pitch."

Oates knows he faces a tough road if the bullpen is not able to regroup. The Blue Jays and the New York Yankees have had relief problems of their own, so it could come down to which team gets its bullpen together.

"When you get down to an 18-game season, if you play good defense and pitch well, you've got a better chance to win than trying to outscore people," Oates said.

The Orioles were coming off a 14-run performance the night before, and it appeared that it might carry over against Red Sox starter John Dopson, who lasted just four innings and gave up four runs.

Harold Baines gave the Orioles the lead with a leadoff home run in the second, slicing a fly ball into the screen above the Green Monster with the bases empty. Chris Hoiles narrowly missed a home run with a double later in the inning, but he got it right with a two-run shot into the screen with two outs in the fourth.

Dopson entered the game winless in his last 11 appearances, dating to a rocky July 8 victory over the Oakland Athletics. The last time he faced Baltimore, he was the pitcher of record in an ugly 16-4 loss on June 11, when the Orioles were riding a season-high 10-game winning streak.

Rhodes carried a shutout bid into the fifth, but he had courted disaster two innings earlier. The Red Sox loaded the bases for Vaughn in the third, but he went first-ball swinging and grounded out to end the inning. The Orioles were less fortunate when Vaughn came up with two outs and the bases full in the fifth.

He fought off a handful of 2-and-2 pitches before lining a two-run single to right. That was all Oates could bear to watch. He brought on Williamson to get out of the inning.

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