Rangers deep-six Rhodes

April 11, 1994|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Sun Staff Writer

Orioles manager Johnny Oates has told his pitching staff, particularly the starters, that if it can just hold the opposition at bay a while, his potent batting order will piece together enough offense to get the job done.

The Orioles' offense did its job yesterday, matching a season high in runs, but came up short against the Texas Rangers, 8-7, at Camden Yards.

And the defense was sharp, too, with a fine play by Cal Ripken, who backhanded a grounder by Juan Gonzalez in the hole, then threw him out from his knees in the fifth inning, and by Jeffrey Hammonds, who threw out Jose Canseco trying to score from second on a single in the ninth.

"How did we take two out of three when it feels like we got our [butts] kicked all weekend?" said Texas infield coach Perry Hill.

The reason for yesterday's loss was a subpar performance by starter Arthur Rhodes, who lasted three innings, giving up six runs and five hits, two of them homers.

As has been the case much of his career, Rhodes was wild early, and the Texas hitters waited for him to come to the plate. When he did, the Rangers made him pay.

"I had a bad outing. I was all over the plate. I just have to take it like a man," said Rhodes.

Rhodes, 24, hadn't pitched competitively in 11 days, and his performance reflected it. Also, the steady rain made for sloppy field conditions, thus hampering the defense.

But Rhodes didn't help himself or his teammates by consistently getting behind hitters, then throwing pitches that jumped off the Rangers' bats.

"We have to get Arthur to where he's in a consistent mode," said Oates. "What we are looking for is pitchers who go out there, throw strikes and give our defense a chance to catch the ball. These 35-pitch innings are not going to get the job done."

Said Rhodes: "It was one of those days when you go out there with the butterflies and after the second inning I was still trying to settle down. The next start, it won't be like that."

Despite their frustration, Oates and pitching coach Dick Bosman remain patient with the young left-hander with the 95-mph fastball.

"The bottom line is you keep working with him and hoping he'll be consistent," said Oates. "There's times when he'll pop your eyes out with his stuff. You've got to have patience. I hope we can break the pattern of good-bad-good-bad [starts] and maybe come up with good-good-good-bad."

In the first, Rhodes walked leadoff hitter David Hulse after getting ahead of him 1-2. He went on to throw eight straight balls, one a wild pitch that bounced about five feet in front of the plate, allowing Hulse and right fielder Chris James to move into scoring position.

Hulse and James scored when Will Clark flied to center and Gonzalez flied to right.

Canseco, who hadn't homered since last June 17, worked out of a 1-2 hole, then deposited a 3-2 pitch 423 feet to the club level in left, capping a 31-pitch inning for Rhodes, who was on a 100-pitch limit.

Fortunately for the Orioles, Texas starter Rick Helling, making his major-league debut, wasn't much more effective.

In the first, Helling walked Mike Devereaux, then gave up a two-run homer to right to Rafael Palmeiro. Harold Baines walked and moved to third on a wild pitch and a grounder to short by Ripken, but didn't score.

Rhodes allowed two more runners in the second, but got out of the inning. In the bottom of the inning, Mark McLemore doubled to left, then scored on Devereaux's single -- his first hit of the season that wasn't a homer -- to tie the score 3-3.

But Rhodes wasn't through walking the tightrope, and he fell off in the third, when the Rangers broke the game open with three runs.

The inning started innocently enough when Gary Redus and Gonzalez grounded out, and looked to be even more promising when Rhodes got Canseco into an 0-2 hole.

But Canseco again worked the count full, then poked a single to right. Canseco stole second, then scored on Dean Palmer's single.

"If the field is in good shape, [second baseman] McLemore makes that play. That's an out," Rhodes said of Palmer's single.

Perhaps, but catcher Ivan Rodriguez then homered to left to give the Rangers a 6-3 lead and send Rhodes to the showers, the earliest exit for an Orioles starter this season.

The Rangers widened their lead to 8-4 in the fifth on Palmer's triple, which a leaping Brady Anderson missed at the left-field wall. Anderson said his glove -- and perhaps even the ball -- may have hit the cap of a fan, who extended it over the wall trying to catch the fly ball.

The Orioles, to their credit, kept plugging away. In addition to Hammonds' homer to straightaway center in the fourth, the Orioles scored three times in the seventh, getting things started on a walk by Anderson, who moved to second on Devereaux's infield single. Palmeiro then doubled in Anderson on a drive to right. Devereaux scored on Baines' grounder to second and Palmeiro scored on Ripken's grounder to short. But the Rangers' relief crew, led by Jay Howell, who got his second win of the series, and Tom Henke, who notched his second save, left the Orioles one run short.

"They kept battling, but we just ran into a guy [Henke] that has done great against everyone," said Oates. "I certainly do not like playing in games like that. The guys shouldn't have to always worry about coming back. After you spend that much time, 15 or 20 minutes, in the field, it doesn't become very alert play. 8-7 games are not conducive to my health."

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