Fernandez gives Texas run-around in Orioles' 6-5 win

April 18, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Texas -- He threw 95 pitches. He lasted 3 2/3 innings. He didn't allow a run.

That was the long and the short of veteran left-hander Sid Fernandez's Orioles debut last night against the Texas Rangers at The Ballpark in Arlington.

From beginning to end, the Orioles did it the hard way, escaping with a 6-5 victory over the Rangers, who rallied for three runs off Alan Mills in the ninth, but couldn't overcome stranding 15 runners.

Fernandez escaped bases-loaded jams in the first and second innings and the ninth was even stickier.

Lee Smith earned his sixth save in six chances when right fielder Jeffrey Hammonds made a running catch of Chris James' fly ball to leave the potential tying run at second and the winning run at first, putting an end to a game that lasted four hours and four minutes.

Mills was brought on at the start of the ninth to face Juan Gonzalez, Jose Canseco and Dean Palmer, the three hitters Mills struck out in order to escape a jam he inherited April 9 at Camden Yards.

They gained revenge. Gonzalez drilled a 416-foot home run over the fence in left and Canseco planted a 410-foot homer to center.

"They hit bad pitches," Mills said.

After Palmer singled, Orioles manager Johnny Oates did what he had hoped to avoid. He called upon Smith one night after the veteran closer threw 30 pitches in one inning.

"You hate to keep using your bullpen," Oates said. "Sooner or later

they are going to get tired. Mills didn't have that good bite on his slider and Lee obviously didn't have his good pop."

Fernandez did.

"I thought he threw the ball good," Oates said. "We didn't help him out a lot. We made some bad defensive plays. They didn't have a lot of good swings against him. His fastball was exploding. He threw some by some good right-handed fastball hitters."

Fernandez allowed three hits, walked four and struck out five.

HTC Mark Williamson was the pitcher of record in the win that sent the Orioles home with a 7-4 record heading into an eight-game homestand that opens tomorrow night against the California Angels.

Williamson allowed one run through little fault of his own in 3 1/3 innings of relief. The biggest of 11 Orioles hits was delivered by Chris Sabo, who homered with one on off losing pitcher Jack Armstrong on his way to a three-RBI night.

See ORIOLES, 8C

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But for the most part, the evening belonged to Fernandez, who had the distinction of becoming the first member of the rotation other than co-aces Mike Mussina and Ben McDonald to start a game won by the Orioles.

Two innings into his American League career, Fernandez had thrown 60 pitches and stranded six base runners.

In the first, Sabo's throwing error on a botched force play at second left Fernandez confronting loaded bases with Canseco and Palmer due up.

Fernandez jammed Canseco, who popped to second, before falling behind Palmer, 3-0. He battled back and struck out Palmer on a fastball, the 27th pitch of the inning.

"I rared back and threw it as hard as I could," Fernandez said. "What was I going to do? The bases were loaded. I wasn't going to get cute."

Will Clark, who hit Fernandez hard during their National League days, watched the left-hander's 33rd pitch of the second inning, a slow

breaking ball, settle into catcher Chris Hoiles' glove for a third strike, again leaving the bases loaded.

"That was the best curveball I've ever seen him throw," said Clark, who stranded 10 runners all by himself.

For a change, Fernandez wasn't around the plate consistently. Walks put him in trouble in both innings.

In the first, David Hulse reached on a leadoff bunt down the third-base line and moved up when Fernandez walked James.

After Clark popped to third, Gonzalez grounded to Sabo, who went for the force at second, bounced a throw to the shortstop side of the bag and was charged with an error, setting up the first great escape.

Oates had set a pre-game pitch limit of 95 for Fernandez, who was shut down early in spring training by shoulder bursitis. Fernandez maxed out after retiring David Hulse on a fly to center for the second out of the third inning.

Williamson came on in relief of Fernandez with two runners on. He walked James. Carrying the torch for Fernandez, Williamson escaped a

bases-loaded jam, retiring Clark on a fly to center.

Four innings into the game, Clark had stranded eight runners.

The Orioles' infield defense did Williamson no favors in the fifth, when the Rangers turned three hits into one run.

Sabo overran a grounder off the bat of Gonzalez, who was credited with a single and took second on Canseco's single to center.

With one out, Ivan Rodriguez hit a grounder second baseman Mark McLemore fielded in front of the bag, stepping in front of Cal Ripken, who may have been able to convert a double play on the grounder. By the time McLemore spun around to make the feed to Ripken, Canseco was bearing down and McLemore didn't have time to throw out Rodriguez, loading the bases for Doug Strange, pinch hitting for Bill Ripken.

Strange lofted a fly to left that scored Gonzalez and brought the Rangers within 2-1.

The Orioles added a run in the seventh.

Hoiles led off by hitting a ball about as hard as one can be hit without clearing The Ballpark in Arlington's fences. He doubled high off the wall in left-center, near the 390-foot sign.

Sabo contributed a bit of situational hitting, grounding to the right side to move Hoiles to third and into position to score on reliever Steve Dreyer's wild pitch, putting the Orioles up 3-1.

The Orioles added three runs in the eighth on run-scoring singles by Ripken and Jeffrey Hammonds and a sacrifice fly by Sabo.

SID-UPS

Sid Fernandez didn't last four innings in his Orioles debut last night, but he still threw a lot of pitches:

Inning .. ... No.

1st .. ... ... 27

2nd .. ... ... 33

3rd .. ... ... 15

4th ... ... ...20

Total 95 (37 balls, 58 strikes)

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