O's Smith blows first save, but gets first win, 4-3

May 05, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Imperfection finally found Orioles closer Lee Smith last night. But the first save that he lost turned into the first game that he won as Mike Devereaux's 10th-inning sacrifice fly gave the Orioles a 4-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics.

Mark Williamson earned his first save with a 1-2-3 10th.

Jack Voigt scored the winning run from third on Devereaux's fly ball to center off Edwin Nunez, the third of five pitchers for Oakland, which lost for the 14th time in 15 games.

With Dennis Eckersley (0-3) on the mound, Voigt reached on an (( error by third baseman Mike Brumley, a 10th-inning defensive replacement. Nunez replaced Eckersley, walked Brady Anderson, and threw a wild pitch that brought Voigt to third.

Pitching for the first time in 13 days, Williamson earned the save in a game the Orioles needed only four hits to win.

Smith and Oakland's Dennis Eckersley (0-2), a pair of pitchers who have combined for 688 career saves, each gave up a ninth-inning home run.

Pinch hitting for Scott Hemond with the bases empty and one out, Troy Neel homered to center off Smith to erase the Orioles' one-run lead.

Smith had saved 12 games in 12 attempts and had not allowed an earned run before Neel hit his fourth home run.

Smith then walked Stan Javier, who moved into scoring position by stealing second. Smith escaped further harm by inducing ground outs from Steve Sax and Rickey Henderson, which sent the Orioles into their first extra-inning game of 1994 with the score tied 3-3.

Chris Sabo, last seen in Oakland helping the 1990 Cincinnati Reds to a World Series sweep over the Athletics, a Series in which Sabo hit .563 with two home runs and five RBIs, punished the A's again.

Sabo hit a ninth-inning home run over the reach of leaping left fielder Geronimo Berroa, giving the Orioles a 3-2 lead.

Frustrated by back troubles to the point he talked about the possibility of retiring, Sabo has been the last of the four big-name free-agent acquisitions to make his presence felt in a big way.

Neither Orioles left-hander Sid Fernandez nor Oakland right-hander Todd Van Poppel was involved in the decision. Van Poppel matched the longest start of his career by going eight innings. He limited the Orioles to two runs on three hits and six walks. He struck out six, did not allow a hit after the third inning and retired the last 10 batters he faced.

Fernandez didn't make it out of the sixth inning and the game was entrusted to the bullpen and offense with the Orioles leading 2-1.

Mark Eichhorn stranded the runner left him by Fernandez in the sixth and Alan Mills stranded the runner left him by Eichhorn in the seventh, retiring Javier on an inning-ending double play.

But when put in charge of his own inning, the eighth, Mills didn't fare as well, which has been consistent with Mills' pattern. He cleans up someone else's mess, then makes one of his own.

Henderson reached on a one-out walk and scored on Ruben Sierra's drive to right-center, a double that tied the score, 2-2.

The Orioles concluded the trip with a 5-2 record. They have gone 13-8 against teams from the weak AL West, a division they will not encounter again until July.

Idle today, the Orioles open a six-game homestand tomorrow night against the Cleveland Indians.

Fernandez lasted 5 1/3 innings and allowed one earned run on six hits and two walks. He struck out three and left with the Orioles leading 2-1.

Orioles manager Johnny Oates pulled Fernandez after he walked Berroa with one out in the sixth. Oates handed the ball to Eichhorn, who had not pitched since April 21. Berroa immediately stole second without drawing a throw, his first career stolen base.

He advanced no farther as Eichhorn got out of the inning by getting Terry Steinbach and Mike Bordick to hit routine grounders.

Three innings earlier, Palmeiro had extended his hitting streak to 10 games with his ninth home run. Palmeiro's ninth home run last season en route to a career-high 37 did not come until June 14, in his 61st game.

Palmeiro's home run, which scaled the concrete steps alongside the right-field bleachers, gave the Orioles a 2-0 advantage in the third inning.

Hemond, batting ninth for Oakland, cut his team's deficit in half in the fifth inning when he drove Fernandez's 1-0 pitch over the left-field fence for his first home run.

Van Poppel, the one-time Texas high school sensation drafted in the first round by Oakland in 1990, was coming off his best start of the season, a seven-inning effort against Boston in which he lost, 4-1, but only walked two batters.

Van Poppel, 22, walked 14 batters in 8 2/3 innings in his first three starts and didn't find the strike zone much more often in his fifth last night. Van Poppel walked at least one batter in every inning until the 1-2-3 sixth.

The Orioles failed to make him pay for his wild ways. None of the six batters Van Poppel walked in the first five innings went on to score.

The Orioles continued their trend of generating offense early, scoring in the first inning for the sixth time in nine games.

Devereaux, his batting average moving closer to the .200 mark, reached on a sharp, one-out single to center, moved to second on Palmeiro's walk and scored on Harold Baines' single to center.

The Orioles threatened to mount a two-out rally in the second, when Mark McLemore walked and stole second base and Voigt walked. Van Poppel escaped by retiring Anderson on a pop to short.

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