Yankees rout rocky Rhodes O's skid to 7th loss in 8 games

May 22, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- The Orioles found their fifth starting pitcher yesterday, but it wasn't who it was intended to be.

Arthur Rhodes made what turned out to be a one-day return from the disabled list and lasted only one inning as the Yankees handed the Orioles a 5-4 loss. After Rhodes' early dismissal, it was right-hander Mike Oquist who restored order, kept the Orioles in the game and earned himself a trial run in the starting rotation.

"To say I was impressed [with Oquist] is putting it mildly," said Orioles manager Johnny Oates, reduced to looking for bright spots during dark times. The loss was the fourth straight and seventh in the last eight games for the Orioles, who fell 5 1/2 games behind the American League East-leading Yankees.

For Rhodes (1-5) the afternoon was a brief but disastrous performance. Not only did he give up all five of the Yankees' runs, he also got a demotion, being optioned to Triple-A Rochester after the game.

For the second straight game, the Yankees did all of their scoring in one inning. And once again it was a three-run home run from an unlikely source that changed the complexion of the game.

Handed a rare 2-0 lead in the top of the first, Rhodes three times was an out away from getting out of the bottom of the inning without allowing a run. Three times he failed.

After walking leadoff hitter Bernie Williams, it looked like Rhodes might escape when he struck out Randy Velarde and got the dangerous Don Mattingly to fly out to center. But Danny Tartabull drilled a single through the left side, Jim Leyritz drew another walk to load the bases and Gerald Williams smoked a single to drive in two runs. That brought up ex-Oriole Bob Melvin and he cleared the bases with a home run into the left-field seats.

"When he [Rhodes] threw it in the strike zone, he didn't miss too many bats," said Oates, who gave the young left-hander as much leeway as he could afford. "He knows that Gerald [Williams] is a first-pitch, fastball hacker and he gave him one. Then he gives Melvin one he can get to and before you know it, they score five runs."

When Pat Kelly opened the second inning with a long double off the wall in left-center, Oates couldn't wait any longer and Rhodes was on his way to Rochester.

For the rest of the afternoon, Oquist kept the Orioles in the game. Twice he pitched out of threatening situations that could have put the game out of reach.

In the second, after Kelly went to third on an infield grounder, he got Velarde, who'd hit a big three-run homer on Friday night, to bounce out weakly. Then, after Mattingly was given an intentional walk, Tartabull flied out to end the inning.

One inning later, Oquist again found himself in trouble. Leyritz led off with an infield hit and went to third when Gerald Williams looped a single to left-center and took second on the throw.

Oquist responded by striking out Melvin and Mike Gallego, overpowering both with fastballs, and getting Kelly on a fly ball. From that point on he was never seriously threatened, although the Yankees managed one base runner in each inning but the eighth.

"I had a pretty good slider and threw some good curveballs and fastballs," said Oquist, whose last outing resulted in his first major-league win after five hitless and scoreless innings against the Toronto Blue Jays. "Every time you get through an inning without giving up a run it's a boost and when you can put a few [innings] together it helps your confidence."

Despite the loss, Oates also saw some things he liked. "We ran the bases a bit today," he said of what amounted to a scoring outburst by the Orioles. "We got a couple of extra-base hits and kept chipping away.

"We could've folded after they came back with five runs, but we played hard and did some good things. I saw more [yesterday] than I have for a while."

Rafael Palmeiro sparked the offense, going 2-for-3 to extend his team-record hitting streak to 23 games and knocking in two runs. Cal Ripken also had two hits and knocked in a run.

It wasn't enough, however, to ease the sting of another loss. The Orioles' slump has encompassed only nine days, but at the moment it seems like it's been in progress since the season started.


Opponent: New York Yankees

Site: Yankee Stadium

Time: 1:35 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Mike Mussina (7-1, 2.45) vs. Yankees' Jimmy Key (6-1, 3.00)

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