O's contain Thomas, get hurt anyway

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

Just how have things gone lately for the Orioles?

They had their best game of the season against reigning American League Most Valuable Player Frank Thomas last night, and they didn't get him out.

They did keep him in the ballpark for the first time in five games, but they didn't get him out.

Instead, they got themselves out, stranding nine runners in a 7-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox.

Meanwhile, Thomas doubled, singled twice and was walked twice. He left the heavy work for Norberto Martin, whose first major-league home run was a ninth-inning grand slam off Orioles left-handed reliever Jim Poole (one inning, five earned runs), breaking open a one-run game.

That's seven losses in nine games for the Orioles, who repeatedly have said that the New York Yankees, first-place residents in the American League East, couldn't possibly continue their torrid pace.

The Yankees haven't, losing yesterday for the fifth time in six games. But that doesn't mean they feel the Orioles on their backs. They don't. The Orioles also have lost five of their past six. They remained 5 1/2 games out of first and three games out of second.

Worse yet, the Orioles have lost 14 of their past 21 games.

Blase.

In a word, that has been the Orioles' offense for most of this season, which sluggishly is passing from youth to middle age.

The White Sox didn't generate much offense last night, either, against Orioles left-hander Jamie Moyer.

Moyer, becoming one of the American League's more reliable No. 4 starters, left the mound to a standing ovation after his third consecutive quality start.

Moyer allowed two runs in the first inning. He pitched one out into the eighth, allowed six hits and four walks (one intentional) and struck out five.

Moyer has a 2.05 ERA in his past three starts but only one win to show for it.

"A loss is a loss," Moyer said. "We're struggling right now, and maybe what we need is for one of us to go out there, throw a shutout and pick up the ballclub. I didn't do that tonight. There's always tomorrow."

Moyer received little help from an offense that lacked first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, who sat out the game with an ingrown toenail.

Without Palmeiro, the Orioles were limited to five hits and one run by defending Cy Young Award winner Jack McDowell (3-7, 5.77), who worked seven innings before turning a 2-1 game over to the bullpen.

"We haven't been scoring many runs no matter who's in there," Orioles manager Johnny Oates said.

Moyer was pulled with one out in the eighth after allowing a double to Bob Zupcic that was followed by an intentional pass to Thomas. Moyer allowed six hits, walked four and struck out five before being lifted for right-hander Alan Mills.

Mills, who has allowed only three of 26 inherited runners to score, struck out Franco, the only batter he faced. Poole retired Robin Ventura on a grounder to first to send the game into the bottom of the eighth with the Orioles trailing 2-1.

There was an entirely different story for Poole, who loaded the bases in the ninth by allowing a triple to Lance Johnson and consecutive walks to pinch hitter Tim Raines and Ozzie Guillen.

After Poole threw ball one to Guillen, Oates ordered two consecutive pitchouts, then intentionally walked Guillen with a 3-0 count.

White Sox manager Gene Lamont frequently employs the squeeze. The White Sox led the American League with 17 squeeze bunts last season. No one else in the American League squeezed more than seven times.

"As soon as I got out of the dugout, I knew the squeeze could be on in that situation," Guillen said. "I'm a good bunter, and Lance is a good base runner. We squeeze all the time, and that was a real good time. Geno likes to do it, especially when we're ahead."

Said Oates: "When he got on third, one run looked as big as five. All I did was dare to try to get out of that inning without any runs scored."

After the Orioles came up short on the guessing game, Martin, a utility player called up from Triple-A Nashville on May 21, came up with the bases loaded.

He hit Poole's first pitch well over the fence in left-center, putting the White Sox on the board for the first time since the first inning.

Like Moyer, McDowell continued a recent trend of improved pitching.

He took a 2-7 record and 6.24 ERA into the start, but had posted 3.43 ERA in his previous three starts, including a seven-inning, three-run outing against the Orioles last week in Chicago.

He hasn't been receiving the offensive support he did during his 1993 Cy Young Award season.

The White Sox got it going early for McDowell but couldn't sustain it against Moyer.

Thomas was right there in the middle of the White Sox two-run first inning.

After Zupcic singled to left with one out, Thomas lunged at an outside pitch, taking the kind of swing that might get a scrawny guy a bloop single over the first baseman's head.

Thomas, a brawny guy, dumped the pitch into the corner in right for a double. Zupcic stopped at third but didn't stay there long.

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