Orioles, Smith throw one away, 4-3

June 15, 1994|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Sun Staff Writer

Last night was a bad one for New York haters.

Not only did the Rangers capture their first Stanley Cup in 54 years, but the Yankees took a chunk out of the Orioles at Camden Yards with a 4-3 ninth-inning comeback win.

And to pour a pound of salt into an already opened wound, New York strengthened its hold on first place in the American League East over the Orioles by scoring two runs off former Yankees closer Lee Smith.

Smith, who has 24 saves, blew his third opportunity of the season and committed a throwing error that allowed the tying run to score.

"I [messed] up," said Smith. "You do stupid things. I don't usually do things like that, but I don't magnify a win or a loss too big -- especially in June."

True, a three-game deficit before the calendar officially reads summer is nothing to worry about in a normal calendar year.

But if, as expected, labor talks between the Major League Baseball Players Association and the 28 owners continue on the path to an expected strike, the Orioles' ninth-inning performance last night may haunt them into the fall.

"You get a few and you don't get a few," said manager Johnny Oates. "You can't dwell on yesterday or today. All we can do is come out here tomorrow and try again. That's the great thing about baseball."

The worst thing about baseball, or at least being an Orioles faat the moment, is the memory of the New York ninth, in which the Yankees erased a deficit as the Orioles self-destructed.

Pinch hitter Daryl Boston led off the inning with a single to right and moved to second on a sacrifice by Pat Kelly.

Then, the fun began. Luis Polonia hit a high chopper to the mound. When it finally came down, Smith rushed a short-arm throw past first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, allowing Boston to score to tie the game at 3.

With Polonia on second and first base open, Oates chose to have Smith pitch to Wade Boggs, who dropped an outside fastball into left field, scoring Polonia with the winning run.

"I threw him where I wanted to," said Smith. "Nobody has a .320 lifetime batting average without getting some hits on good pitches and bad pitches."

Of course, Smith is no slouch either. Said New York manager Buck Showalter: "He is a great relief pitcher and his numbers speak for themselves. But that doesn't mean that you pack your bags and call it a night."

Palmeiro flubbed a Don Mattingly grounder for the inning's second error, but it did not cost the Orioles, who staged a mini-rally of their own in the bottom of the inning.

Cal Ripken and Leo Gomez strung together one-out singles tleave runners at first and third, where a medium deep fly ball would have tied the game.

However, Steve Howe struck out Harold Baines looking and got Jack Voigt to ground to short to get his fifth save in relief of winner Sterling Hitchcock.

The Orioles (34-27) let go to waste a pretty good list of things in dropping their fourth game in five tries against the Yankees this season.

First, they squandered starter Mike Oquist's best chance to get a win in a start this year.

Oquist (2-1), who has been brilliant in four relief appearances this year but inconsistent in two previous starts, was nearly good enough to win last night.

The rookie right-hander was in and out of trouble throughout his five-inning, 84-pitch stint, but worked gamely on a night where the game-time temperature was 97 degrees and left in the sixth with the Orioles leading 3-1.

"I didn't feel bad as far as the pitch count, but it [the heat] takes its toll on you, especially when I haven't worked up the endurance," said Oquist.

Said Oates: "He kept us in the ballgame. He battled and he just got tired in the sixth. He threw a lot of pitches on a hot, humid night."

Next on the list of things that went by the wayside was the showing by reliever Mark Eichhorn, who has become the most reliable arm out of the bullpen.

Though he allowed an inherited runner from Oquist to score, Eichhorn went on to work three scoreless and hitless innings of relief, running his consecutive scoreless innings streak to 20 1/3 innings.

"He did a super job," Oates said of Eichhorn. "The ball is moving and he's changing speeds and his sinker is sinking."

So why didn't he let Eichhorn go out for the ninth?

Said Oates: "If I knew when Lee Smith was not going to close things, then I'd better be doing something else and not managing this ballclub."

Next on the waste list was Mike Devereaux's fourth-inning homer, his first in 130 at-bats, breaking a string that began when he was hit in the face by a Chad Ogea pitch on May 8 after hitting a homer and a triple against the Cleveland Indians.

The Orioles blew numerous opportunities throughout the night, outhitting the Yankees 14-9, but also leaving 13 runners on base.

In the sixth, the Orioles nearly tacked on another run with two outs when Chris Sabo singled to center and Palmeiro doubled to left. Third base coach Jerry Narron waved Sabo around and a good relay from Polonia to Mike Gallego to Jim Leyritz nailed Sabo, who bowled over the New York catcher to no avail.

Now the Orioles need to take the final two games just to get back to where they were when the series started.

F: It was a night a New York basher would love to forget.



Opponent: New York Yankees

Site: Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Time: 7:35

TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Yankees' Jim Abbott (6-5, 3.43) vs. Orioles' Jamie Moyer (2-4, 5.54)

Tickets: Several hundred scattered singles remain, not including bleacher and 275 standing-room tickets that go on sale when the gates open.

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