A familiar story: Moyer leaves and Orioles lose

August 04, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

MINNEAPOLIS -- First half, 1994 Orioles: Cajun cackles fill the air of a happy clubhouse as Lee Smith accepts congratulations for extending his all-time saves record.

Second half, 1994 Orioles: Smith sits in the dugout for 10 minutes with bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks, is the last one to make it back into the clubhouse, slumps quietly in front of his locker, takes a pat on the back from a coach here, a pat from a teammate there.

Yesterday's game at the Metrodome captured the Orioles' post-All-Star break, pre-strike collapse. High hopes crushed in the wake of another close, late loss.

In this one, the Minnesota Twins averted a sweep in the three-game series by scoring two runs in the ninth off Smith to score a 4-3 victory over the Orioles in an afternoon game before 25,190.

Orioles left-hander Jamie Moyer asked out of the game after throwing 90 pitches and allowing five hits, one walk, and two earned runs in eight innings.

For the sixth time, Moyer left a game with a lead without getting the win. Moyer, who took a no-hit bid into the fifth, retired the final eight Twins he faced.

"I was done," Moyer said. "I told him I had had enough. I didn't feel right. Why? I don't know. It wasn't my arm. It was my body. I don't know if I'm coming down with something or what, but I didn't feel right."

Smith, successful on 29 of his first 32 save attempts, has blown three of his past six, which doesn't count the blown save in his All-Star Game appearance.

He allowed no runs in 27 of his first 32 appearances and has allowed runs in five of his past seven.

Smith, rusty thanks to the Orioles not having led many games lately, made his second appearance in 12 days in search of save No. 33. Instead, he came away with blown save No. 7.

Rust never sleeps, at least it didn't yesterday in the ninth.

Pinch hitting for Jeff Reboulet, Alex Cole singled through the right side of the infield on Smith's first pitch. Smith then walked Kirby Puckett on four pitches, presenting Twins manager Tom Kelly with a tactical choice.

Let .315-hitting Shane Mack swing away, or attempt to bunt, thus pushing the tying run to third, the go-ahead run to second.

Mack bunted successfully and Kelly sent Chip Hale up to pinch hit for Pedro Munoz. Hale delivered, tying the game with a fly to center that scored Cole from third. Kent Hrbek was walked intentionally, bringing Scott Leius to the plate.

Leius dumped Smith's 1-2 pitch over the head of shortstop Cal Ripken for the game-winning single.

Smith (1-4, 3.22) failed to preserve a 3-2 lead left fielder Dwight Smith gave the Orioles on a two-run home run to center in the sixth inning off winning pitcher Kevin Tapani (10-7, 4.71), who pitched a complete-game seven-hitter.

Since the last day before the All-Star break, Smith has blown save chances on home runs by Mark McGwire, Fred McGriff and Bo Jackson, and now on the single by Leius.

He simply hasn't been the same pitcher. "He's getting behind a lot of guys, walking more guys," Orioles manager Johnny Oates said.

What else?

"His velocity doesn't seem to be there quite like it was early in the year," Oates said. "He has a bad ankle. He says that's not bothering him, but could be a possibility. And in the first half of the season he was pitching three out of every four days. Now he's pitching once a week."

Moyer's fifth inning was not unlike Smith's ninth.

As Mike Mussina had the night before, Moyer no-hit the Twins through four innings and led 1-0, thanks to Chris Hoiles' second-inning single that scored Harold Baines, who had doubled.

Four of the five hits Moyer allowed came in the fifth inning, when Mack singled, Munoz doubled, Hrbek drove in a run with a grounder to the right side and Leius singled in a run as the Twins took a 2-1 lead.

The runs were the first allowed by the Orioles in 25 innings and the first scored by the Twins in 26 innings in a game that followed back-to-back shutouts by Arthur Rhodes and Mussina (with help from Mark Eichhorn and Alan Mills) after the Orioles had gone 139 consecutive games without a shutout.

Smith's eighth home run and third since joining the Orioles gave Moyer another lead, one Oates chose to entrust to Smith.

"If we've got fresh guys in the bullpen, which we do, why go out and try to be the hero and put the club in jeopardy?" Moyer said. "Why not let someone start fresh, no matter who it is? In this case it was Smitty and he's our closer."

And he'll remain so: Oates said he wasn't going to make any changes in Smith's role.

Tapani, the pitcher the Orioles tried to acquire for Leo Gomez and Brad Pennington in spring training, has watched his bullpen squander leads the same way.

Moyer thought the Orioles' chances of winning the game were better if Smith pitched the ninth than if he did.

Instead, the Orioles lost for the 10th time in 15 games, then headed to Milwaukee to play four of the final eight games they have left before the expected start of the strike.

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