NEW YORK -- Memo to: Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.
Re: Closer John Wetteland.
Comment: You can have him.
Brady Anderson hit a three-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning last night, capping a four-run rally against Wetteland as the Orioles beat the Yankees, 7-5, for their third straight win.
"This was as big a win as we've had this year," Anderson said.
Andy Van Slyke is on the Orioles' disabled list and didn't have anything better to do during the ninth-inning rally than offer scouting reports to teammates. So when Wetteland started blowing a 5-3 lead, Van Slyke sought out Anderson.
Van Slyke had faced Wetteland in the National League. The only thing Anderson knew about Wetteland, from watching him on TV, was that he threw hard. Van Slyke gave the rundown on Wetteland: If he falls behind in the count, he'll challenge you with his very fast fastball.
Anderson retorted with sarcasm, something along the lines of "No kidding," and got ready to hit.
It had looked like the Orioles were through. Jack McDowell pitched eight strong innings and the Yankees were in control. But Steve Howe came on to relieve and pinch hitter Leo Gomez had an infield single to start the ninth.
Wetteland replaced Howe, and he walked Chris Hoiles. Matt Nokes, 0-for-May, pinch-hit for Sherman Obando and rolled a single to right, loading the bases.
Jeff Manto singled, scoring the Orioles' fourth run. Still nobody out.
Then Wetteland caught a big break, the sort the Orioles shouldn't have been able to overcome. Bret Barberie checked his swing and Wetteland began a 1-2-3 double play, leaving the Orioles with runners on second and third and two outs.
Wetteland may have thought about pitching around Anderson with first base open, especially after falling behind two balls, no strikes.
This was the situation that Van Slyke had talked about with Anderson. But Anderson said later he wasn't thinking about what Van Slyke told him -- "I take no credit whatsoever," Van Slyke said. Anderson was just looking for a pitch to hit.
Wetteland threw a fastball, low, and Anderson hit it, high and deep and into the right-field stands. A three-run homer.
"Our club never lets up," said Orioles manager Phil Regan, jTC referring to comeback wins earlier this week. "There's a really good spirit on this club."
Doug Jones retired the Yankees in the bottom of the ninth, 1-2-3, and the pitching sins of Orioles starter Arthur Rhodes were forgiven.
Regan said in spring training, after the Orioles signed Kevin Brown, that he either had the best or one of the best rotations in the AL.
Almost four weeks into the season, Regan is right -- but in the way that former Los Angeles Lakers coach Pat Riley would've been right if he had said he had one of the best combinations of centers with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Mike Smrek.
Mussina and Brown, generally speaking, have been outstanding, and the Orioles are 6-3 in the games those two have started. But when Rhodes, Ben McDonald or Sid Fernandez has started, the Orioles are 3-8.
Regan and pitching coach Mike Flanagan counseled Rhodes on his delivery throughout, and they believed they found the flaw, a bad landing with his front foot. Rhodes has said he believes in them, talked about how much he prefers Regan and Flanagan to Johnny Oates and Dick Bosman.
But four starts into 1995, the changes in delivery and coaching haven't manifested themselves: Rhodes continues to have problems throwing strikes, pure and simple.
He was so obviously erratic last night that Flanagan ran out to the mound after just three pitches to Yankees leadoff hitter Wade Boggs in the first inning.
Whatever Flanagan said didn't save Rhodes from his fate. Rhodes' control got him in trouble in the second and third innings. After a single by Randy Velarde in the second inning, Rhodes got ahead of Yankees right fielder Gerald Williams with two strikes, then slowly pitched Williams back in control, running the count to 3-2.
Then Williams hit a two-run homer just inside the left-field foul pole. Rhodes walked Pat Kelly, and with Jamie Moyer warming, Regan walked to the mound and spoke directly to the shaken Rhodes. Regan stuck with Rhodes, but as the manager climbed down the dugout steps, Rhodes committed a balk; it was that kind of night.
If Rhodes was responsible for creating the third-inning Yankees rally -- and he was -- then second baseman Manny Alexander was responsible for bringing it to its full fruition.
Rhodes walked leadoff hitter Jim Leyritz, and Mike Stanley singled. Danny Tartabull hit a grounder to third baseman Manto, an easy double-play ball. Manto gloved it, flipped to Alexander, who . . . dropped the ball. Everybody safe.