Orosco antes up stout closing bid

September 13, 1995|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,Sun Staff Writer

Several weeks ago, Jesse Orosco mused over his career, expressing the hope that sometime, before he retired, he would get some chances to finish some games. He loved saving games when he pitched for the New York Mets.

Lo and behold, Orosco has been given that opportunity; on the night Cal Ripken played in his 2,130th consecutive game, Orosco picked up his first save in almost two years, and last night he saved the Orioles' 6-5 win over Boston before 40,282 at Oriole Park.

Mark Smith's bloop single scored Harold Baines with the winning run with two outs in the seventh inning, and the Orioles staved off elimination for one more night (the magic number for the inevitable is one).

Orosco, 38, said after stretching the Red Sox's losing streak to five that he hopes to be part of the picture in the Orioles' bullpen xTC next year, but like everything about this team, there could be radical changes among the relievers:

* The Orioles hold a 1996 option on closer Doug Jones. In the role he was hired for, saving games, he has been successful, completing 22 of his 25 save opportunities. There are the other factors the club will consider, like his 5.24 ERA and his trouble in non-save situations.

* Early in spring training, the plan was to begin the year with Jones as closer and gradually move Armando Benitez into that role. Now the Orioles aren't even sure Benitez will open next season with the team.

* The Orioles like Joe Borowski's potential as a closer, but it's doubtful they would go into 1996 counting on him to play that role; that's the mistake they made with Benitez.

* Then there is Orosco. The Orioles hold a '96 option on him, as well, and it figures that he will be back. Orosco leads the AL in appearances, with 61, and generally speaking, has pitched well, allowing 27 hits in 46 innings and striking out 55.

"I hope I've proven myself," Orosco said. "I hope I've proven I can pitch. "It's not my job to keep me in or take me out . . . [but] I'd rather finish my own game.

"If Jonesy is here, he'll be the closer. If he's not here, I'm sure they'll go out and get a closer. But I'd love to do it. I know I'm 50 years old, but if I get a closer job, and can go in the ninth inning, that'd be fantastic. . . . If there's an opening out there, I'd like to put an application in."

Orosco entered the game in the eighth, with a runner at second and one out. He struck out Lee Tinsley and retired John Valentin on a groundout. Orosco came out in the ninth to pitch to left-handed hitter Mo Vaughn, who had already hit two homers and retired him on a ground ball to second.

Jones was warming up in the bullpen, ready to face designated hitter Jose Canseco. But with left-handed-hitting Mike Greenwell deck, Regan left Orosco in the game, with instructions -- relayed by pitching coach Mike Flanagan -- to pitch around Canseco.

The slugger walked, and Orosco bore down on Greenwell, retiring him on a fly to right. Orosco ended the game with a strikeout of Willie McGee and a pump of his left fist.

Orioles starter Kevin Brown held a 5-2 lead going into the seventh, when Vaughn hit a bases-empty homer, and Greenwell banged a two-run shot off reliever Mark Lee, tying the score.

But with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, pinch hitter Baines launched a ground-rule double. Smith then looped a ball to short center, and Baines, running with two outs, scored easily from second.

The Orioles scored three runs in the second against Boston left-hander Rheal Cormier. Vaughn hit the first of his two homers (Nos. 36-37) in the third, a two-run shot to dead center.

The Orioles added a run in the third, another in the fourth, but considering the general ineffectiveness of Cormier and Zane Smith, and all of the Orioles' opportunities -- eight hits and four walks -- five runs wasn't a whole lot of production.

It didn't look good for the Orioles when the Red Sox tied the ame in the seventh with homers by Vaughn and Greenwell. But Smith broke that tie, and Orosco sealed the win.

HITS AND MISSES

On the field: Cal Ripken went 0-for-10 in Cleveland, in the first games after he surpassed Lou Gehrig's record. But he seems to have regained his stroke, getting a hit and two RBIs Monday, and a single in the fourth inning last night.

In the dugout: When Boston starter Rheal Cormier struggled through a messy three-run inning in the second, Red Sox manager Kevin Kennedy had left-hander Zane Smith warming in a hurry -- and in the ballgame in the third. And when Smith floundered in the fourth, right-hander Jeff Suppan began to throw.

In the clubhouse: "I don't think there's a sense of urgency, like things are slipping away from us. All we need is one win and we'll be fine." -- Red Sox first baseman Mo Vaughn on Boston's five-game losing streak.

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