O's take one from Royals with patience Selective hitting spurs 5-run comeback in 8th in 5-3 series finale

Rally is reversal from '95

Haney, then Pichardo forced deep into count

April 05, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

To the Orioles of 1995, overcoming a three-run deficit was something akin to climbing Mount Everest. A three-run deficit in the eighth inning, like having to swim across the Atlantic.

The Orioles of '96 trailed Kansas City 3-0 in the eighth inning yesterday. They won.

They scored five runs in the eighth inning to beat the Royals, 5-3, Cal Ripken driving home the tying run and thrilling a Camden Yards crowd of 38,753. The victory completed a season-opening, three-game sweep, and as he dressed in an ecstatic clubhouse, ace Mike Mussina pulled aside a reporter.

"The last couple of years, there's no way we would've won that type of game," he said. "Ninety-five percent of the time, we would've folded."

They could've folded yesterday. But in the eighth, the Orioles' deep lineup of veteran hitters skillfully forced the Royals to throw pitches they didn't want to throw, and then hammered away.

For seven innings Royals left-hander Chris Haney shut down the Orioles, changing speeds and mixing in a sharp breaking ball.

"You have to give that guy a lot of credit," said Orioles catcher Chris Hoiles.

But with the left-hander nearing 100 pitches in his first start of the season, Kansas City manager Bob Boone said Haney's nasty pitches had begun to lose their edge by the eighth.

Orioles center fielder Brady Anderson led off and Haney fell behind two balls and no strikes. Protecting a three-run lead and not wanting to walk Anderson, Haney was compelled to throw a fastball, which Anderson slammed into right for a single.

Roberto Alomar followed, and he, too, patiently waited for Haney to throw strikes. The count reached 3-1 and Haney didn't want to risk walking Alomar and bring Rafael Palmeiro to the plate as the potential tying run. He threw a pitch over the inside corner and Alomar pulled the ball into the left-field corner, Anderson scoring.

Palmeiro waited out a walk, and Boone finally relented and called for relief -- right-hander Hipolito Pichardo -- to face Bobby Bonilla.

The Orioles' designated hitter walked up and down the dugout, asking for information on Pichardo. He throws a decent fastball, Bonilla was told, but watch out for a diving forkball.

Bonilla's goal was to somehow, some way, advance the runners. Pichardo started him off with two fastballs, and Bonilla swung and missed. After a ball, Bonilla barely fouled off the next two pitches.

Then Pichardo bounced a forkball several feet in front of home plate, and the carom bounced off Royals catcher Mike Macfarlane. Alomar, decisive once he saw the wild pitch, advanced, Palmeiro following his lead and taking second; as Ripken would later note, few players could've read the play as quickly as Alomar did.

"I was in good shape then," Bonilla said. "That [wild pitch] changed everything."

Pichardo threw a ball, and with the count full, he had to throw a strike, he had to throw a fastball. On the eighth pitch of his at-bat, Bonilla rocketed a deep drive to center, caught by Johnny Damon. That effectively ended Bonilla's 22-game hitting streak, but Alomar tagged up and scored and Palmeiro sprinted to third. One out, Orioles down 3-2, tying run on third, Ripken due to bat.

Ripken knew Pichardo all too well -- he was 3-for-15 against the right-hander. Like those before him, however, he worked the count, finally going full. Pichardo again had to throw a strike.

Ripken turned on the fastball and drove it to left, Palmeiro scoring the tying run. Pichardo stood on the mound, his body tilted in disappointment, hand on hip.

"We've got quite a few professional hitters who are going to make the pitcher throw the ball over the plate," Orioles manager Davey Johnson said later.

As Mussina and Hoiles acknowledged, patient teams can be far more damaging than a free-swinging club. "Eventually, you run out of pitches to throw," Mussina said. "You're always deep into the count, they've seen all your pitches and you need to throw a strike."

Added Hoiles: "They'll make you pay."

Ripken had, his double tying the game, and Boone opted to walk B. J. Surhoff, setting up the double play with Hoiles due to hit. But Hoiles foiled the strategy with an infield single. Bases loaded, still only one out.

Boone called on former Oriole Terry Clark, and Johnson decided to replace Mike Devereaux with left-handed-hitting Tony Tarasco.

Boone said he was looking for a ground ball, a double play to get out of the inning, and pulled his infield only halfway in. It was a major gamble, considering that Tarasco hit into only two double plays in 438 at-bats last season, the best ratio in the majors.

Tarasco did hit a ground ball, but beat the relay to first, Ripken scored and the Orioles had the lead. They would add another run and Randy Myers would close out the Royals in the ninth.

"One minute we're down 3-0," Hoiles said, "the next minute we're ahead 5-3 with our closer in the game."

That simple. Nothing like climbing Mount Everest.

Pub Date: 4/05/96

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