O's try to forget endless inning 16-run 8th Friday height of frustration

April 21, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

ARLINGTON, Fla. -- In the midst of the second-worst inning in this century Friday night, Orioles reliever Jesse Orosco turned on the mound, looked at catcher Chris Hoiles and spread his arms in an exaggerated shrug.

"I've tried everything," he said aloud. "I can't get them out."

Nobody who took the mound in the eighth inning of the Orioles' 26-7 loss to Texas could stop the Rangers, who sent 19 men to the plate and scored 16 runs in an inning that lasted 56 minutes. Not Armando Benitez, nor Orosco, nor infielder Manny Alexander, who took the mound when the crazy inning became absurd.

The 26 runs allowed by the Orioles was the most in club history, shattering the mark of 24, set in 1978 when Toronto beat the Orioles, 24-10. The 16 runs allowed in one inning was one short of the mark set in this century, 17 by the Boston Red Sox in 1953. The game lasted four hours and 15 minutes, one minute short of the American League record (for nine innings) and three minutes short of the major-league record.

"It's amazing," said starting pitcher Kent Mercker. "It's a fluke. I bet you anything -- anything -- that will never happen again. Ever."

Outfielder Tony Tarasco said: "A T-ball score."

Not really. A T-ball score that includes 33 runs is comprehendible. What happened in the eighth inning of Friday night's game was unimaginable.

The Orioles pitchers had taken a beating even before the eighth inning began. Mercker allowed eight runs in 4 1/3 innings, Jimmy Myers had given up a run in one inning, Roger McDowell a run in 1 1/3 innings. The Rangers led, 10-7.

Myers said yesterday morning that, in light of everything that would occur in the eighth, he felt lucky.

Orioles manager Davey Johnson brought in Armando Benitez to get an inning of work, a low-pressure situation Johnson thought was perfect to build his confidence. But leadoff hitter Darryl Hamilton singled to start the inning and Dave Valle walked. Benitez walked Will Clark to load the bases, and after his final pitch to Clark, Benitez grabbed his elbow, in pain. Benitez suffered some sort of injury -- he will visit team doctor Michael Jacobs today or tomorrow -- and had to be removed.

Johnson already had used three relievers, and with erratic rookie Jimmy Haynes starting last night's game, he wanted to save long reliever Arthur Rhodes. So he called on Orosco, already sore from pitching two innings Thursday.

Juan Gonzalez doubled, scoring two runs. Mickey Tettleton flied to deep left, scoring Clark from third. Then Dean Palmer hit a two-run homer, and the Rangers led 15-7.

The onslaught continued. Rusty Greer singled. Mark McLemore singled. Kevin Elster singled, scoring a run. Orosco, exhausted, was trying everything. "Fastball, sliders, changeups," he said. "Everything."

Nothing worked. In his weariness, Orosco began to lose his mechanics, walking Hamilton.

Johnson fretted on the bench, fearing for Orosco's well-being. In his entire career as a manager, Johnson had never used a position player on the mound, out of principle. Didn't believe in it. But now Orosco was dying, and Johnson finally relented. He sent pitching coach Pat Dobson out to the mound to talk to Orosco, and he told Alexander to run out to the bullpen and begin warming up.

Dobson and Hoiles met with Orosco. "If you have anything in your back pocket you want to try," Hoiles told Orosco, "do it now."

Orosco replied: "I've thrown everything."

Valle singled. Clark walked. The score was 18-7, there was still only one out, and Johnson finally went to the mound to get Orosco, calling for Alexander.

"I'm sorry Jesse," Johnson said. "I'm sorry we had to leave you out here. We were trying to save a couple of guys [Rhodes and Randy Myers]."

Orosco's ERA eventually would jump to 27.00.

Alexander had never pitched before; Johnson had merely picked him because he had the best arm of any available position player. "I probably should've gone with the crafty Billy Ripken," .. Johnson said later. "But I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about it."

Alexander warmed up pitching out of a windup, and when he took the mound, he decided to go from the stretch. Hoiles flashed him a sign on the first pitch, but didn't bother after that. "I didn't know what was coming," Hoiles said.

It didn't really matter. Alexander walked three consecutive hitters, driving across three more runs. Rangers reliever Ed Vosberg, who incredibly would earn a save in this game, warmed up in the runway behind the dugout, the half-inning nearing an hour in duration.

He wasn't the only one throwing in the runway. Bill Ripken, who pitched in the minors once, walked up to Johnson and volunteered to pitch, and threw against a wall in the runway and imagined how he would throw to hitters. "If I had gotten a first-pitch strike," Ripken said, "I would've been forced to throw a knuckler on my next one."

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