Rally gets O's out of woods vs. Rangers Surhoff's double, HR end hex, lift O's from 5-0 deficit to 8-7 win

Texas had won 1st 6 games

Haynes throws solid 5 1/3 as Mercker exits in 3rd

April 30, 1996|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

B. J. Surhoff finally ended the horror. The Texas Rangers had knocked the Orioles' pitching staff all over two states -- and had gotten in their licks again last night -- but the gravy train had to end sometime.

Surhoff's two-out home run in the seventh inning completed an improbable comeback and carried the Orioles to an 8-7 victory in the final game of an otherwise discouraging four-game series at Camden Yards.

How improbable?:

The Orioles fell behind by five runs to a team that had scored an average of nearly 10 runs in the first six games of the season series -- all Texas wins -- then battled back the way they did during their 11-2 start.

Another rocky start by left-hander Kent Mercker forced manager Davey Johnson to turn the game over to struggling rookie Jimmy Haynes, who had been relegated to the bullpen after opening the season 0-3 with a 12.08 ERA. Haynes pitched 5 1/3 innings to earn his first victory of the year.

The club, mired in a 2-9 slump, appeared to be in a self-destruct mode again, committing two costly errors to assist the Rangers in their early offensive buildup.

Surhoff had made one of those costly errors, just as he did in Sunday's loss. And just like Sunday, Surhoff tried to make it right with his bat. He doubled home two big runs in the fifth inning and launched his sixth homer of the year to untie the game in the seventh. He always looks disgusted after an error, but he apparently has the ability to put it behind him when he gets to the plate.

"It feels good to contribute," said Surhoff, "especially when you know you made a mistake earlier in the game. . . . I am animated because I know I let the pitcher down. I'll never change. I get disappointed. But I've been fortunate to have opportunities with men on base afterward."

didn't bring the club back alone, of course. Roberto Alomar manufactured the tying run in the seventh with a double and a risky steal of third to set up a sacrifice fly by Rafael Palmeiro. Mike Devereaux also came up big, with a run-scoring single and a home run.

Then there was Haynes, who came on to pitch in garbage time and turned in a gutsy performance to end a personal three-game losing streak. He gave up two runs on three hits and struck out six. He also walked six, but who's counting? The Orioles needed him to step up, and he did so.

"That was a big win for us and it was a big win for Jimmy Haynes," Johnson said. "He struggled early on, but he pitched the way I'm sure he pitched last September."

The Rangers were threatening to clinch the season series before the end of April and leave the Orioles in a first-class funk for the two-game series against the New York Yankees.

Haynes struggled through his first couple innings of work, then struck out five over the last three before Jesse Orosco came on to get him out of a jam in the eighth.

Closer Randy Myers kept it interesting, but he got through the ninth to record his sixth save.

The Orioles needed that, but Mercker didn't need this. He was the pitcher of record in the 26-7 debacle in Arlington on April 19, giving up eight runs in 4 1/3 innings. He came back to win his next start, but didn't pitch particularly well. How many guys can boast a 2-1 record and 9.27 ERA?

Maybe that's why the frustration was written all over his face when Johnson went to the mound with one out in the third inning to remove him. He muttered to himself all the way to the dugout and had a brief but heated discussion with the manager in the runway afterward, but acknowledged later that Johnson had little choice but to take the ball from him.

"I see why he did it," said Mercker. "It's just frustrating because I know I'm better than that."

Johnson had counseled Mercker last week to be more aggressive, but that may have been what got him in trouble last night. He gave up a two-out single to Will Clark in the first and threw a first-pitch fastball to slugger Juan Gonzalez.

Bad idea.

Gonzalez hit a rocket into the left-field bleachers. The Rangers ran Mercker with three in the third, but the inning began with an error by Surhoff and was further complicated by a Brady Anderson throwing error.

Mercker was not exactly blameless. He gave up a sizzling shot to Gonzalez that handcuffed Surhoff, then hit Dean Palmer in the shoulder with a looping curveball. Rusty Greer followed with a single to center and a second run scored when Anderson's throw to the plate hit Gonzalez in the back.

Though Mercker retired the next batter, Johnson had seen enough. He brought on Haynes, who quickly gave up a run-scoring double to Dave Valle that staked the Rangers to a five-run lead.

The five-run cushion might have been comfortable if Rangers starter Roger Pavlik wasn't having an April 19 flashback of his own.

This time, he opened the third inning with back-to-back walks to Chris Hoiles and Tony Tarasco and gave up an RBI single to Devereaux. The Orioles went on to score two more times and appeared ready to dispatch him again, then inexplicably bailed him out of a potentially disastrous fourth inning.

Pavlik walked Surhoff to lead off the fourth and went 2-0 to Cal Ripken. He clearly was struggling with his mechanics, prompting pitching coach Dick Bosman to go to the mound. But Ripken nTC started after the very next pitch and pushed a checked-swing nubber to second base. Hoiles followed him to the plate and grounded the first pitch to third base. Then Tarasco came up and swung hard at a first pitch fastball up and out of the zone. He later was retired.

Pub Date: 4/30/96

Orioles tonight

Opponent: New York Yankees

Site: Oriole Park

Time: 7: 35

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Yankees' Andy Pettitte (3-1, 3.09) vs. Orioles' Arthur Rhodes (3-0, 0.60)

Tickets: 4,800 remain

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