White Sox check O's in good ol' 2-1 game Mercker shines again but bats strangely silent vs. 5 Chicago pitchers

Runs '96 low at Oriole Park

Alomar extends streak

O's miss their chances

June 09, 1996|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

It probably was the last thing that the Fox Network wanted for its second national telecast.

A real baseball game.

There was a total of three runs, which is a good inning for some American League pitching staffs. Good pitching beat good hitting -- except for Roberto Alomar, of course, who went 2-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to a major-league high of 22 games. The Chicago White Sox managed a rally built around a checked swing and it was enough to carry them to a 2-1 victory over the Orioles yesterday afternoon before 47,634 at Camden Yards.

Left-hander Kent Mercker, who came out on the wrong end of the decision -- the lowest-scoring one at Camden Yards this year -- couldn't help but smile anyway. He has been a National League pitcher for most of his career, and it was -- for better and worse -- the archetypal NL game, even if he didn't get to swing the bat.

"I've maybe seen one of those this year, and it was today," Mercker said. "It was a lot like a National League game. There were a lot of hits. I gave up 10 hits and about six of them were broken bats. I'd like to see a lot more of them."

So would Orioles manager Davey Johnson, who came away from the taut loss in surprisingly good spirits. He could have been frustrated, especially after the Orioles wasted a bases-loaded, no-out opportunity in the sixth inning, but he chose to accentuate the positive after Mercker turned in his second straight solid start.

Mercker gave up just a two-run triple to White Sox right fielder Danny Tartabull in the first inning, then held the high-scoring Chicago lineup scoreless through the sixth. Alan Mills followed with two hitless innings and Randy Myers retired the side in order in the ninth, leaving Johnson no alternative but to consider the afternoon a partial success.

"You always hate to lose, but the good news is that we have gotten back-to-back good outings from Mercker and another good outing from Mills. It looks like our pitching is getting better."

Mercker was starting for the first time in 13 days. He had given up just one run and one hit over 5 1/3 innings in a victory over the Oakland Athletics on May 26, but he was the odd man out when a couple of off days came up.

If the layoff was a problem, it didn't show. He came within a Frank Thomas checked swing of getting out of the first inning, but didn't get the third strike call from first base umpire Durwood Merrill. Thomas eventually singled and Lyle Mouton followed with a double before Tartabull lined a triple off the left-center-field wall.

Mercker got into trouble again in the third, when the White Sox loaded the bases with one out, but he induced Tartabull to bounce weakly back to the mound for the force at the plate and got third baseman Chris Snopek to pop out to catcher Gregg Zaun.

"I felt good," Mercker said. "There was frustration early [in the season] because I wasn't feeling any pain and couldn't figure out what was going on, but now I'm seeing progress. My location is better, my velocity is better and my results are better.

"Today was good for me. A loss is a loss, but I need to move forward and I did."

If only the offense could have generated anything against White Sox starter James Baldwin, who is starting to look like a Rookie of the Year candidate. He worked five innings and gave up just a run on six hits to improve his record to 6-1 and shave his ERA down to 3.23. The White Sox also got a strong effort from the bullpen, with four pitchers combining for four innings of three-hit relief.

Closer Roberto Hernandez finally nailed it down in the ninth with his 18th save in 18 opportunities this year.

Still, the Orioles had runners on base in all but one inning and, for the second straight game, failed to capitalize on a wealth of opportunities. In the four games leading up to this series, Orioles hitters were a combined 23-for-47 (.489) with runners in scoring position, but are a combined 2-for-12 (.167) in those situations the past two games.

"We had our opportunities today and we didn't hit," said first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, who went 1-for-4. "We had a good pitching performance and we didn't hit. We needed a solid outing like that, but you have to give their guy credit."

Palmeiro was on third base when the most promising scoring opportunity evaporated in the sixth inning. The Orioles loaded the bases with none out, on a leadoff double by Palmeiro, a catcher's interference call on White Sox receiver Chad Kreuter and a walk to Cal Ripken. But reliever Matt Karchner pulled a great escape to protect the slim White Sox lead.

He struck out B. J. Surhoff and got both Zaun and Jeffrey Hammonds to pop out to shortstop. The Orioles would have a runner on in each of the last three innings, but went down quietly for the second game in a row.

"That's going to happen sometimes," Mercker said. "Sometimes the pitching has to step up. Our offense has been great. Today, we scored one run, but that's going to happen. I'll still take our offense over anybody."

The only Orioles run came in the third inning, when Brady Anderson grounded a one-out double down the right-field line and scored on a two-out single by Alomar.

It was the second hit of the game for Alomar, who had an infield single in the first inning to extend his hitting streak.

Orioles today

Opponent: Chicago White Sox

Site: Oriole Park

Time: 1: 35 p.m.

TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: White Sox's Wilson Alvarez (7-3, 4.38) vs. O's Mike Mussina (8-2, 4.85)

Tickets: 200 remain

Pub Date: 6/09/96

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