Wells' effort is a positive after defeat in 16 innings Johnson praises left-hander for taking bulldog stance


June 17, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- David Wells, who acknowledged giving up in a start against the California Angels last month, showed a flip side of himself Saturday night, arguing with Orioles manager Davey Johnson to complete a game against the Kansas City Royals.

Wells pitched seven shutout innings after allowing five runs in the first inning, and after the bottom Wells of the eighth, Johnson told the left-hander he was done for the night. Wells argued vehemently, wanting to stay in and complete what he started.

But Wells came out, with the Orioles trailing 5-4, and from the bench and clubhouse he watched the Orioles come back to take a 6-5 lead in the top of the ninth, allow the tying run in the bottom of the ninth, and eventually lose, 7-6, in the bottom of the 16th inning on a sacrifice fly by pinch hitter Mike Macfarlane. It was the longest game in baseball this year, by innings.

Johnson appeared exhausted after the game, but he took much solace in Wells' effort.

"I'm very pleased," said Johnson, noting Wells' troubles in his recent starts (16 runs in 19 1/3 innings) before his start against the Royals. "You look at his last three or four outings, and there wasn't much to brag about. If this was last year, I probably would've left him out there. But I wanted to get him out of there with a positive."

Pitching coach Pat Dobson said, "You didn't want to have him go out there and lose the game [in the bottom of the ninth]. This is something you build on. He competed last night."

"It was a great comeback," Wells said. "I just had to bear down. I didn't want to come out of this game early. You try everything you can [to stay in]. Yes, it'll go into my next game, for sure, coming back from that bad inning. It's a good sign. It's a positive."

A negative: The Orioles lost, their third loss in the first six games of a road trip against the Detroit Tigers and the Royals, two of the worst teams in baseball.

David Howard, in his seventh plate appearance, led off the Royals' half of the 16th inning against Rick Krivda, the Orioles' sixth pitcher. He lined a ball into the right-field corner, and by the time Bobby Bonilla dug it out and threw back to the infield, Howard was going into third with a head-first dive.

"He threw me a curveball," said Howard. "I was looking off-speed."

Jose Offerman, who had struck out four times and in each of his last three at-bats, then grounded to third. B. J. Surhoff went to his knees to knock the ball down, look Howard back to third and throw to first. Krivda intentionally walked Joe Randa to face the left-handed-hitting Keith Lockhart, but Mike Macfarlane pinch-hit for Lockhart.

The Orioles aligned their infield defense for a double play, but Macfarlane hit a high 2-1 pitch to medium-deep left field, and Jeffrey Hammonds' throw home wasn't even close.

The Orioles trailed 5-4 after eight innings, but Royals closer Jeff Montgomery, successful in 16 of 20 save chances, gave up two runs, on an RBI grounder by Rafael Palmeiro and a double by Surhoff.

Wells tried to convince Johnson to let him pitch the ninth, but Johnson went with Randy Myers. The Royals had runners at first and third with two out, no runs in, and Joe Randa hit a liner toward the right-field corner. Bonilla hustled over and reached out, keeping the ball from bouncing into the corner. Sal Fasano scored the tying run easily, but Bonilla's play gave the Orioles a shot at throwing out Howard, the potential winning run.

Bonilla threw to cut-off man Roberto Alomar, who whirled and fired to catcher Gregg Zaun, who was waiting to tag Howard out at the plate. The game then went into extra innings, Wells' chance for victory gone.

Pub Date: 6/17/96

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