Rangers jab away, KO Wells, 5-2 Texas keeps lefty on ropes

Gross stops Orioles on 7 hits

Anderson hits 26th HR

'Wretched' O's 29-31 since April 17

June 26, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Davey Johnson walked slowly through the clubhouse after the Orioles' 5-2 loss to the Texas Rangers, and he gave a little kick with the side of his foot to a bag full of bats.

"Wretched," Johnson said, quietly.

He certainly wasn't referring to Brady Anderson, who hit his 26th homer of the year last night to take the major-league lead in homers. He wasn't even referring to starting pitcher David Wells, who allowed eight hits, four walks and five runs in 6 2/3 innings and suffered the loss.

No, Johnson meant wretched as a general assessment of losing. The Orioles win a few games in a row and they look as if they're about to break out of their two-month malaise, and then they lose a few games.

Kevin Gross, throwing lots of breaking balls and keeping the ball down in the strike zone, held them to seven hits over 8 1/3 innings last night. Mike Henneman got the final two outs for his 19th save.

The Orioles are 29-31 since April 17, 40-33 overall, and they are 3 1/2 games behind the New York Yankees, who split a doubleheader with Minnesota yesterday.

Anderson homered in the eighth off Gross, his fourth homer in 10 at-bats against the right-hander. Anderson has eight homers against the Rangers this year, one short of the record set by Reggie Jackson in 1974.

"Brady had another good ballgame," said Johnson.

But Anderson could not single-handedly make up for the damage the Rangers did to Wells, who, in certain moments, looked like a heavyweight boxer trying to survive another round, breathing hard and rolling his shoulders and taking as much time as possible between pitches.

Wells began the game having allowed the fewest walks per nine innings (1.5) of any pitcher in the AL, and he walked three in the second inning alone. Juan Gonzalez doubled to left, and Wells walked Dean Palmer and Mickey Tettleton. Rusty Greer's sacrifice fly scored Gonzalez, but after Mark McLemore flied out, Kevin Elster walked. Still, after all those walks, Darryl Hamilton swung at the first pitch and hit into a fielder's choice. Somehow, after throwing 32 pitches in the inning and facing seven hitters and pitching with two bases-loaded situations, Wells had allowed only one run.

"I don't know how he got out of that with one run," said pitching coach Pat Dobson.

Johnson said later that Wells was having problems with home plate umpire Jim Evans. "He got a little frustrated with pitches he thought were on the corners," Johnson said. "You can't let that get to you."

In round three, the Rangers hit him with a heavy blast -- a home run to the back row of the left-field stands by catcher Ivan Rodriguez that gave Texas a 2-1 lead.

Wells slowed down even more in the fourth inning, a little rope-a-dope, and the Rangers pounded on him. Leading off, Tettleton singled, and Greer hit a sharp single past Wells to put two on and none out.

If Wells had made the play, Dobson said, it would have been a great play. If he had made the play, a double play likely would have ensued. Instead, the Rangers had two on and nobody out.

McLemore singled to center, and Tettleton was tearing around third and on his way home when third base coach Jerry Narron threw up his arms: STOP. No point in running the risk of having a runner thrown out at home with nobody out and Wells on the verge of being knocked out.

Elster, the next hitter, worked the count to 3-and-2, and fouled off the next pitch. Wells took a deep breath, his shoulders heaving. Elster fouled off another pitch. Another deep breath from Wells, more stretching. Jimmy Haynes started warming up.

Wells finally threw a pitch, and Elster smacked it into center field. Tettleton scored, Greer scored. Rangers 4, Orioles 1. But Wells got out of the fourth without further damage, and actually pitched pretty well before being relieved. "Boomer did a good job of hanging in there," said Johnson. "He kept us close."

After the two-run single, Wells retired 10 straight hitters, pitching into the seventh. With two outs, Rodriguez slammed a low line drive down the right-field line and stood in the box, waiting for the ball to curl foul. It never did.

Rodriguez's homer was estimated at 347 feet. Wells turned away in disgust; after Rodriguez rounded the bases somberly, he broke into a huge grin in the Rangers' dugout. Lucky.

Will Clark blooped a single in front of Bobby Bonilla in right, and Johnson came out to yank Wells. Even before he got there, Wells was shaking his head and arguing to stay in the game. After a few more seconds of debate, Wells gave Johnson the ball and brushed past the manager. (Wells declined to speak to reporters after the game.)

The Orioles' hitters displayed less fight against Gross, placing runners in scoring position only twice in innings two through seven. Anderson was responsible for almost the entire Orioles attack. Hit by a pitch in the first inning, Anderson stole second and scored on a double by Bonilla. He doubled in the third inning, and was stranded at third. In the eighth, he hit a high drive to right, the ball barely clearing the right-field wall.

"We just couldn't get anything going against Gross," said Johnson.

The Orioles need to get something going, a roll. The season is almost half over.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Texas Rangers

Site: The Ballpark in Arlington

Time: 8: 35

TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Rocky Coppinger (2-0, 5.65) vs. Rangers' Ken Hill (8-5, 4.09)

Pub Date: 6/26/96

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