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

Gross stops Orioles on 7 hits

Anderson hits 26th HR

Inconsistent O's 29-31 since April 17

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

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Should Brady Anderson continue to hit a homer every couple of days -- he hit another last night, his major-league-leading 26th -- he'll challenge Roger Maris' single-season record of 61.

Should the Orioles continue to lose every couple of days, as they did to Texas last night, 5-2, they won't ever catch the New York Yankees. Rangers starter Kevin Gross, who has few problems with any Oriole other than Anderson, allowed seven hits in 8 1/3 innings for the victory. Closer Mike Henneman got the last two outs in the ninth for his 19th save.

The Orioles are 40-33 (29-31 since April 17) and are 3 1/2 games behind the Yankees, who split a doubleheader with the Minnesota Twins 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 another of his slugging peers, Reggie Jackson, in 1974, when Jackson hit nine against Texas for the Oakland Athletics.

But Anderson could not single-handedly make up for the five runs Texas scored against Orioles starter David Wells (4-7).

There were moments when Wells looked like a heavyweight boxer trying to survive another round, breathing hard and rolling his shoulders and taking as much time as possible before having to throw his next pitch.

Exceptional in the first inning, Wells' mechanics crumbled in the second inning. He 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. Incredibly, 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.

But in round three, the Rangers hit him with a heavy blast. Wells flipped a curveball that curved very little and hung a lot to Texas catcher Ivan Rodriguez, and Rodriguez had enough time to throw his hips and thighs and bat into his swing, and before Wells could turn his head, the ball was crashing into the back row of the left-field stands. That gave Texas a 2-1 lead.

Wells slowed down even more in the fourth inning, a little rope-a-dope, and the Rangers continued to pound away. Tettleton singled to lead off, and Wells could not get down fast enough to stop Greer's grounder through the middle; instead of Wells starting a 1-6-3 double play, 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 in the bullpen.

Wells finally threw a pitch, and Elster smacked it into center field. Tettleton scored, Greer scored. Rangers 4, Orioles 1. Pitching to Hamilton, Wells asked for a new ball, didn't like it and flipped it back and asked for another. More delays.

But Hamilton grounded to shortstop Cal Ripken to start a double play, and Rodriguez grounded out to second. Wells got out of the fourth without further damage, and actually pitched pretty well before being relieved.

Starting with Hamilton, 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.

The ball dropped over the wall in right, just inside the right-field foul pole. A marker several feet away from the pole indicates the wall is 349 feet from home plate, and Rodriguez's homer, hit closer to the pole, 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 Orioles manager Davey Johnson came out the dugout to yank Wells. Even before he got there, Wells was shaking his head and tTC arguing to stay in the game. After a few more seconds of debate, Wells gave Johnson the ball and brushed past the manager.

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 clearly the right-field wall for his 26th homer.

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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