Jays ring up 5-2 win over O's Johnson waits in vain for call from reliever before Sprague slam

July 04, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

TORONTO -- Orioles manager Davey Johnson waited for the phone from the bullpen to ring last night, wanted the phone to ring, like a teen-ager hoping to hear from a prospective prom date.

Left-handed starter Rick Krivda was tiring and right-hander Jimmy Haynes was warming up and Johnson wanted the right-hander, with Toronto designated hitter Ed Sprague coming But the phone didn't ring in time, and on Krivda's third pitch, Sprague hit a grand slam and the Blue Jays went on to win, 5-2. Cal Ripken was responsible for the second run, a bases-empty homer.

Toronto right-hander Juan Guzman (7-6) and reliever Mike Timlin held down the Orioles' dynamic duo of Roberto Alomar and Brady Anderson, who combined to go 1-for-9, with Alomar stranding five runners in two critical at-bats. The Orioles missed great chances to score more runs in the second and fourth innings.

The Orioles finish 5-5 on a road trip that took them through Texas, New York and Toronto. Before it started, general manager Pat Gillick said that a 5-5 trip would be OK, and that's what it turned out to be: OK. They played poorly early in the trip in Texas, blowing a four-run lead, but the Orioles seemed to perform with more of a purpose in New York and Toronto, finishing with four wins in the final six games.

"It was still a decent road trip," Johnson said. "We pitched well. I think some pretty good things are happening. Ripken continues to swing a good bat."

One swing finished the Orioles last night, one swing at the end of a decisive rally that began and ended almost instantly.

Before the game, Johnson was talking to reporters when somebody delivered Toronto's lineup card. Johnson glanced over it, immediately ascertaining that Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston had stacked his order with right-handed hitters. "Good," Johnson said, explaining how Krivda's tailing changeup makes him more effective against right-handers than left-handers.

And Krivda was effective, striking out three hitters in the first inning, another in the second and one in the third. The Jays scored an unearned run in the fourth, on a two-base throwing error by B. J. Surhoff, tying the score, but there was no reason to suspect Krivda was in any sort of trouble.

He retired the first two hitters of the fifth inning easily, back-to-back strikeouts of Tomas Perez and Alex Gonzalez. Domingo Cedeno singled to left, and if this had been May and Johnson's bullpen were short-handed, he probably wouldn't have ordered Haynes and left-hander Arthur Rhodes to start throwing.

But the Orioles' bullpen is well-rested, and besides, Krivda has been a five- or six-inning pitcher since coming to the big leagues. Better to be safe than sorry.

Haynes and Rhodes had just started throwing when Jacob Brumfield singled, Cedeno stopping at second. Johnson was getting a little antsy, with Joe Carter coming up and Sprague behind him, two veteran hitters.

He sent Dobson to the mound, hoping to buy some time for Haynes and Rhodes. But the phone call from bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks did not come.

Carter worked the count to two balls and two strikes, and Carter leaned over the plate, looking for something on the outer half. Krivda came inside with a fastball, a strike, he was sure. But plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth called it a ball. "I thought it was a strike," Krivda said.

Carter walked, and Johnson waited for the phone to ring.

The visitors' bullpen at SkyDome is on the other side of the 10-foot right-field fence, and except for a window onto the field, the players there are blind to the game action. Haynes had no idea who was up, who was coming up, what the situation was. He didn't know Sprague was coming up; he couldn't see from the bullpen mound.

The phone didn't ring before Sprague stepped in. If it had, Johnson said, "I probably would've hooked [Krivda]."

Krivda threw a ball on the first pitch. The phone rang. Haynes was ready. But now Haynes would have to come in down in the count, bases loaded, a walk would force in a run. Johnson had to stick with Krivda.

Sprague took ball two, and both he and Krivda knew the pitcher would have to throw a fastball. The only question was location. "I thought he might try to go outside," Sprague said, "so I cheated a little to try to pull it."

zTC Sprague moved slightly forward in the box, and Krivda threw his outside fastball. "He got it a little up in the strike zone," said Sprague, who walloped the pitch over the left-field wall. Toronto 5, Orioles 1. Ballgame.

"Except for one pitch," Johnson said, "that was a pretty good ballgame."

The Orioles flew home last night five games out of first place in the American League East behind the New York Yankees, whose game with Boston yesterday was rained out.

Orioles today

Opponent: Boston Red Sox

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 4: 05

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Red Sox's Tim Wakefield (5-8, 6.37) vs. Orioles' Mike Mussina (10-5, 5.04)

Tickets: Fewer than 100 remain.

Pub Date: 7/04/96

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