Fitting finale to series of frustration Missed chances haunt O's right to last out

Sidelight

July 15, 1996|By Jason LaCanfora | Jason LaCanfora,SUN STAFF

Remnants from the New York Yankees' four-game sweep of the Orioles at Camden Yards:

A shattered nameplate above David Wells' locker, three ejections in the last two games of the series, Bobby Bonilla and Davey Johnson sitting alone, dumbfounded, for several minutes after blowing a tough game on Saturday, Gregg Zaun firing his bat and helmet to the ground after making the final out with two men on yesterday.

Lasting images of a series in which the Orioles had plenty of chances to win and didn't produce. Such was the case in yesterday's 4-1 defeat. A game of opportunities had and opportunities lost.

"It's been a tough day and a tough series," Johnson said. "We played very well and we did everything right. We just weren't able to help ourselves. We had some vapor lock or whatever. The pitching was good. We just can't get any key hits."

The mental locks added up. The Orioles had at least one runner on base in each of the first six innings in yesterday's series finale, but scored just one run.

The sixth inning was the most baffling.

Rafael Palmeiro appeared to have a sure double to deep right with one out, then tripped a bit and pulled up at first base -- held to a single. With two outs, B. J. Surhoff singled (a shot that surely would have scored Palmeiro had he reached second), but Palmeiro only made it to third base.

Then, with a 2-0 count to Mike Devereaux, Surhoff was caught off first. Yankees starter Andy Pettitte, who picked up his American League-best 14th win yesterday and who also leads the majors with nine pickoffs, pivoted while Surhoff was well off ,, first base, but nowhere near second on an attempted steal. Vapor lock.

"He just froze," Johnson said. "That's the way this series went."

Starter Scott Erickson did everything he could to keep it close, going eight-plus innings and yielding just five hits and two earned runs. He ended up with the loss.

"That's baseball," Erickson said. "Sometimes a guy throws well enough to win and they don't score any runs. Sometimes he doesn't pitch well and they score a lot of runs."

That's the problem with the Orioles.

When the starters are at their best, the bats are quiet, and vice versa. The Orioles had 32 hits in the series and left 35 runners on base. Twice in the series they went homer-less and lost, including yesterday, and the Orioles are now 0-10 since May 26 when they don't hit at least one homer.

Meanwhile, Erickson, Wells and Mike Mussina all pitched well against the Yankees.

"We didn't get it done in the clutch," Bill Ripken said.

"You have to give the Yankees pitchers credit. They made good pitches when they had to. The good news is our pitching has really come around, but now our offense is struggling a bit. We have too many talented people for us not to be scoring runs. We haven't coincided with each other yet as far as pitching and hitting."

K? Unless they do soon, there may be more frustration to come.

Pub Date: 7/15/96

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