2-out slam in 9th beats Orioles, 9-6 Mariners' Whiten rocks Myers, creates 3-way wild-card tie

Rodriguez 5-for-5, at .373

Anderson reaches 40 as he, Bonilla hit 2 HRs

August 30, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

SEATTLE -- The Orioles could've built a nice little margin in the wild-card race if they held a ninth-inning lead against Seattle last night. They could've gained another game on the fading New York Yankees. They could've established some serious momentum.

But they didn't.

Orioles closer Randy Myers, summoned in the ninth to protect a 6-5 lead built on two homers by Brady Anderson and two by Bobby Bonilla, gave up a grand slam to Seattle left fielder Mark Whiten with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, a devastating loss.

With the defeat, the Orioles fell into a three-way tie for the lead in the wild-card standings, with Chicago and Seattle. Boston is 1 1/2 games behind the pack, with the Yankees clinging to a four-game lead over the Orioles in the AL East race.

Anderson, hitting his 39th and 40th homers of the year, became only the third Oriole to hit 40 homers in a season. Frank Robinson hit 49 in 1966 and Jim Gentile hit 46 in 1961.

"It's a little bittersweet after that game," Anderson said in the solemn Orioles clubhouse. "That was a hard loss. That was as hard a loss as any we've had this season."

Myers, the sixth reliever employed by Orioles manager Davey Johnson, allowed a leadoff single to Alex Rodriguez -- the shortstop's fifth hit of the game, lifting his average to .373 -- and then walked Ken Griffey. Edgar Martinez hit a potential double-play grounder to Cal Ripken at shortstop, but the ball bounced off him, and into the glove of second baseman Roberto Alomar, who had extended himself from second base and grabbed the ball. Second base umpire Drew Coble called Griffey out; replays were inconclusive.

"I thought we should have turned a double play," Johnson said. "I don't know what happened there."

Thanks to Coble's call, instead of having the bases loaded and nobody out, the Mariners had first and third and one out, and Jay Buhner popped out to Ripken for the second out. But Myers walked Brian Hunter, loading the bases.

And Myers threw Whiten a first-pitch fastball, and Whiten bashed it over the right-field wall.

"It was low and away. It was a good pitch," said Myers. "He could have grounded out or flied out."

Johnson said: "It was a ball out over the plate and he crushed it."

The Orioles trailed 5-2 after four innings, but Anderson hit a two-run homer in the fifth to cut the advantage to 5-4. Two innings later, Anderson and Bonilla each hit bases-empty homers off Seattle reliever Bobby Ayala. Armando Benitez struck out three of the four batters he faced and was in position to pick up his second win before the Mariners' ninth.

The Orioles could not have expected much when they called up Jimmy Haynes to start in place of the injured Scott Erickson last night. Demoted to Triple-A Rochester July 30, Haynes generally floundered for the Red Wings, allowing 31 hits and 18 walks in 28 2/3 innings, a ratio of almost two runners per inning.

The Orioles, however, almost had no choice. They sent down left-hander Rick Krivda a week ago, and he must remain in the minors for a minimum of 10 days. Right-hander Calvin Maduro might've been a possibility, but he is one of the players to be named in the trade completed with Philadelphia yesterday. They could've called up Garrett Stephenson or Keith Shepherd, but both of those pitchers struggled terribly in short major-league trials.

The Orioles, therefore, sent out an S.O.S. for Haynes to pitch against one of the majors' best offensive teams. Unfortunately, the S.S. Haynes began sinking quick.

Bonilla hit a two-run shot in the first, his 20th homer of the year, presenting Haynes with an immediate lead. But Haynes would be lucky to get out of the first with that advantage intact.

Rodriguez singled, Haynes walked Griffey and Martinez singled. Bases loaded, one out. Haynes struck out Buhner, but walked Paul Sorrento to force in a run (Sorrento nearly hit a grand slam, blasting a foul ball that might've landed on Mount Rainier if not for the confines of Kingdome) before striking out Whiten to escape virtually unscathed.

Haynes retired the Mariners in order in the second, before the heart of the Seattle order resumed its assault. Rodriguez doubled to left to lead off, and after Griffey flied out, Martinez scored Rodriguez with an RBI single. Tie game.

Cutting down the bottom third of the Seattle lineup is exceptionally important, because five of the first six spots -- leadoff hitter Joey Cora the exception -- are so potent. When Dan Wilson and Doug Strange, the No. 8 and No. 9 hitters in the Seattle lineup, hit back-to-back singles in the fourth with one out, Haynes was doomed.

Cora singled, as well, loading the bases, and the Orioles in the bullpen began scurrying around -- All hands on deck! -- and Archie Corbin and Mike Milchin started warming up. Rodriguez slammed a double into the left-field corner, two runs scored.

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