Bobby Bonilla's perpetual smile had turned into a frown by the fifth inning last night. Bonilla had several good swings in his first two at-bats with nothing to show for it, other than a bruised helmet -- Bonilla had popped himself on the head with the handle of his bat as punishment.
But Bonilla would smile again, a big, wide Bobby Bo smile. His two-out, three-run triple in the sixth erased a 3-0 Chicago lead, and his 10th-inning single set up the winning run as the Orioles outlasted the Chicago White Sox, 7-6, with Eddie Murray's sacrifice fly scoring Rafael Palmeiro with the game-winning run.
A crowd of 46,453 at Camden Yards heartily approved, as the Orioles, with their fifth straight victory, increased their lead in the wild-card race to 1 1/2 games over the White Sox. The Orioles are still 2 1/2 games behind New York in the AL East race.
Should Mike Mussina and the Orioles beat the White Sox today, they would complete their first three-game sweep of a team over .500 this year.
Bonilla's triple in the sixth tied the game, and the Orioles went on to score three more runs in the rally to take a 6-3 lead. But the White Sox stormed back to tie the game at 6-all in the eighth, Lyle Mouton hitting a two-run homer off Jesse Orosco.
White Sox closer Roberto Hernandez entered the game in the bottom of the eighth and registered his first four outs with strikeouts. But Palmeiro pulled a single to right to open the 10th against Hernandez, and with first baseman Frank Thomas holding Palmeiro at first, Bonilla pulled a broken-bat single through the hole where Thomas would've been standing. Palmeiro stopped at third, Bonilla at first, nobody out.
Cal Ripken struck out on three pitches, but Murray battled Hernandez to a 3-2 count, then fouled off two pitches. Murray then lifted a high fly to medium-deep center, and Palmeiro braced himself at third, tagging up. White Sox center fielder Dave Martinez's throw home tailed away and fell far short, and Palmeiro slid across home with the winning run. The crowd chanted: Ed-die, Ed-die.
The Orioles' four-game winning streak was in jeopardy after 5 1/2 innings. Wilson Alvarez had held the Orioles to three hits over the first five innings, facing only two batters over the minimum, and Chris
Hoiles popped out to second. The Orioles seemed dead. But Alvarez walked Brady Anderson and Roberto Alomar in succession. Todd Zeile singled to load the bases.
Left-hander Tony Castillo relieved Alvarez and got Palmeiro to pop out. But Bonilla, who had nearly homered earlier in the game, ripped a liner to right that hit inside the foul line, clearing the bases and tying the score.
Ripken pulled a grounder through third baseman Robin Ventura, and Bonilla scored on the error, Ripken stopping at second. Pete Incaviglia ripped a single to right, and Ripken scored standing, to give the Orioles a 5-3 lead. B. J. Surhoff singled up the middle, advancing Incaviglia to second, and Hoiles, the 10th batter of the inning, hit a soft single to left and Incaviglia motored home. The Orioles led 6-3, and the White Sox seemed dead.
Wrong again. Terry Mathews walked Danny Tartabull leading off the eighth, and Orosco came in to pitch to the left-handed-hitting Ventura; Orosco had only allowed one earned run in his last 27 outings, dating back to July 1.
However, Ventura hammered a liner that Bonilla tried catching with a slide. The ball hit the ground and then skipped off the right fielder, bouncing 50 or 60 feet away, into the corner. Tartabull scored and Ventura ended up on third.
Then Mouton homered, and just like that, a 6-6 tie, and the strong and surprising effort by Rick Krivda was effectively wasted.
Before Krivda was dropped from the rotation and the Orioles went with four starters last month, a pattern had developed when he pitched. Manager Davey Johnson would remove him the third time through the opposing team's lineup, at the first sign of trouble. Krivda started against Cleveland Aug. 3 and lasted four innings, and started against Oakland Aug. 16 and pitched only 3 2/3 innings.
Based on that history, it figured Krivda would pitch only three or four innings last night, especially when White Sox manager Terry Bevington stacked his lineup with right-handed hitters.
But this did not happen. Krivda did not go two or three innings and out. Johnson stayed with him as long as he was throwing well, and with the exception of one pitch to Frank Thomas, Krivda pitched well into the sixth inning.
Perhaps Johnson relied on the fact that Krivda, throwing a changeup that tails into left-handed hitters, can be more effective against right-handers than left-handers.
Krivda, who pitched a shutout in his last start for Triple-A Rochester, cut down the White Sox in order in the first, and erased a Thomas single in the second by getting Mouton to pull a changeup away to third for a double play.