Orioles claw back, top Tigers Trailing 6-1, O's bats warm to challenge for a 7-6 victory

Wells yields all runs in 4 1/3

Keep pace with Yanks, Sox with comeback

September 15, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

DETROIT -- The Detroit Tigers led the Orioles by five runs in the sixth inning last night, and it was beginning to look as though the Orioles' series in New York this week was going to be more a matter of postseason survival than an American League East showdown.

But the Orioles roared back and beat the Tigers, 7-6, Roberto Alomar driving in the lead run in the seventh with a single to right. The Orioles (81-67) held their ground in the playoff races, 3 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the AL East and 1 1/2 games ahead of the Chicago White Sox in the wild-card chase.

Todd Zeile hit his fifth homer in 15 games for the Orioles, who have hit a total of 238 this year, two short of the '61 Yankees' major-league record of 240.

The Tigers knocked out Orioles starter David Wells in the fifth and led 6-1 going into the top of the sixth. But the Orioles cut the lead to 6-3 in that inning, the first run scoring on Eddie Murray's RBI single, and the second when Murray disrupted a double play by throwing his legs into shortstop Travis Fryman; Fryman's throw to first was off-line, and Cal Ripken scored from third.

Zeile homered off Detroit reliever John Cummings leading off the seventh, and after Cummings retired the next two hitters, the Orioles mounted a deliberate rally. Ripken walked, Murray singled and B. J. Surhoff hit a broken-bat single over second to score Ripken.

Right-hander Richie Lewis relieved Cummings and walked Chris Hoiles, re-loading the bases, and Detroit manager Buddy Bell called on left-hander Joey Eischen. He wasn't any better than Lewis, walking Brady Anderson on four pitches to force in the tying run, and giving up a single to Alomar that scored th go-ahead run.

With that, the Orioles assumed a 7-6 lead. Terry Mathews, who took over for Wells, pitched 2 1/3 shutout innings, Armando Benitez threw a scoreless eighth and Randy Myers closed out the Tigers in the ninth for his 29th save.

The Orioles came back after an extremely dismal start.

First base coach John Stearns moved to third after the father of third base coach Sam Perlozzo passed away after Tuesday's game. For three days, Stearns assumed Perlozzo's usual

responsibilities; that is, shaking the hands of sluggers as they rounded third on home runs. Perlozzo's plane was scheduled to land in Detroit a half-hour before last night's game, but it was Stearns who trotted to the third base coach's box for the top of the first.

Alomar hit a one-out double, and Zeile pumped a single to left, and Stearns had to make a quick decision -- to hold Alomar, with Rafael Palmeiro coming up, or wave him homeward.

Alomar did not break from second at full speed, and it wasn't until Stearns began beckoning him around third that Alomar intensified his sprint. The throw from left fielder Bobby Higginson easily beat Alomar to the plate, and Detroit catcher Brad Ausmus slapped a tag on the Orioles second baseman.

Stearns turned away and walked up the third base line, and Alomar got up talking to himself and to Palmeiro. The rally died, and Perlozzo arrived in the dugout shortly thereafter and was back in the third base box for the next inning.

Leading off the third, Surhoff hit a liner off the right-center-field wall, and by the time the ball stopped rolling and the Tigers relayed it back to the infield, Surhoff was on third with a triple; he scored on Hoiles' grounder. But they should've had more, and the way Wells pitched, they needed more.

The Orioles left-hander struck out three of the first six hitters he faced. Following a two-out walk to Higginson in the bottom of the second, a steady rain turned into a deluge, and the grounds crew rushed onto the field to roll out the tarp. Wells waited through a 30-minute delay and then had to warm up all over again.

He wasn't the same after that. Phil Nevin hit a two-run homer in the fourth and Detroit jumped ahead. Ausmus doubled to start the bottom of the fifth and eventually came home on a grounder.

But Wells, averaging only 1.9 walks per nine innings -- the best in the American League -- walked Travis Fryman and walked Ruben Sierra, punctuating each with an obscene shout.

Wells fell behind Tony Clark, threw him a 2-1 pitch over the plate, and Clark lifted a high fly to right. Bobby Bonilla drifted slowly to his left, then faster, looking up, until he finally stopped at the warning track and looked up: A hard wind to right had turned Clark's high drive into an upper-deck homer.

The Tigers led 6-1, and when Orioles manager Davey Johnson walked to the mound to remove Wells, the left-hander didn't say a word. He just held the ball, arm outstretched, for Johnson to take, and retreated to the dugout.

The races

AL East .. .. .. W-L .. GB .. GR

New York . ... 84-63 .. -- .. 15

Orioles .. ... 81-67 .. 3 1/2 .. 14

Wild card .. .. .. W-L .. GB .. GR

Orioles . .. ... 81-67 .. -- .. 14

Chicago . .. ... 80-69 .. 1 1/2 .. 13

Seattle . .. ... 76-70 ... 4 .. 16

*-Late game

Orioles today

Opponent: Detroit Tigers

Site: Tiger Stadium

Time: 1: 15 p.m.

TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Rocky Coppinger (8-6, 5.49) vs. Tigers' Todd Van Poppel (3-6, 7.89)

Pub Date: 9/15/96

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