Orioles Rally But Fall In 10 To Sox, 11-9

Davis' Grand Slam Caps Climb From 9-2 Hole

Benitez Foiled In 10th

First Loss Of Year At Home

Coppinger Yields 6 Runs In 2 2/3 In First '97 Start

April 24, 1997|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Last night at Camden Yards was so cold that it froze Chicago White Sox manager Terry Bevington to his bench. Worse for the Orioles, it was cold enough to tease them with a miracle win only to smack them with a 10-inning, 11-9 loss.

Trailing 9-2 after 5 1/2 innings, the Orioles rode Eric Davis' grand slam to a seventh-inning tie against numbed White Sox starter Jaime Navarro. Three innings later the White Sox waited out Armando Benitez for two runs on two walks and two singles, halting the Orioles' season-opening home win streak at seven.

"That would've been a great win. As it was, it was a tough win for Chicago. They had it in the bag," said Orioles manager Davey Johnson, whose team dropped to 12-5.

Tony Phillips began the rally with a leadoff single followed by a walk to Frank Thomas, who had four hits. Albert Belle's broken-bat grounder advanced both runners, leading to an intentional walk of Harold Baines. Able to get ahead of Lyle Mouton, Benitez surrendered a sacrifice fly on a 1-2 pitch. Phillips appeared to tag early but escaped on appeal. Dave Martinez, who like Mouton had homered in the second inning, scored Thomas on a single.

That the Orioles reached extra innings was remarkable enough. Given three strong middle innings by Mike Johnson, Terry Mathews and Randy Myers, they were burned on both ends. The Orioles issued a season-high 11 walks, and allowed 15 hits.

They could not get past a rough 2 2/3-inning start by Rocky Coppinger, who returned to his familiar role after opening the season on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation.

The rotation's excitable boy, Coppinger alternately fought himself, his mechanics and the strike zone. Set off by back-to-back second-inning home runs by Mouton and Martinez, Coppinger left after walking six and allowing four hits to 18 batters. His fastball became a mystery pitch.

"I wasn't effective at all because I couldn't throw it for strikes. When you have no command of your fastball, you're going to be in trouble. That was the key tonight," he said.

"When your fastball's not working, you have to go to Plan B. That's what happened. When I threw it for strikes, I left it out over the middle of the plate."

"He's battling," said Johnson. "He's battling too much. It's one thing to be very competitive. Sometimes you fight everything. You fight the elements. You fight the opposition."

In the third inning, Coppinger became frustrated with plate umpire John Hirschbeck's strike zone. His catcher, Lenny Webster, tried to calm him, but Coppinger continually let his frustration overcome his mechanics.

At one point, he began "drifting," whereby the shoulders open too soon and command resembles guesswork. In 77 pitches, Coppinger threw 42 balls.

Coppinger had only needed 49 pitches in his four-inning outing last week in Chicago. Last night's turnaround was alarming.

"As good as his first outing was, this one was bad. That's the way it is," Johnson said.

Navarro controlled the Orioles for five innings, hinted at fatigue during a two-run sixth, then was abandoned by Bevington and his defense in the seventh.

Slow in coming, the rally transfixed Bevington, who ordered Tony Castillo and Bill Simas to warm, apparently for cosmetic reasons. A bloop hit, an infield error, an infield single and a walk carried the inning to Davis. With the score 9-5 and the remnants of a crowd of 42,902 roused, Davis represented the tying run with nowhere for Navarro to go.

Davis turned a Navarro fastball 397 feet into the left-field stands. Unmoved, Bevington allowed Navarro to finish the inning.

"He started the inning at 94 [mph]. He's a strong guy. Heck, the guy was throwing 93-94 just like he was in the first inning, so why in the world would you take him out?" Bevington said. "That was a very, very odd inning. Our best pitcher's still in the game. We've got nobody throwing 93-94 in our bullpen who's going to be as effective as Navarro. The Davis home run was huge, but what led up to that was nothing."

Two days ago, Davis remained out with a shoulder contusion. Tuesday, he signaled his return with a bases-empty home run. Last night, he almost single-handedly turned the game with six RBIs, two runs scored and a reminder of what his presence can mean to an already dangerous lineup.

"Those are things you dream about," said Davis. "But the climax would have been to win the ballgame. For us to come back the way we did, we don't quit. We're going to keep battling."

The Orioles now face their first concern this year over their starting pitching. Boskie and Coppinger are a combined 0-2 in three starts and have surrendered 18 earned runs in 10 2/3 innings while walking 12 against 10 strikeouts.

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