Orioles fall as Orosco slips, 10-4 Marlins' steep mound, White grand slam trip reliever in 5-run 6th

'Drop-off is huge, just huge'

Webster has 4 RBIs in 5th loss in 7 games

September 02, 1997|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

MIAMI -- The Orioles lost a game in a strange place last night, stranger even than teal-lined Pro Player Stadium with its cliff diver's pitching mound and made-for-football configurations. The Orioles lost it in the bullpen.

An inflammatory outing by Shawn Boskie and Jesse Orosco topped by light-hitting Devon White's grand slam led to a five-run sixth inning and a 10-4 win by the Florida Marlins in the continuation of interleague play. Thanks to catcher Lenny Webster, the Orioles rallied from deficits of 3-0 and 4-3, but their pitchers could never adjust to what is the National League's most intimidating mound.

"The drop-off is huge. It's just huge," said Webster, who contributed the Orioles' four RBIs with a third-inning homer and a fifth-inning triple. "There's no way you can adjust to that in five or 10 pitches."

Orosco nearly tumbled from the mound several times en route to walking home the go-ahead run, then surrendering the telling grand slam to White. Webster suggested to starter Scott Erickson that he target his face mask rather than his glove. The drop-off would do the rest.

The loss -- their fifth in seven games -- kept the Orioles from bumping their lead over the New York Yankees, who lost earlier to Philadelphia and remain 6 1/2 games back.

"I don't know what it was but [Orosco] about fell down three times," said manager Davey Johnson. "He didn't have his breaking ball and he didn't locate his fastball."

There was nothing fun about this place last night. A 1: 46 rain delay contributed to a game that ended 5: 19 after its first pitch. The combination of the delay and his discomfort with the precipitous mound led to one of Erickson's least efficient performances this year. The Orioles' hitters added to the inefficiency, stranding 10 runners to the Marlins' four. Again, they did little without the long ball.

The Orioles actually outhit the Marlins in a meeting between teams with the best and third-best records in the majors. But that was window dressing on a tenement as the bullpen burned down the house. Arthur Rhodes was the only reliever to escape unscathed. He pinch ran for Harold Baines in the sixth inning.

"It was very tough," said Erickson. "Not just for me, it was tough for anybody to go out there. You don't want to make excuses, but it's tough to adjust to that."

Tall guys, short guys. Right-handers, left-handers. Power pitchers, finesse pitchers. All have complained loud and long about the Marlins' mound. Yesterday's contraption was hurriedly put together after the Miami Dolphins' game Sunday afternoon. At least the Marlins are used to the view.

"After the rain delay, I was able to adjust better," said Erickson, who surrendered three of his four runs before the rain. "Look at their guy. He struggled, too."

Marlins starter and Glen Burnie High alum Tony Saunders left after four-plus innings. Saunders helped the Orioles with five walks; he threw 78 pitches, only 37 for strikes. Despite being handed two leads, he didn't last long enough to qualify for a decision.

The loss went to Boskie (6-5), who pitched for the first time since Aug. 15. However, Orosco allowed all three inherited runners to score on a bases-loaded walk and White's slam.

Riding consecutive losses since July 17-18, the Orioles limped into Pro Player Stadium averaging 3.8 runs over their last 12 games. Their sluggish performance against the New York Mets over the weekend smacked of the same malaise that gripped them during a 13-18 skid surrounding the All-Star break.

Without the speed of Roberto Alomar, Brady Anderson and Eric Davis, they have gradually become more and more dependent on the home run. Last night's lineup was without Anderson, who rested his sore knee. B. J. Surhoff also sat out to rest a sore hamstring.

The Marlins took a 3-0 lead on Cliff Floyd's two-out, 458-foot homer in the first. Webster gave the game back to Erickson with a three-run shot of his own in the third.

Erickson trailed again 4-3 after Gary Sheffield doubled home Edgar Renteria in the third. Without fail, Webster rescued his starting pitcher with a two-out triple -- only the second of his major-league career -- to score Rafael Palmeiro with the tying run in the fifth.

Johnson summoned Boskie to start the sixth only hours after he had been activated from the disabled list. The show of faith went unrewarded as Boskie allowed Bonilla his second hit to begin the inning. Moises Alou's one-out single pushed Bonilla to third and Charles Johnson earned a walk with a tenacious nine-pitch at-bat.

Hustling the left-hander Orosco into the game to face left-handed-hitting second baseman Craig Counsell did little good. Orosco walked the No. 8 hitter to force home the go-ahead run.

"When I thought I was going to land, there was air between my shoe and the dirt," Orosco said. "By the time I was getting ready to throw the ball, instead of being up my arm was down here and the ball started sailing."

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