Orosco slip helps O's fall, 10-4 Marlins' steep mound, White's grand slam too much for lefty

'The drop-off is 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 resumption 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 grand slam to White. Webster suggested to starter Scott Erickson that he target his facemask 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 and remain 6 1/2 games back.

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

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 447-foot slam.

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.

Having lost four of six, including their first 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 starting lineup was without Anderson. Johnson decided to let the center fielder rest his sore knee and gave Jerome Walton his first action since April 24. B. J. Surhoff also sat out to rest a sore hamstring.

Johnson's new-look lineup produced plenty of base runners but still relied solely on Webster for its teeth. The Orioles had at least two base runners in five of the first six innings. They chased Marlins starter and Glen Burnie High alum Tony Saunders after four-plus innings. Saunders helped the Orioles with five walks; he threw 78 pitches, only 37 for strikes.

The Marlins and the elements ganged up on Erickson for a three-run first inning. After retiring the first two hitters he faced, Erickson suddenly lost control.

Gary Sheffield walked and ex-Oriole Bobby Bonilla singled. A steady downpour intensified but not enough to stop play with first baseman Cliff Floyd batting. With a full count, Erickson threw a fastball that Floyd turned around for a 458-foot home run.

Erickson eventually threw 37 pitches in the inning and would need 107 to clear his five innings. Still, he escaped his 10th straight start without suffering a loss.

Thank Webster.

Partially due to Chris Hoiles' knee and Achilles' tendon injuries and partially due to his own performance, Webster has created a niche for himself. Last night was his 60th start compared to 70 by Hoiles. Webster has made 28 starts as Erickson's personal valet.

Erickson should remember to tip after his latest effort. With two outs in the third, the Orioles tied the game when Geronimo Berroa walked, Cal Ripken singled him to second and Webster cracked his career-high sixth home run.

The Marlins came back; so, too, would Webster.

Allowed to remain in the game after a 1: 46 rain delay, Erickson fell behind, 4-3, when shortstop Edgar Renteria singled to begin the third inning, stole second, advanced to third on Webster's throwing error, and scored when Sheffield ripped a double into the left-field corner. Ironically, Erickson's only 1-2-3 inning would also be his last.

The Orioles bounced the rookie Saunders and threatened a breakout in the fifth after Rafael Palmeiro walked and Berroa singled him to second. However, Ripken bounced into his 17th double play against reliever Antonio Alfonseca, moving Palmeiro to third. Webster scored him with a triple, the second of his major-league career.

With the game at 4-4, Johnson went to his bullpen and was quickly burned.

"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."

Right over the fence.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Florida Marlins

Site: Pro Player Stadium, Miami

Time: 7: 05

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Mike Mussina (13-6, 3.18) vs. Marlins' Kevin Brown (12-8, 2.76)

Dear Webster year

Orioles catcher Lenny Webster, who went 3-for-3 with a home run and four RBIs, already has surpassed his previous career best in several categories:

Category .. .. Current .. Previous

Games .. .. .. .. . 81 .. .. .. 78

At-bats ... .. ... 208 .. .. . 174

Runs ... .. .. .. . 24 .. .. .. 18

Hits ... .. .. .. . 55 .. .. .. 40

Home runs . .. .. .. 6 .. .. ... 5

RBIs ... .. .. .. . 34 .. .. .. 23

Pub Date: 9/02/97

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