Marlins cut down O's, 3-2, in 10 Orioles lose 4th in row despite Mussina effort as 2 thrown out at plate

Gift home run isn't enough

Scoring opportunities again are unfulfilled

September 03, 1997|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

MIAMI -- They received a home run that wasn't, a winning pitching performance that didn't and were offered a game in the standings they wouldn't accept.

When done, the Orioles had suffered a wrenching 10-inning, 3-2 loss to the Florida Marlins in a game they had every excuse to win but found every way to lose.

Edgar Renteria ended it with a two-out single off Terry Mathews to score pinch runner Gregg Zaun, ending the Orioles' string of eight consecutive extra-inning wins while intensifying questions about an increasingly lost offense.

The loss was the Orioles' fourth in a row, their longest skid since they ended a six-game losing streak on July 13.

Before the game ended, it turned into button-pushing, double-switching madness between managers Davey Johnson and Jim Leyland.

Johnson played the wildest move before the Marlins batted in the 10th. He replaced B. J. Surhoff in left field with Jerome Walton (who had pinch hit in the top of the inning), shifting Surhoff to second base. Johnson then reconsidered, returning Surhoff to left, removing Walton and inserting Aaron Ledesma at second base.

At the same time, Johnson went to the mound with trainer Richie Bancells to check on pitcher Alan Mills, whom he removed despite Mills insisting he was not hurt.

Leyland used five pitchers within one span of six hitters.

He also removed left fielder Moises Alou in a 10th-inning double switch. Alou had tied the game two innings earlier on a home run and had saved a run by throwing out Cal Ripken at the plate in the seventh inning.

It was this kind of night: Johnson used three runners for one base runner and got a pickoff in return.

Mathews (3-4), who replaced Mills, allowed a run for the eighth time in his past nine outings and suffered his second loss in four days.

The game got there only because the Orioles lost three outs on the bases and could not generate enough offense to reward Mike Mussina for another standup effort.

The flail-or-fail Orioles again froze when asked to manufacture runs. Catcher Chris Hoiles also was thrown out at the plate, attempting to score from second base in the second inning against right fielder Gary Sheffield.

A season low point arrived in the eighth inning with the game tied 2-2 and hard-luck Mussina still able to gain a well-deserved win.

With runners at first and second and none out, Jeff Reboulet was ordered to bunt. Johnson had used three players to produce the lead run. Pinch hitter Harold Baines singled and was replaced by pinch runner Shawn Boskie. When Brady Anderson walked, Johnson replaced Boskie with another runner, Jeffrey Hammonds.

Reboulet bunted through one pitch. When he missed a second attempt, Marlins catcher Charles Johnson caught Hammonds too far from the bag and threw him out with embarrassing ease.

This was nothing short of giving back free money. The Philadelphia Philles had defeated the New York Yankees for a second straight day. The Orioles had taken an unlikely 2-0 lead in the first inning when Rafael Palmeiro hit a controversial home run just inside the right-field foul pole. It was his eighth homer in 19 games.

The Orioles faced one of their most outstanding alums. Kevin Brown entered having gone 3-0 with a 1.40 ERA in six August starts. Last month Brown allowed only seven earned runs while striking out 37 in 45 innings and refused to allow a home run.

Replays showed he still hasn't, but a National League umpiring crew disagreed. As Sheffield leaped headlong into the right-field wall, Palmeiro's clout struck the fence about two feet below its top.

While Palmeiro and base runner Surhoff sprinted around the bases, first base umpire Bruce Froemming signaled home run, thinking the ball had hit a fan and rebounded back onto the field. Leyland and Sheffield argued the call with Froemming but to no avail. Froemming neither moved far down the foul line nor sought help with the call.

For the scuffling Orioles, the call was huge. Ripken followed Palmeiro's "blast" with a strikeout, leaving in doubt whether the Orioles would have scored without umpire assistance.

Call it the reverse Maier effect. The Orioles give up runs when kids reach over fences to grab an otherwise catchable fly ball. They gain runs when an ungainly outfielder helps make a double look like a ball that has left the yard.

The Marlins have won five straight, seven of eight and 11 of 14. Before last night they had scored eight runs or more in four of their last seven games, including 10 in a Scott Erickson start Monday. But against Mussina, one umpire's missed call almost turned an entire game.

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