O's rally capped in loss Nevin touches Orosco again for homer in 10th to offset O's rally, 5-3

Yanks lose

magic number 4

4-single 6th, wild pitch in 7th cost Kamieniecki

September 20, 1997|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

The combustible mix of Jesse Orosco and Phil Nevin came together again last night. Once more, the blowup cost the Orioles.

Negating a three-run Orioles rally that forced extra innings, the Detroit Tigers' pinch hitter hit Orosco's first pitch for a two-run homer that accounted for the difference in a 5-3, 10-inning loss for the American League East leaders.

The damage could have been worse. The New York Yankees were being shut out by the Toronto Blue Jays, dropping the Orioles' magic number for clinching the division to four.

Still, this was a painful return match for Orosco. On July 5, Nevin greeted him with a game-breaking, two-run homer in the eighth inning that helped turn a 5-3 Mike Mussina lead into a 6-5 Tigers win.

Last night's loss was the Orioles' ninth in 14 games and further delayed what still appears to be an inevitable clinching of the division title. Still, the Orioles are getting there without style points.

Last night's ending was a rarity. Davey Johnson lost in a battle of matchups. Having just summoned Orosco to relieve Alan Mills (2-3) with one out and a runner at first, he was countered by Tigers manager Buddy Bell sending right-handed-hitting Nevin to bat for designated hitter Bob Hamelin. Nevin was 7-for-15 with one home run (the July job against Orosco) and four RBIs as a pinch hitter.

The result didn't take long. Nevin waited on Orosco's first pitch -- a too-high changeup -- and bashed it deep into the left-field bleachers.

What might have been the Orioles' third win of the season when trailing after eight innings instead became a troubling case of deja vu.

"I was looking for a pitch middle in, a pitch I could handle," said Nevin. "I was fortunate. It was right down the middle. A guy like that doesn't make many mistakes. When he does make one, you better hit it."

Nevin recognized the mistake but not the pitch. He called it a slider. "Honestly, I think it was a slider," he insisted. "He'd gone away from me a few times earlier this year. I hit one off him in Detroit. That time he gave me something away, so I had a feeling he may come in and I was set to drive anything up."

Whatever. It was undisputedly his ninth home run of the season.

"It was off-speed and it kind of sailed," said Orosco. "He just stayed back and did a great job. I was trying to get him to hit the ball on the ground. I just left it up. I failed tonight. I can't think about this tomorrow."

Johnson couldn't help but wonder about Orosco's pitch selection to Nevin. A fastball would have been fine. But a left-hander throwing a changeup to a right-handed batter on a first pitch proved bothersome to the manager.

"He likes the ball up. He threw the ball up. And he threw his third pitch," Johnson said. "It's always location. A changeup can be all right if it's below the knees. It's not really a good pitch to start out on."

Instead, it became a bad one to end on.

The Tigers now have won four of nine over the Orioles. Rather than play out the string, they are intent on improving to third in the the AL East, a tremendous accomplishment for a franchise that finished with the worst mark in the majors last season.

Trailing 3-0, the Orioles used a dramatic three-run ninth to turn what looked to be another lifeless offensive performance on its head. They saved Scott Kamieniecki from a loss and stripped Willie Blair of a 17th win.

Blair, whom Johnson described as "awesome," entered the ninth inning having allowed three hits, no walks and without permitting a runner to reach second base. It was the most stifling performance by a starting pitcher against the Orioles this season until pinch hitter Jeffrey Hammonds started the ninth-inning rally with an innocuous one-out walk.

Brady Anderson's single put Hammonds in position to score on Roberto Alomar's grounder through the right side, chasing Blair.

Bell then summoned closer Todd Jones (5-3), immediately touched for an RBI single by Berroa. After a walk to Rafael Palmeiro loaded the bases, B. J. Surhoff extended his incredible run of success in that situation by lifting a tying sacrifice fly to left -- which was only a few feet from being a game-winning grand slam. Surhoff now has 135 RBIs in 115 career at-bats with the bases loaded. Cal Ripken struck out to end the inning.

Still, the Tigers wouldn't go away. They chased Mills with Travis Fryman's single then jumped on Orosco's first pitch.

"That's one of the best signs of this team," Nevin said of the Tigers, who have won 12 of 16 to move within a game of .500 "A year ago, things like that would have upset us, but now we're able to put that kind of thing behind us."

None of this did much for the Orioles' No. 4 starter. A win by Kamieniecki, who threw 110 pitches, would have given the Orioles five 10-game winners for the first time since 1985 when Don Aase, Mike Boddicker, Storm Davis, Dennis Martinez and Scott McGregor did so. Kamieniecki also needed a victory to match his career high set in 1993.

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