O's fall short of sweep Regulars, except Bordick, start in 4-3 loss to Jays

September 26, 1997|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

TORONTO -- Eliminating the magic number didn't make all of the Orioles' problems disappear.

Hoping to leave Toronto with a sweep and build more momentum as the postseason nears, they wasted a 13-hit attack last night and lost to the Blue Jays, 4-3, before 28,324 at SkyDome.

The Orioles (96-63), who clinched the AL East title on Wednesday, begin a three-game series in Milwaukee tonight that concludes the regular season. The best they can do is win 99 games heading into the division series, preventing Davey Johnson from joining Sparky Anderson and Whitey Herzog as the only managers to attain 100 victories in both leagues.

They had one last chance to build on the total in the ninth, scoring with two outs on a throwing error by second baseman Tomas Perez on a high chopper from pinch hitter Geronimo Berroa. But with runners on the corners, rookie Kelvim Escobar got B.J. Surhoff to bounce out for his 14th save.

The assumption floating around here yesterday was that the Blue Jays would be playing "Cal Ripken and the Rochester Red Wings," since Johnson had probable cause to empty his bench with the division secured. Instead, Johnson turned to some familiar faces, calling upon all of his regulars except shortstop Mike Bordick. He even replaced Ripken in the sixth, after the third baseman's throwing error the previous inning led to an unearned run.

"That tells you a lot about this team," Johnson said. "We clinch [Wednesday] night, and everybody wants in the lineup."

They dented Toronto right-hander Cris Carpenter, but couldn't break him.

The Orioles had three extra-base hits through three innings against Carpenter (3-7), including Roberto Alomar's 13th home run, and twice erased Blue Jays leads. They had at last one hit in six of the seven innings that Carpenter pitched, but managed only two runs against him.

It wasn't enough. And it wasn't Alomar's fault.

The crowd here was sparse and unforgiving, raising the roof with a resounding chorus of boos each time Alomar settled into the batter's box. He simply grinned, then got in the last word. A single in the first inning, a home run in the third, another single in the fifth and yet another in the ninth. The former Blue Jay began the night batting .475 over his last 16 games, and didn't break stride.

About all he couldn't do was save Mike Mussina (15-8), who was working on two extra days rest so he could start Game 1 in Seattle. He allowed two home runs on 0-2 pitches and got swept away in Joe Carter's tribute to fired manager Cito Gaston.

Wearing Gaston's No. 43, Carter doubled in a run in the first inning and homered in the sixth, surpassing George Bell for the Blue Jays' all-time lead with 203.

Mussina left after seven innings, allowing 10 hits and three earned runs. He walked one and struck out seven.

"I actually felt a little better than I thought I would. It had been a week," he said. "I had decent location and was able to throw all my pitches. All the stuff I wanted to be able to do."

Except win.

Mussina fell behind, 1-0, in the first inning. Shawn Green singled with one out and scored on Carter's double, the ball dropping a few feet inside the right-field line. The Orioles tied it in the second on Chris Hoiles' RBI double to right-center, but Juan Samuel immediately put Toronto back in front with his third homer of the season, and second in two nights. Alomar then tied the score with an opposite-field shot.

Mussina was given more help in the fourth when Hoiles twice threw out runners trying to steal, and further assistance in the fifth when Surhoff cut down Benito Santiago trying to stretch a leadoff single into a double. But his support broke down after that. Perez reached on a roller down the third-base line with two outs in the fifth and took second when Ripken's throw bounced past Rafael Palmeiro. Rookie Shannon Stewart followed with a double off the fence in left-center field, giving Toronto a 3-2 lead.

Pub Date: 9/26/97

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