Former Orioles pitch Brewers to 4-2 victory Harnisch, D. Jones hand O's 13th loss in past 21

September 27, 1997|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

MILWAUKEE -- Maybe it's just too difficult to get excited about a couple of minnows when bigger fish are swimming up stream. Or maybe that's letting the Orioles off the hook too easily.

One night after being beaten in Toronto and with the Division Series fast approaching, the Orioles reeled in another defeat last night, done in by two of their former pitchers and their apparent lack of interest in a 4-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers before 16,834 at County Stadium.

The Orioles (96-64) had hoped to make a hard charge toward the postseason with three games each at Toronto and Milwaukee, but find themselves 8-13 since Sept. 7 and engaged in their sixth losing week since the All-Star break -- including the fourth this month. They had only one before the break.

Their lead in the AL East is down to two games, and they still could end up with the same record as the Yankees, thereby needing the tie-breaker of having won the season series with New York to claim the division and losing much of the luster off a wire-to-wire gem.

Pete Harnisch, winless since Aug. 8, 1996 and with his career in a shambles, held the Orioles to one run and four hits over five innings. He had been 0-7 with a 5.38 ERA during his dubious streak, most of it spent with the New York Mets. Another ex-Oriole, Doug Jones, registered his 36th save with a perfect ninth.

Left-hander Rick Krivda (4-2), with no chance of accompanying the Orioles to Seattle next week, couldn't make the most of his last start. He allowed four runs in five innings, including a third-inning homer by Jeromy Burnitz, who continued to wear out the Orioles.

As if Harnisch (1-1) needed another challenge, he had thrown 27 pitches two nights earlier, when the Brewers went 15 innings to defeat Kansas City. But it wasn't as if he saw the best the Orioles had to offer for his entire stay.

Manager Davey Johnson kept an eye toward the postseason by making defensive changes in the fourth inning, pulling Cal Ripken and Rafael Palmeiro. The only time Ripken had left a game sooner this year was after his ejection July 20 against Chicago at Camden Yards. His earliest exit without an ejection came after two innings of the final game of last season.

The lineup shuffling continued in the fifth, when Roberto Alomar and B. J. Surhoff were given the rest of the night off. One of the replacements, Aaron Ledesma, hit his second homer in the seventh inning.

"My objective was to get a couple at-bats for some people who need the at-bats," Johnson said. "Cal doesn't need the at-bats. He's swinging the bat a lot better. It's just a break.

"It's just like Raffy. He's been swinging the bat good. It's good to see Juice [Jerome Walton] at first and get him some more at-bats. It's the same way with Ledesma, same way with some other people who haven't played much. I need to have them sharp in case somebody gets hurt or breaks down. I want them available. It helps people other than Cal. Everything doesn't just have to accommodate Cal. It's for everybody."

Johnson said he'd probably use the same scheme tonight, again involving as many players as possible.

Acquired from the Mets on Aug. 31, Harnisch kept the Orioles off the board until the fourth, when Harold Baines connected on an 0-2 pitch for his 16th home run, and the 337nd of his career, moving him into 56th place on baseball's all-time list.

Harnisch had gotten into immediate trouble in the first inning, allowing a leadoff single to Brady Anderson and a two-out single to Baines. Surhoff followed with a low liner that was speared by first baseman Mark Loretta, sending Harnisch on a slow walk to the dugout, his cap pushed back. He briefly sat on the top step of the dugout while a couple teammates came over to offer encouragement.

They gave him something better in the bottom half of the inning -- the lead.

Fernando Vina led off with a triple to right-center field and scored on a single by Loretta. Jeff Cirillo singled and stole second, and Burnitz delivered the second run with a grounder to Palmeiro. Darrin Jackson tacked on another with a double down the left-field line.

Harnisch retired seven of eight hitters until Baines' home run. His most serious battle after that was with his control. He walked two batters in the fourth and two more leading off the sixth that prompted his removal for Al Reyes.

Orioles tonight Opponent: Milwaukee Brewers

Site: County Stadium, Milwaukee

Time: 8: 05

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Scott Erickson (16-7, 3.71) vs. Brewers' Jeff D'Amico (9-7, 4.75)

Pub Date: 9/27/97

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