Mathews wins no fans in 9th Entering game to boos, reliever gives up pair of homers to Mariners

October 05, 1997|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

He was booed the moment his foot hit the warning track on the way in from the bullpen, and the reception grew harsher from there. The largest crowd in the history of Camden Yards gave Terry Mathews an earful yesterday, and as the fans fired away at the beleaguered reliever, all he could give back was more ammunition.

With little time to warm up, Mathews was brought into the ninth inning of Game 3 of the Division Series, after Arthur Rhodes had to leave with stiffness in his forearm. The Orioles were behind by two runs. It was Mathews' job to hold the Seattle Mariners, then hope for a rally.

He retired Alex Rodriguez on a grounder to short, then served up back-to-back home runs to Jay Buhner and Paul Sorrento. Both balls went to the opposite field. Each one elicited louder jeers, the kind normally reserved for the opposition.

On this day, like some others before, Terry Mathews was the opposition, at least in the eyes of the fans here.

It didn't help that the 4-0 deficit was cut in half after Jeffrey Hammonds' two-out, two-run double in the ninth -- runs that would have tied the score if Mathews had slammed the door. Instead, the Orioles lost, 4-2, forcing Game 4 today.

Mathews, making his first appearance of the postseason, rebounded to strike out Dan Wilson and retire Joey Cora on a fly ball to center. By then, many in the crowd had streamed for the exits. The rest rained hostility on the Louisiana native as he slowly walked to the dugout.

"The first one, you can't go 2-0 to Buhner; he's a very dangerous guy," said pitching coach Ray Miller. "You've got to give him credit. He went down across the plate and hit a down-and-away [fastball]. In this ballpark, it doesn't take a whole lot to right-center field to get the ball in the air. Sorrento's a dead pull hitter and he inside-outed [a changeup] the other way. You've got to take your hat off to them. They're supposed to pull the ball."

Catcher Chris Hoiles said he didn't think Mathews made a mistake to either Buhner or Sorrento, who combined for 71 homers during the regular season. "I thought those were two quality pitches, and they hit them out," Hoiles said. "Sometimes it's not the pitchers fault."

Mathews dressed and left the clubhouse before the media were allowed inside. For one of baseball's more mild-mannered and likable players, it was a telling sign of his frustration and disappointment.

"I thought that was very unfair of the crowd," said reliever Jesse Orosco. "Terry didn't even throw a pitch in the playoffs yet, and they're already giving him the worst time of his life. We're trying to win this thing. Maybe they should encourage us a little bit. They hadn't even given Terry a chance. He steps on the field, and he's already getting crucified out there. How would that make you feel?"

"You expect it on the road," said reliever Alan Mills, "but it's never good any time you get it. I've been there. And Terry's a great guy."

Miller spoke briefly with Mathews in the clubhouse, telling him to keep his head up and look forward to today. "You're always a little shook up in this scenario, when you don't do well, but Terry will bounce back. He's very resilient," Miller said.

"He's busted his butt for us all year, and I'd much rather see the crowd, instead of booing him going off the field, cheering for our offense that hadn't had a hit for six innings. But that's part of the game, and people are entitled to their opinions."

It's been a negative one toward Mathews at various times this year. He ended the regular season by getting a win and a save in Milwaukee, but allowed earned runs in 10 of his last 19 appearances, lifting his ERA from 3.24 to 4.41. He had given up two home runs through July, but eight since then, including yesterday.

Manager Davey Johnson said he would go to Mathews again in that situation -- every time. "He's been throwing the ball good for me. A couple of good hitters hit the ball out. They [fans] just remember the bad. It's unfortunate."

Pub Date: 10/05/97

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