O's swing, miss, 2-0 1 night after 14 runs, Orioles make U-turn, are 3-hit by Phillies

Second shutout in 3 games

Miller sees strategy backfire in rally in 8th

June 10, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA -- What do Greg Maddux and Matt Beech have in common? Before last night, nothing. As of this morning, they both own the Orioles.

In a colossal waste of an encouraging effort from rookie starter Sidney Ponson, the Orioles were beaten, 2-0, by the Philadelphia Phillies left-hander and relievers Wayne Gomes and Mark Leiter last night. The loss not only dropped the Orioles to 30-34, but also drove them into a pique of rage.

Manager Ray Miller tried hard to bite his tongue, but found it impossible. Greg Maddux shutting you out on Sunday is one thing. But Matt Beech?

"I don't mind Greg Maddux. I don't mean to be disrespectful to Beech and Gomes and Leiter because they pitched a [heck] of a game. But I've never seen a left-hander throw that many fastballs to our club and get away with it," said Miller, whose club had scored a season-high 14 runs the night before. "Either he had exceptional stuff or we weren't on today, one or the other. If somebody had told me this club would get 76 fastballs from a left-hander and only get two hits, that's hard to believe."

Miller groused about a scouting report that predicted off-speed pitches from Beech. Instead, the Orioles swung themselves ragged at high fastballs. Beech struck out a career-high nine and the Orioles finished with 13 strikeouts and three hits overall.

The Orioles' impatience showed the most in critical situations. They were 0-for-7 with six strikeouts with runners in scoring position. A game featuring 24 base runners cried for timely hitting.

The Orioles went 128 games without being shut out before Maddux threw a four-hitter at them Sunday. They barely went 48 hours before getting stuffed again.

They flailed for two hits off Beech (2-3), including one by Ponson, while leaving a card in their hand during a promising eighth-inning rally. For the Orioles, this was akin to a starving man sending back steak for being too rare.

Able to place the tying run on base with one out in the eighth, Miller opted to use right-handed bats Joe Carter and Cal Ripken against the right-handed closer Leiter. Miller's option, idle left fielder B. J. Surhoff, never got closer than the on-deck circle as Leiter escaped the tell-all inning.

It was the first time since last Sept. 8 that the Orioles have lost when allowing two runs or fewer.

Ponson served as the game's only positive. In his third major-league start he cleared six innings, allowing two runs on six hits and two walks. Miller said afterward that he would hold onto his spot in the rotation over Doug Johns upon the arrival of just-acquired Pete Smith from the San Diego Padres.

"That's what a young prospect is supposed to look like," said Miller.

In his three starts, Ponson (0-4) allowed 21 hits and 12 earned runs in 15 2/3 innings. He has yet to make a start at Camden Yards.

Ponson did a solid impression of a veteran starting pitcher. He suffered a two-out run in the first inning when Scott Rolen walked, stole second, then scored on Rico Brogna's single to left field.

Ponson managed two quick outs in the second, then just as quickly stumbled against second baseman Mark Lewis. A .202 hitter with marginal power, Lewis drove Ponson's first pitch to right field for his fourth homer in 204 at-bats.

From there, Ponson put together his most precocious major-league start. Doug Glanville led off the third with a double to extend his hitting streak to 10 games, but was stranded there as Ponson prevented the next three hitters from leaving the infield. He duplicated the stunt in the fourth after Mike Lieberthal sliced a leadoff double into the right-field corner.

Ponson slipped from his toughest challenge in the sixth as Miller worked some daring strategy. With two outs and Brogna at second following the Phillies' third double, Miller ordered right fielder Bobby Abreu intentionally walked to get at Lewis. Ponson had struck out Abreu in his two earlier at-bats while taking damage from Lewis. Abreu, however, is a left-handed hitter who began the game batting .323 with 60 hits.

Ponson followed the intentional walk with an unintentional pass of Lewis, loading the bases. He held the game by getting rookie Desi Relaford to pop to short.

Beech had entered with a 1-8 career record at Veterans Stadium and only one start of seven innings this season. That came in a June 3 outing against the Montreal Expos that ended as a loss.

Despite the best attempts of Miller to stack a right-handed-hitting lineup -- Surhoff and Brady Anderson were rested in lieu of Carter and Jesus Tavarez -- Beech rolled, allowing only two hits through six innings while never allowing a runner to third base.

Opportunity came at the Orioles in the eighth with Leiter replacing Gomes. A situation was created without putting the ball in play as he walked pinch hitter Anderson on four pitches. Eric Davis' ground ball advanced the runner and Leiter then walked Rafael Palmeiro, a .632 career hitter against him, on five pitches.

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