9-8 loss adds hurt to O's pain Chest muscle strain limits Drabek as rally against Jays falls short

'Never seen so many injuries'

2 homers, 4-run fifth fail to erase 7-1 deficit

June 14, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

TORONTO -- At some point, yellow flags should fly and whistles should blow. Looking up from a 9-8 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, the Orioles still wait for this season to be called for piling on.

Suffering another blow to their already gutted rotation, the Orioles lost starter Doug Drabek after only 12 hitters with a strained muscle on the right side of his chest. Unable to get more than six outs, Drabek left behind two runners and a 3-1 deficit that quickly became 7-1 only to have a determined rally undone by slack defense, an opposite-field home run from an anonymous catcher and a walk that became a run.

As if one was needed, the final indignity came when ex-Oriole Randy Myers pitched the ninth inning for his 17th save.

Summed manager Ray Miller after watching his team slide to 32-35: "I've never seen so many injuries in my life."

Just when Mike Mussina's return and a positive prognosis for Jimmy Key suggested hope for the Orioles' rotation, Drabek (5-7) was injured in his shortest Orioles start. His Thursday start is in doubt as he may become the fourth member of the Opening Day rotation to land on the disabled list.

Doug Johns warmed before Drabek could face his fourth batter. Miller, knowing something was wrong beyond poor command, lifted him after Shawn Green and Jose Canseco reached to begin the third inning.

"It forced me back," Drabek said. "I couldn't extend. When I did my normal long stride, that's when I felt it. I had to cut my stride down. I had to cut my extension down."

Drabek has become the staff's yo-yo. Now he works on a frayed string. He slogged through a 1-4 April with a 7.84 ERA then recovered for a 4-1 May to accompany a 3.32 ERA. While the rest of the rotation disintegrated, Drabek gave Miller four starts of at least six innings including his first complete game since August 1996.

June has become another nightmare. In three starts he has allowed 17 runs and 23 hits in 10 1/3 innings, a staggering 14.81 ERA. He has thrown only a combined 199 pitches in those starts. Opponents have scored at least eight runs in each.

Yesterday he experienced tightness near his right pectoral while warming in the bullpen. Rather than chuck the start, Drabek took the ball and tried to tough his way through five or six innings. His bravery outstripped his performance as his velocity suffered a dramatic drop. Catcher Lenny Webster, unaware of his bullpen problem, noticed the problem quickly. Plate umpire Jim Joyce also commented.

"He looked weary the first couple innings. He looked like he was pushing everything," Webster said.

He was. Drabek cut down on his delivery to avoid the pain. It made even his best pitches reachable.

Timing was appropriate albeit cruel. Drabek has suffered more career losses (26) and fewer career wins (19) in June than any other month.

The only pitcher with worse luck than Drabek was Blue Jays starter Chris Carpenter. Center fielder Jesus Tavarez crushed his first pitch for a leadoff home run, his first in the majors since Sept. 16, 1995. Rafael Palmeiro then ended Carpenter's appearance by lining a shot off his right hand.

Robert Person (2-0) followed Carpenter and held the Orioles for 3 1/3 innings. Meanwhile, the Jays jumped to a 7-1 lead after three innings.

No. 9 hitter Alex Gonzalez reached Drabek for a two-run, two-out home run in the second inning. Even after Drabek yielded to Johns, he still took damage as first baseman Carlos Delgado doubled home both runs for a 5-1 lead. Designated hitter Mike Stanley, who homered twice in the Orioles' 9-5 win Friday night, mashed his third homer in four at-bats on Johns' next pitch to bump the lead to six runs.

Despite suffering two shutouts in the last week, the Orioles can no longer be criticized for indifference. The second time through the order proved troublesome for Person, recalled from Triple-A Syracuse only last Sunday.

The Orioles loaded the bases with one out in the fourth inning but got nothing when Mike Bordick fouled out to shallow right field and Tavarez struck out.

They wasted little during a four-run fifth that started when right fielder and former Blue Jay Joe Carter lofted his seventh home run into Toronto's bullpen. A walk, three singles and Person's throwing error on an attempted double play led to three more runs. Improving on a 3-for-21 road trip, Cal Ripken contributed his second RBI in 11 games with a one-out opposite-field single to pull the Orioles within 7-5.

"You can't stop playing," said B. J. Surhoff, who contributed three hits. "It doesn't matter. You have to overcome whatever happens. That's why it's so important to have depth at this level and throughout the organization."

Johns' first relief appearance since being bumped from the starting rotation ended when Blue Jays catcher Mark Dalesandro -- playing only because of injuries to Benito Santiago and Darrin Fletcher -- led off the sixth inning with his first home run since 1994 while with the California Angels.

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