Rain stops, Mets storm by O's 4-run New York burst after 1 1/2 -hour delay produces 6-3 victory

Orioles score lone 3 in 2nd

Forecast led O's to feel they had 5 1/2 -inning win

June 24, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

When it rains, it pours. Unfortunately for the Orioles last night, it didn't pour long enough.

A 3-2 lead over the New York Mets dissolved into a 6-3 loss following a 1: 26 rain delay last night after the Orioles received a misleading weather forecast and an even less reliable performance from a leaky bullpen. Instead of the rain delay prematurely ending what would have been their fourth win in five games, it only created a climate for an infuriating loss.

As they left, Orioles fans were serenaded by gloating Mets backers who had outlasted the rain delay. Many among a crowd of 46,385 left when rain arrived after 5 1/2 innings, but Mets fans were allowed to inherit leftover box seats.

Had the game ended there, the Orioles would have arrived in New York with their bullpen fresh and only a game below .500. Instead, they retreated to 37-40 and used relievers Alan Mills, Arthur Rhodes and Armando Benitez to cover the final 5 1/3 innings. Rhodes (3-3) and Benitez allowed four runs and seven hits in three innings.

Mets left fielder Bernard Gilkey delivered the game-winner against Rhodes with a slicing one-out double that turned a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 lead.

"I guess we were weatherized," said Orioles manager Ray Miller.

While Miller's bullpen burned, the Mets received 5 2/3 shutout innings from theirs, including winner John Hudek (1-4).

New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine did everything short of perform a rain dance to arrange a stoppage before his team batted in the fifth inning, thus making an official game. He changed pitchers. Pitching coach Bob Apodaca visited the mound. Reliever Turk Wendell, who likes brushing his teeth between innings and pitching without socks, missed a throw from his catcher then insisted on retrieving it himself.

None of it worked. The Orioles used a three-run second inning that included RBIs by Mike Bordick, Brady Anderson and Eric Davis. The Mets chased starter Doug Johns in the fourth inning as Miller managed like it was the late innings.

"They kept saying rain was imminent and it was lightning and everything with three or four hours of rain coming. So I managed it like it was the eighth. It didn't work out," said Miller, who lifted Mills after the delay.

"I expected it to rain a little longer than that," said Mills. "But you really can't predict the weather. Before the rain, things were going our way. After the delay the momentum just changed."

The Orioles had asked Mills to get three outs before the shower grew into a monsoon.

Crew chief Larry Barnett gave the Mets a sixth at-bat, but Mills again shut them down with help from left fielder B. J. Surhoff.

Following a two-out single by Luis Lopez -- the second baseman's third of the night -- featherweight-hitting shortstop Rey Ordonez threatened to tie it with a long fly ball to left field. Ordonez, without a home run in 240 at-bats, pushed Surhoff to the warning track where he made a spinning catch against the padding.

No sooner had Surhoff made the catch then Barnett summoned the grounds crew at 9: 17 p.m. Anyone with access to Doppler radar thought the night over.

The Orioles had wasted little time attacking Mets starter Masato Yoshii as six of the first 10 hitters reached base. Yoshii dodged a first-inning run when he struck out Roberto Alomar with runners at first and second. He proved less slippery in the second inning as the Orioles slapped four hits worth three runs.

Halting a 2-for-26 homestand, Surhoff doubled to begin the inning. Cal Ripken then rallied from an 0-2 count for a walk. Miller ordered catcher Lenny Webster to bunt both runners into scoring position.

Mike Bordick made the strategy work when he singled to score Surhoff. Brady Anderson then scored Ripken with a first-pitch single to right. Eric Davis then capped the rally with a single to score Bordick for a 3-0 lead.

At the time, Miller believed a pending rainstorm would probably end the game. Head groundskeeper Paul Zwaska as well as WBAL meteorologists believed a line of storms would not clear for several hours. The negative forecast affected Miller's strategy as he managed the fourth inning as if it were the eighth.

Starter Doug Johns stumbled with one out in the inning. After surrendering four consecutive hits and two runs, Miller removed him in favor of Mills, who escaped by getting pinch hitter Matt Franco on a ground ball to second. Both teams then played the clock. The Orioles did everything to condense time. The Mets tried everything to expand it. The Orioles won the battle against time but lost the weather forecast.

The game resumed after a 1: 26 rain delay but not before Barnett had to demand that the Orioles' grounds crew remove the tarp.

Nothing but bad happened afterward. The rain delay emptied much of Camden Yards and several sections of Mets fans filled in behind the visitors dugout.

Rhodes replaced Mills, who pitched 2 1/3 shutout innings. Rhodes had allowed only two earned runs in 23 2/3 innings covering his last 10 appearances. His numbers crashed this time.

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