O's make left turn off road of wins Angels' Washburn chills hot lineup, ends 9-game run

Saturday night's game

July 20, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Rookie left-hander Jarrod Washburn accomplished Saturday night what double-digit winners Bret Saberhagen, Pedro Martinez, Rick Helling, Tim Wakefield and Aaron Sele could not. He beat baseball's hottest team.

Encountering their first left-handed starter since July 3, the Orioles fell, 8-3, to the Anaheim Angels at Edison International Field, ending a nine-game win streak that reshaped the front office perspective of a team scheduled for dissolution.

The loss still left them five games closer to their division rival than at the All-Star break.

The loss fell on starter Nerio Rodriguez (1-3), who survived only 3 2/3 innings. His performance contrasted the previous nine games in which the rotation had resembled its 1997 form. Likewise, a scalding lineup went cold, getting only two hits after a two-run first inning.

"We won nine straight, then we lost one," said manager Ray Miller. "It wasn't too good to look at, but we'll take nine out of 10."

The nine-game run was the Orioles' longest since 1993 and offered their most effective combination of hitting and pitching this season.

A piecemeal pitching staff that ranked next-to-last in team ERA entering the first half's final weekend rehabilitated itself. The Orioles received six starts of at least six innings and four of at least seven, allowing Miller to redefine roles in what had become a shapeless bullpen.

During the streak the bullpen reduced its ERA from 4.75 to 4.50, its best number since April 28. Its five saves during the span equaled its number from the previous 28 games.

As a whole, the staff compiled a 2.56 ERA while allowing only 84 base runners in 81 innings. Opponents failed to homer in the final five games.

Having lost three one-run games to end the first half, the Orioles began the rush with three one-run wins over the Boston Red Sox.

The Orioles batted .330 in the nine games, scoring 62 runs, including 54 in the last six. In a two-game sweep of the Texas Rangers, they followed a season-high 19 hits Wednesday with another 18 on Thursday.

Their team batting average jumped from .268 at the break to a season-high .275 before Saturday's loss. They now rank sixth in the league in hitting.

Second baseman Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter each doubled as the Orioles took a 2-0 first-inning lead against Washburn (5-2), then joined a collective sleep for eight innings. The bottom two-thirds of the batting order, which had prodded the offensive revival, went 1-for-15.

Washburn was the first left-handed starter to face the Orioles since the New York Yankees' Andy Pettitte July 3. The Orioles are batting .279 against right-handed pitching compared to .263 vs. left-handers. Brady Anderson (.156), Cal Ripken (.189) and Mike Bordick (.148) are batting below .200 against left-handed pitching.

Rodriguez appeared as confused Saturday night as he did zTC unflappable in his previous start -- a six-inning effort that included only one hit and one walk against the Toronto Blue Jays. He lost pieces of the lead in the second and third inning, fell behind in the fourth and gave the Orioles their shortest start since June 28.

"He made some mistakes a young pitcher makes," said Miller, citing Rodriguez's hurtful two-strike missteps.

Ahead of Angels shortstop Gary DiSarcina, Rodriguez fed him a changeup that was drilled to right field for a two-run double and a 4-2 lead. A bullpen that had grown effective the last three weeks fizzled. Alan Mills surrendered two runs in the seventh inning on a single and two walks.

Norm Charlton's wild pitch allowed one of the runs to score.

Craig Shipley's RBI double off Joel Bennett in the eighth closed out the scoring.

(Saturday's box score, 4C)

Pub Date: 7/20/98

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