Devil Rays steal one from O's Runs in 8th, 9th lift Tampa, 4-2, deny O's chance to gain ground

Wild-card deficit stays at 7

Hard-luck Saunders of Glen Burnie gets win

August 21, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

What might have been an uplifting win last night ended badly for the Orioles. Run off the field by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, they lost, 4-2, in a game that offered opportunity but provided disappointment.

With only two singles and down to their last eight outs, the Orioles earned a tie with two home runs in the seventh inning. They earned a loss with their inability to command respect from opposing base runners.

Twice in the last two innings the Devil Rays stole their way into scoring position before converting with a sacrifice fly and a looped single to center field. The scene was enough to elicit boos from a Camden Yards crowd of 44,566, most of whom cleared the place after a disheartening top of the ninth.

The loss spoiled a game that featured seventh-inning, bases-empty home runs by Cal Ripken and B.J. Surhoff. Ripken's was the 2,848th hit of his career, tying Brooks Robinson for most in club history. Surhoff's completed a three-hit night against Devil Rays left-hander Tony Saunders. Also wasted was a strong start by Juan Guzman, who allowed four hits and two runs in 6 1/3 innings but barely avoided the loss.

The decision instead went to Arthur Rhodes (3-4), who surrendered a leadoff single to Quinton McCracken in the eighth inning that festered because of a stolen base and a well-placed ground ball that advanced him to third. Third baseman Bobby Smith drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly to center field.

Left to stew over a lost opportunity, the Orioles were shut down on four hits by Glen Burnie native Saunders (4-11) and Jim Mecir. Thanks to their 8-2 afternoon loss in Kansas City, the Boston Red Sox handed the Orioles a chance to pull within six games of the AL wild card. The Orioles failed to take advantage of a favorable pitching matchup, two critical early scoring chances and an extraordinary defensive game. The result was a loss that not only dropped their season record against the expansion team to 5-7 but left them eight losses behind the Red Sox with only 35 to play.

Blame it on Saunders, the Devil Rays' star-crossed left-hander who entered with the league's worst run support but also a reputation for self-destruction.

Saunders offered the Orioles chances in the first and second innings but sidestepped both.

Tenth in the league in strikeouts but first in walks, Saunders began both innings by walking the leadoff hitter. In the first, Roberto Alomar and Eric Davis walked to create a one-out, first-and-second opportunity for slumping Rafael Palmeiro, who promptly grounded into an inning-ending double play.

The situation repeated itself in the second. Ripken walked and took third on Surhoff's one-out single to center. This time the situation found catcher Lenny Webster.

Like Palmeiro, Webster is fighting a slump. Like Palmeiro, he ended the threat by bouncing into a double play.

The missed opportunity topped a disastrous inning for the Orioles. Center fielder Brady Anderson left the game earlier when he crashed into the outfield wall in pursuit of Trammell's fly ball. Anderson missed the ball but jammed his right knee and had to leave the game with a sprained patella tendon. He is listed as day-to-day.

Meanwhile, Guzman rolled over the Devil Rays except for Trammell, a big swinger recalled from Triple-A Durham on July 6. Trammell entered last night 8-for-17 on the Devil Rays' current jTC road trip and with 16 of his 34 hits good for extra bases. Both tears continued against Guzman.

Two innings after driving Anderson into the wall, Trammell turned on Guzman for a home run to left-center field, the first allowed by Guzman in four starts as an Oriole and the eighth by Trammell in 119 at-bats.

With only two hits by Surhoff through seven innings, the Orioles finally reached Saunders in the eighth when Ripken crushed his 10th home run into his team's bullpen and Surhoff followed two hitters later with a blast that barely cleared the scoreboard in right field. Saunders slumped heavily in front of the mound.

The Devil Rays needn't have worried. An inability to halt an opponent's running game this time destroyed the Orioles.

Pub Date: 8/21/98

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