Losing O's tumble into 2-digit hole White Sox beat Mussina, 6-4, for O's 4th loss in 5 games

Boston 10 up in loss column

Becker's 3-run HR in 9th too little too late

August 26, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

CHICAGO -- The Orioles ran out of change last night. Reverting to the look that made them punch lines in the first half, the miracle meter expired in an often embarrassing 6-4 loss to the woeful Chicago White Sox. Fittingly, the performance took place in Comiskey Park, Jerry Reinsdorf's mausoleum, before an announced crowd of 15,776.

Few in attendance realized they were witnessing history. Checked on seven hits by the dominant foursome of Tom Fordham, Chad Bradford, Bob Howry and Keith Foulke, the Orioles lost for the fourth time in five games and tumbled nine games behind the Boston Red Sox in what now must be seen as a futile grab at the wild card. With only 31 games remaining, the Orioles are 10 losses down to the Red Sox. Last night, their best pitcher could not save them against an assortment of rookies and trash deliveries.

The White Sox won with six two-out runs while the Orioles were feeble with runners in scoring position. Rich Becker's three-run homer in the ninth inning made the outcome deceptively close.

Mike Mussina held the game for six innings but was undone by fatigue and White Sox designated hitter Frank Thomas in the seventh. The Big Hurt's two-run homer provided the eventual difference.

The Orioles were left to ponder the mysteries posed by White Sox rookie left-hander Fordham and submarine reliever Bradford Fordham started, lasted only four-plus innings, then turned a 2-1 lead over to Bradford, a fellow rookie.

"The first guy got away. We should have scored more runs off him," said Orioles manager Ray Miller. "The second guy was different. We had a little bit too much too late. We should've scored more runs."

The Orioles flailed for four hits through six innings and were reduced to bat-tossing and helmet heaves. Twice they put runners at second and third with one out and didn't score.

These weren't last weekend's Cleveland Indians, a division leader bored with its competition. These were the sadsack Sox, losers of six straight who were emerging from a 1-8 road trip.

Mussina (12-7) pitched effectively if not brilliantly, which over the last five games means he had little chance of success. He escaped the first inning thanks to a double play but couldn't do the same in the second.

With Robin Ventura at first base, Greg Norton put runners at the corners with a one-out single. Mussina looked close to escaping the mess when he got Jeff Abbott to ground to third base, where Cal Ripken threw to second for the force while Ventura stayed put. Right fielder Magglio Ordonez, another rookie, hooked a double into the left-field corner to score both runners for a 2-0 lead.

Mussina's luck against the White Sox this season has been either bad or nonexistent. He left an April 16 start against them with a ruptured wart on his right index finger and had to endure a stay on the 15-day disabled list. His absence started the Orioles' tumble from a 10-2 start.

Thomas and left fielder Albert Belle were supposedly Mussina's biggest obstacles. The two entered the game a combined 37-for-89 against Mussina. They entered the seventh inning with four strikeouts and a double play. The early damage instead came from the bottom of a slumping team's order.

Mussina watched as rookie shortstop Mike Caruso parlayed a one-out single into a third-inning threat by advancing on a wild pitch and a (yawn) stolen base. Mussina sidestepped trouble by striking out Belle.

A single off Mike Bordick's glove to lead off the fifth led to a first-and-second situation with one out. Again Mussina wriggled free.

"I made some pretty good pitches to get out of some jams, but overall I didn't have really good stuff," said Mussina. "I was doing everything I could to get as far as I got. It just caught up to me.

"I had Frank out three times in a row, which is pretty good for me. Except for a single to Albert, I thought I did a pretty good job to him, too. The fact that I didn't pitch very well and their guys pitched well, that's why it happened."

Meanwhile, the Orioles extended a weekend offensive funk against a pitcher making only his fifth major-league start.

Willis Otanez got the Orioles' first hit in his first major-league appearance with a two-out single in the second. The Orioles challenged Fordham for the first time in the third by loading the bases with a pair of walks sandwiched around one-out walks.

But they got nothing when Eric Davis lined into a fielder's choice off Fordham's right shin and slumping Rafael Palmeiro struck out on a letter-high pitch. Palmeiro went 0-for-4 to lengthen his skid to 4-for-39.

The fifth inning suggested time had run out not only on a game, but perhaps on a season.

Fordham virtually presented the Orioles a tie game by issuing a leadoff walk to Bordick followed by consecutive singles from Roberto Alomar and B. J. Surhoff. Surhoff's hit scored Bordick for a 2-1 game and moved White Sox manager Jerry Manual to lift Fordham for Bradford.

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