At old McGwire haunt, O's notch quiet 5-2 win Only 7,924 see Bordick drive in two to beat A's

September 09, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Half a country and a league away, the game celebrated an unforgettable moment as its most cherished record flipped before a sold-out Busch Stadium and a national television audience.

Meanwhile, here on the Hayward Fault, the Oakland Athletics have Banjo Man strumming "Dueling Banjos" during pitches, a splotch of transplanted, darkened sod in center field and a few hearty witnesses willing to endure another forgettable game between two teams going nowhere. Who needs Mark McGwire?

Sure, McGwire once played here, just as Oakland Coliseum was once something more than a made-for-football monstrosity.

Same game, different place.

The Orioles returned to .500 for the third time in a week last night by defeating the A's, 5-2, before an announced crowd of 7,924, the smallest to watch an Orioles game this season.

"The funeral started a long time ago for us," said reliever Alan Mills, who carried the game to Armando Benitez with a scoreless eighth inning. "The funeral started when we went 0-10. It stinks, because right now Toronto is all over Boston. We should be there. The funeral's over. The body's in the ground."

How big was last night's game?

A special announcement was made in the fifth inning that A's first baseman Jason Giambi had just managed career hit No. 500. If not for the McGwire Moment, surely commissioner Bud Selig would have wanted to be here.

Bunting in the fifth inning while trailing and lifting a starting pitcher on the cusp of his first win since July 12, Orioles manager Ray Miller worked the game to its tactical hilt. The A's put up a fight before seeing their two-game win streak die.

The Orioles took a lead on Harold Baines' first-inning home run, lost it then regained the lead with a two-run fifth inning against A's starter Gil Heredia (3-1). Insurance came in the ninth inning on Chris Hoiles' RBI double and Mike Bordick's sacrifice fly, his second RBI of the game.

Managing hard, Miller lifted fill-in starting pitcher Doug Johns with a 3-2 advantage after 4 2/3 innings and 87 pitches, leaving the left-hander one out short of qualifying for the decision. The A's quickly removed themselves from a rally when Giambi, seconds after said announcement, was picked off third by Hoiles.

"In my role I just want to be in a position to help us win a game," said Johns, who was making his first start since June 23. "I contributed tonight."

Arthur Rhodes (4-4), who had 19 wins in relief the previous two seasons, completed the ultimate "vulture" by standing on the mound during the pickoff.

With today representing their last game this season against sub.-500 competition, the Orioles lifted themselves to 72-72 overall and 3-2 on the road trip.

Usually seen in long relief, Johns surrendered back-to-back home runs in the fourth inning to shortstop Miguel Tejada and catcher A. J. Hinch, the A's Nos. 8-9 hitters. Hinch homered after a foul ball off his left foot dropped him for several minutes.

Held to three hits in Seattle on Monday, the Orioles tore into Heredia for eight hits in 5 2/3 innings. They scraped together a two-run fifth thanks to the bottom of the order as B. J. Surhoff singled, moved to second on Hoiles' sacrifice and scored on Bordick's double to right field. Roberto Alomar's grounder moved Bordick to third and Brady Anderson beat out an infield single that second baseman Scott Spiezio threw away for an error.

"I looked up on the board and we had four hits. We aren't exactly crushing the ball," said Miller, referring to Monday's loss.

Surhoff stemmed a 7-for-50 slide with three singles while Alomar fell further into a two-week, 6-for-53 funk. Alomar was the only Orioles starter held hitless.

Besides being in the right place at the right time, Rhodes pitched 2 1/3 shutout innings, allowing one hit and striking out three. Benitez struck out the side in the ninth for his 20th save.

Three time zones away, St. Louis celebrated the signature to the season. Here by the Bay, Banjo Man picked a snappy tune to send them home happy.

NOTES: A long season caught up to Lenny Webster last night when a strained trapezius muscle forced the Orioles catcher to be scratched from the starting lineup. "I don't know if I slept on it wrong or it was the plane flight, but there's no way I can throw with it this way," Webster said of his neck pain. It appeared a virtual lock that Charlie Greene will receive his second major-league start today behind the plate.

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