O's return home winners and losers Alomar HR tops A's, 6-2, to end trip, but contention no longer waiting at home

September 10, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Two weeks that were supposed to establish the Orioles as wild-card contenders ground to an end yesterday. The Orioles won the skirmish, 6-2, over the Oakland Athletics, but returned home wearing the ill-fitting label of spoilers.

Completing a 4-2 West Coast swing but also a damning 4-11 stretch against losing teams, the Orioles benefited from second baseman Roberto Alomar's three-run homer along with four shutout innings from a bullpen that picked up Juan Guzman. The motivation of a possible playoff berth has yielded to the business of trying to finish the season above .500.

"Juan pitched good and we scored enough runs," said manager Ray Miller, no longer needing complicated explanations.

The 73-72 Orioles swept the two-game series with 20 hits and 11 runs. They tumbled from contention, however, because of an extended blackout.

During their last 14 games the Orioles batted .227, suffered their first winless six-game homestand since April 1988 and hit into 18 double plays, including eight in one three-game series. Miller's rotation suffered a 3-9 record and provided only four quality starts.

Before removing himself from the game because of fatigue, Guzman (10-14) labored through five sloppy innings to earn his second win of the road trip. Though Guzman cited a general malaise for asking out of the game, he could just as easily have cited whiplash.

Acquired on July 31 from the Toronto Blue Jays, Guzman was supposed to firm the Orioles' rotation for a late rush. Instead the Orioles transformed themselves into non-factors with a 10-game losing streak while the Blue Jays now threaten the Boston Red Sox after an 11-game win streak.

"I knew the Blue Jays were going to trade me. I never had any doubt," said Guzman, surprised only by the Blue Jays' inability to obtain hitting in return. "I'm a little surprised they're where they're at. I'm not surprised they're playing better. Before, there was so much pressure on guys. Then they traded myself, [Randy] Myers, Ed Sprague and [Mike] Stanley.

"They didn't expect to win. It's more relaxed over there now."

If the Jays are relaxed, the Orioles are resigned to their fate.

The Orioles no longer can expect to win anything beyond a measure of revenge for a failed season. The remainder of their games are against Anaheim, Texas, Boston, New York and Toronto. Three of them will reach the postseason.

With diminishing hopes for staying in Baltimore after this season, Alomar exhibited his first offensive pulse in two weeks. Breaking a 6-for-66 swoon covering 14 games, Alomar worked fifth-inning walk off A's starter Jimmy Haynes (10-8) that helped the Orioles load the bases without a hit. Harold Baines tied the game 1-1 with a sacrifice fly before Rafael Palmeiro capped a three-hit game with an RBI single. For Palmeiro, it was his 24th game-winning hit, most in the American League.

Speaking of Alomar, Miller said, "Sometimes it's very, very hard when you're not hitting to take a walk. Then he turned around and hit a home run."

With the lead at 3-2, Alomar hit his second home run in 126 at-bats when he chased Haynes with a two-out, three-run blast in the sixth inning.

"You play hard the rest of the games. It's your job to play hard," said Alomar. "No one knows what's going to happen. I don't know. My agent doesn't know. You just keep playing hard."

Brady Anderson gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead with a one-out home run in the first. Guzman then immediately began to labor, walking the first two hitters before escaping with a 5-4-3 double play.

Playing four rookies, the A's tied the game on doubles by Mike Macfarlane and Ryan Christenson in the third inning.

Guzman sidestepped further damage in the fourth despite a leadoff walk, a wild pitch, a hit batter and a none-out single as the A's stranded six of their 11 runners through four innings.

"I didn't feel good," Guzman said. "It was just one of those days."

Folding their hand

The Orioles yesterday completed a 15-game run against teams with losing records that was supposed to push them close to the wild-card lead. Instead, the 4-11 slump pushed them out of contention. A look:

D Opp, P of Record, Result

8/25 Chi, Mussina, L 6-4

8/26 Chi, Guzman, L 12-5

8/27 Chi, Erickson, L 7-4

8/28 KC, Ponson, L 6-5

8/29 KC, Mussina, L 2-1

8/30 KC, Guzman, L 3-2

8/31 Chi, Erickson, L 4-1

9/1 Chi, Drabek, L 9-5

9/2 Chi, Mills, L 3-2

9/4 Sea, Guzman, W 10-1

9/5 Sea, Benitez, L 6-5

9/6 Sea, Mussina, W 5-2

9/7 Sea, Drabek, L 11-1

9/8 Oak, Rhodes, W 5-2

9/9 Oak, Guzman, W 6-2

Pub Date: 9/10/98

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