O's New York state of mind is frustration, as always

April 14, 1999|By KEN ROSENTHAL

NEW YORK -- It was a game the Orioles needed, a game that could have legitimized them, a game that would have silenced any early talk about them being an $84 million flop.

Alas, it was a game that good teams always win, and bad teams always lose.

If this is Yankee Stadium, something crazy is bound to happen. If this is Yankee Stadium, the Orioles collapse in the late innings.

It happened again last night, with Arthur Rhodes throwing a wild pitch to push across New York's go-ahead run in the eighth inning, then allowing a three-run homer by Jorge Posada on the next pitch.

Yankees 6, Orioles 3.

Randy Myers, Armando Benitez, now Rhodes -- all have fallen under the Yankees' spell in the Bronx, a curse that the Orioles seem incapable of ending.

"We played well," center fielder Brady Anderson said. "But they've been, as far as I can recollect, a pretty dominant team the last three innings of close games the last three or four years."

Dominant, relentless, opportunistic.

Rhodes retired the first two hitters of the eighth with the score tied 2-2, then walked Bernie Williams after getting ahead of him 1-2.

True to form, the Yankees seized that tiny opening, and barged through.

Tino Martinez followed with a one-hop double off the third-base bag, a ball that Cal Ripken was in position to field cleanly, if only it hadn't struck the base.

"I'd like a couple of my balls to hit the base," Anderson said.

The Orioles then walked Chili Davis intentionally to load the bases, leaving manager Ray Miller with a decision: The left-handed Rhodes vs. the switch-hitting Posada, or the right-handed Mike Timlin.

Posada was 1-for-15 on the season -- 0-for-14 off right-handers, 1-for-1 off left-handers. He batted .228 off righties last season, .357 off lefties.

"It makes you happy to see a lefty," Posada said. "It kind of gets your hopes up."

Still, we'll spare Miller any second-guessing, even though the next four hitters were right-handed. If Timlin had entered the game, some other catastrophic event would have taken place. And besides, Rhodes got ahead of Posada 1-2.

Two outs, two strikes against a struggling hitter. Rhodes needed to bury him, just as he needed to bury Williams. Instead, he evoked memories of the 1997 ALCS, when he threw a critical wild pitch against Cleveland.

Posada's home run came on a hanging slider, and provided the nightmarish ending that the Orioles were desperate to avoid as they began a nine-game road trip.

They have now lost eight straight at Yankee Stadium. They're 2-0 with Mike Mussina pitching, 0-5 with everyone else. But they had their chances last night, as they always do in this park.

Juan Guzman delivered the first quality start by an Orioles pitcher other than Mussina, Miller deftly managed his way through a sixth-inning jam and Harold (don't pinch hit for me) Baines delivered two run-scoring singles.

Still, the Orioles were 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position in the first five innings, and managed only two hits from the fifth to the eighth. All of their runs followed Yankees mistakes.

Anderson failed to catch a wind-blown triple by Derek Jeter in the sixth, leading to New York's tying run. Ripken failed to get down a sacrifice bunt after a leadoff single by B.J. Surhoff in the eighth.

The Orioles either hit well or they pitch well.

They've yet to play a game this season with both in sync.

"Our record is not where we want it to be, but there's a lot of baseball left," catcher Charles Johnson said. "We've got a good team, a good pitching staff, guys who can hit. Everyone in this room knows it."

Perhaps, but the Yankees and Boston Red Sox already are 6-1, while the Orioles are 2-5. They blew a two-run lead to Toronto on Sunday, and a pair of one-run leads last night.

To think, they could have stolen the first game of this series. To think, Guzman was solid through six innings, and Rhodes retired his first five hitters, striking out three.

Guzman allowed only five hits, one on a wind-blown homer by Jeter in the first, another on the triple by Jeter off Anderson's glove in the sixth.

Jeffrey Maier, the wind -- that Jeter always needs help, doesn't he?

"A ball that high that stays in the park, I should catch," Anderson said.

Miller had Rhodes warming in the sixth when Jeter scored on a sharply hit Paul O'Neill grounder, and Williams followed with a one-out double down the right-field line.

But rather than summon Rhodes to face the left-handed hitting Martinez, Miller stuck with Guzman. Martinez, 3-for-23 off Guzman, popped out weakly to second.

Miller then ordered an intentional walk to Davis, setting up another favorable matchup with Posada, who was 0-for-7 off Guzman. Once again, it was the right move -- Posada popped out.

He didn't miss the next time.

Always something in this park. Always something with this team. Always something against the Yankees.

No escape from N.Y.

The Orioles stretched their losing streak to eight games at Yankee Stadium with their 6-3 loss last night. The losses have been high-scoring and low-scoring, close games and blowouts:


Date ----- Res. ------- Losing pitcher

7/3 -------- 3-2 --------- Jesse Orosco

7/4 -------- 4-3 --------- Doug Drabek

7/5 -------- 1-0 --------- Scott Erickson

5/19 ------ 9-5 --------- Norm Charlton

5/20 ------ 9-6 --------- Jimmy Key

5/21 ------ 3-1 --------- Erickson


9/7 ------- 10-3 --------- Mike Mussina

Pub Date: 4/14/99

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