O's streak walks away in 7-6 loss

Kamieniecki's return is 1 2/3-inning bust: 3 hits, 4 walks, 6 runs

O's waste 4 HRs vs. Tigers

Wild starter tests Miller's patience

May 09, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

DETROIT -- Discounting exhibition games and bad meals, the Orioles received their first bad news in a week yesterday, as organizational riddle Scott Kamieniecki returned from a nine-month absence and created more questions than he answered.

The Orioles couldn't recover from Kamieniecki's early, six-run pratfall and lost, 7-6, to the Detroit Tigers before 18,068 at Tiger Stadium.

The loss ended the Orioles' season-high five-game win streak as well as their eight-game winning streak over the Tigers. Still, a victory today would allow the Orioles to win a third consecutive series for the first time since last Aug. 4-18.

Now 11-18, the Orioles were mostly guilty of waste. They outhit the Tigers, 8-5, stole two bases and crashed a season-high four home runs, including two by catcher Charles Johnson. Rookie reliever Gabe Molina offered three hitless innings. Their reward was a frustrating loss in which a disastrous second inning overwhelmed their superiority the rest of the day.

"I'm a realist," said manager Ray Miller. "I handled the first couple weeks because I knew what the problem was. The problem was walking people and giving up four or five runs."

Yesterday's performance halted a seven-game run by the rotation in which it had compiled a 2.72 ERA. It also ended the starters' streak of eight games in which they had pitched into the sixth inning.

Kamieniecki (0-1) made his first major-league start since last Aug. 21 a most forgettable one, walking four and allowing three hits in 1 2/3 innings. Trailing 1-0 with two outs and one on in the second inning, he experienced a complete loss of control when forced to pitch from the stretch.

Kamieniecki walked four of the last five hitters he faced -- he threw 13 consecutive balls at one point -- and surrendered a bizarre, bases-clearing infield single to the fifth.

Miller became so frustrated that with the bases loaded he screamed at Kamieniecki from the dugout, "Wind up!" Pitching coach Bruce Kison advised Kamieniecki to abandon his slide-step delivery to better concentrate on throwing strikes. Nothing worked.

"I thought the averages would be in my favor if I kept chucking it up there," said Kamieniecki, who had a similar meltdown (five hits, three walks, four runs in 1 1/3 innings) against the Cuban all-stars Monday night. "Some were pretty close. Most of them weren't good enough to be strikes."

Kamieniecki, who had neck surgery in September, then was sidelined this spring with a strained left hamstring, trailed after only two pitches when Gregg Jefferies led off with a home run. An inning later, with Gabe Kapler on second and two outs, Kamieniecki walked Bill Haselman and No. 9 hitter Deivi Cruz on four pitches each, then forced a run home by walking Jefferies on four pitches.

Down 2-0, Kamieniecki lost contact with the game when Damion Easley chopped a grounder over the mound. Shortstop Mike Bordick charged it, fumbled it, and then kicked it past first base. Because the play occurred on a full count, the Tigers' runners were in motion and all three scored on the play for a 5-0 lead.

"That's not good enough because we can't defend that. You've got to throw the ball over the plate," Miller said.

The matchup between Kamieniecki and Tigers starter Willie Blair lacked drama but not coincidence.

Two years ago, the Orioles retained Kamieniecki by awarding him a two-year, $6.3 million contract, a record for a starting pitcher never to have won more than 10 games in a season. They did this after failing to sign Blair, who in 1997 had become the first Tigers pitcher since 1991 to win 16 games.

Blair eventually signed a three-year, $11.5 million deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks, who traded him to the New York Mets last July. The Mets put him in the bullpen, allowed him two starts, then traded him back to the Tigers in December for third baseman Joe Randa.

So desperate for a return on the investment, Tigers manager Larry Parrish nearly sacrificed his team's six-run lead while trying to nurse Blair through the five innings needed to gain a win.

Bordick, Johnson and Delino DeShields homered in the third inning to pull the Orioles within 6-4. After Dean Palmer's home run against reliever Doug Linton, Johnson crashed his second home run in the fifth inning to pull the Orioles to 7-6. The score stayed there because Bobby Higginson scaled the right-field wall to rob Jeff Conine of a tying home run in the eighth.

By surrendering three home runs in one inning, Blair tied a club record last accomplished in 1996 by the forgettable Trever Miller. His four homers allowed in the game were one short of the Tigers record set by Don Mossi in 1961, four years before Blair was born. But instead of suffering his fifth straight loss, Blair received his first win since last Sept. 13 with the Mets.

"Their guy did everything he could to give it back to us," Miller said.

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