ARLINGTON, Texas -- Whatever emotional boost the Orioles might have anticipated from Cal Ripken's return last night was quickly erased by the reality of their many deficiencies. In a game lowlighted by a defense that committed five errors, an offense that grounded into four double plays and a pitching staff that surrendered three home runs in an inning, the Orioles were crushed, 15-7, by the Texas Rangers.
They don't come much uglier than this one witnessed by 40,678 at The Ballpark in Arlington. Starting pitcher Scott Kamieniecki (0-2) couldn't survive the fourth inning as the Rangers sent the Orioles to a fourth straight loss, reigniting questions about managerial and front office security. Now 12-22, the Orioles have been pummeled for 38 runs during their four-game skid.
The Orioles received three home runs and 13 hits and were still overwhelmed. The Rangers matched the three homers in one eight-run inning.
The beating represented the sixth time the Orioles have surrendered at least 11 runs in a game this season (not counting a 12-6 exhibition loss to Cuba). It also dropped them to 2-5 on a road trip that offers little consolation the next three days.
Activated before the game, Ripken played for the first time since April 17 and went 1-for-4 with an error.
"It felt a little strange, but it felt really good to be back," Ripken said. "I felt at home, all right in the batter's box, pretty good in the field."
Brady Anderson homered, tripled and singled but was matched by several Rangers.
Rusty Greer, Roberto Kelly and former Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro homered in the Rangers' eight-run fourth inning. Kelly slammed his second career grand slam and Palmeiro's bases-empty blast highlighted a night in which he reached base in all five plate appearances. Rangers second baseman Mark McLemore mashed four hits.
No one within the Orioles clubhouse can say when this will end as their earlier five-game winning streak appears a mirage. They have lost five of six and can not rationally point to injuries as an excuse.
Miller referred to the quality of play as "embarrassing." The Rangers' breakout fourth inning occurred after Delino DeShields botched a potential double-play grounder. Kamieniecki then crumbled, allowing a grand slam to the next hitter to fall behind 5-1.
Asked whether his return from a strained hamstring may have been premature, Kamieniecki called the suggestion "legitimate."
"We've been struggling. I wanted to get out there," Kamieniecki added. "I just didn't envision something this bad happening."
The Orioles now face a decision on Kamieniecki, 35, who has more stays on the disabled list than he does wins the last two seasons. With the starting rotation still prone to fits of inconsistency, the club is increasingly leery of a pitcher unable to carry a game into at least middle innings.
Kamieniecki actually dropped his unsightly ERA from 32.40 to 23.40 with the performance. By getting 10 outs, he doubled his output from last Saturday's mangled loss to the Detroit Tigers. He left an 8-1 game having surrendered seven hits and 10 base runners, including two home runs within a span of five hitters. While his starting pitcher smoldered, Miller was caught between making another run on his bullpen or letting Kamieniecki absorb a third-degree beating.
"I knew I was not going to be sharp or on top of my game [after the layoff] but I never, in no way envisioned something this bad," said Kamieniecki.
Greer's first-pitch three-run homer finally brought Miller out of the dugout and Doug Linton into the game. It is uncertain whether Kamieniecki will receive another start or even another appearance with the club that re-signed him to a two-year, $6.3 million deal after the 1997 season. The Orioles plan to reduce their pitching staff to 11 when first baseman Will Clark returns from a broken left thumb. Kamieniecki's presence now seems an unlikely fit with such an arrangement.
"Our ballclub deserves a better performance than that," Miller said before being reminded that his team's 22 runs the last four games have not brought a win. "This club's just begging for somebody to go out there and throw the ball over the plate. We've got to do something to improve that."
Miller hinted broadly at changes coming as quickly as today. He conferred with assistant general manager Bruce Manno after the game and will press his case with GM Frank Wren today.
"This is the big leagues," Miller said. "You're facing major-league hitters and you are supposed to have major-league stuff and major-league control. It would be very hard to get hit that hard in batting practice on consecutive pitches just throwing the ball down the middle. I know one thing: if you look at a radar gun there ain't a whole lot going up there."
The Orioles didn't die, at least for several innings. Down eight runs, they rallied for a run on DeShields' bases-empty home run in the fifth inning then threatened the Rangers' lead with a five-run burst in the sixth.