O's bunch up more agony, 15-7

3 HRs in 8-run fourth, 4 O's errors in sixth help Rangers romp

Slam floors Kamieniecki

Fourth defeat in row rekindles firing fears

May 14, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

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.

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 spoke bluntly about Kamieniecki's mound presence earlier this week, suggesting that his negative reactions tend not only to slow the game but to irritate umpires.

Pitching coach Bruce Kison and Miller took turns speaking to Kamieniecki before last night's start. The effects were apparently negligible.

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.

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.

The Orioles didn't die, at least for several innings. Down eight runs, they rallied for a run on Delino DeShields' bases-empty home run in the fifth inning then threatened the Rangers' lead with a five-run burst in the sixth.

After allowing five hits through five innings, Rangers ageless starter Mike Morgan (6-2) threatened his team with collapse in the sixth. Morgan was gone after allowing three consecutive hits, including a two-run homer by right fielder Albert Belle, to begin the inning.

The Orioles eventually placed their first six hitters and brought the tying run to the plate. Anderson singled home two runs and left himself only a double removed from becoming the third Oriole to hit for the cycle. But by drawing within 9-7, the Orioles left themselves open for further embarrassment.

Not only did they repeat a frustrating trend by following up their own rally by allowing an opponent to answer. They did so by committing four errors in the same inning.

The Rangers seized on the collapse for three runs with only one hit. Linton was removed after walking leadoff hitter Tom Goodwin, a free swinger who walked three times last night. McLemore pushed the lead to 10-7 with a triple that skidded past Anderson in center. Greer reached on the inning's first error when reliever Mike Fetters bobbled his grounder. An unusual 5-4-2 double play offered the Orioles an escape from the inning. The chance was declined.

With two outs and a runner at first, Jesse Orosco was summoned and immediately walked Palmeiro after giving Pudge Rodriguez second on an errant pickoff. A doubble steal drew a throw on the sore-legged Palmeiro at second base, but Charles Johnson's attempt sailed into center field, allowing Rodriguez to score and Palmeiro to take third.

Todd Zeile then crashed a drive through Ripken's legs. It was the third baseman's sixth error and sullied a comeback that included an RBI single during the Orioles' earlier rally.

No longer willing to commit his front-line bullpen arms to a lost cause, Miller hustled rookie Gabe Molina into a 12-7 game.

It would only get worse as the Rangers added three more runs.

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