Palmeiro does in his ex-mates

2-run double in 7th lifts Rangers, 7-6, as Orioles lose 5th in row

Bunt order irks Anderson

Two rallies cut down by Rodriguez throws

May 15, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Orioles left The Ballpark last night wondering which had hurt them most, Texas Rangers designated hitter and former teammate Rafael Palmeiro or a debatable managerial decision to have leadoff man Brady Anderson give away an out with his team trailing by two runs in the eighth inning.

Either way, the question does not help a 12-23 team already facing a crisis of confidence. The Orioles' 7-6 loss -- their fifth straight and sixth in seven games -- resurrected questions debated weeks ago in a clubhouse meeting.

Palmeiro broke a 4-4 tie with a two-run double against Arthur Rhodes with two outs in the seventh inning. Given consecutive singles to lead off the eighth, Orioles manager Ray Miller responded by pinch running for Charles Johnson and asking Anderson to sacrifice.

Anderson does several things well, but bunting has never been counted among them. Miller's request with his team down two runs on the road appeared to stir dissent with his center fielder.

Anderson entered the at-bat hitting only .174 against left-handers but had reached base in eight of his last nine plate appearances before his at-bat against rookie Mike Venafro. After failing twice, he received the sign again. Disbelieving, he approached third base coach Sam Perlozzo and was given a verbal order. Anderson fouled a third pitch to strike out. He returned to the dugout, slammed his bat and glared at Miller.

"We had first and second and no outs. Brady needed to bunt," Miller said, defending his decision. "Maybe I should have let him swing away, 0-2, but he had two pitches to get the ball down and he couldn't. We're trying to score those two runs."

Anderson said simply: "I got the sign to bunt three times. I tried to get it down."

A successful outcome would have had Mike Bordick face right-hander Mike Zimmerman, who holds the league's lowest opponents batting average after allowing one hit in his last eight innings. Bordick struck out and B. J. Surhoff grounded out to end the threat. Cal Ripken's first home run of the season, a two-run, two-out shot in the ninth, only made it close.

The Orioles also left The Ballpark believers in the power of Ivan Rodriguez's right arm. Twice the seven-time All-Star catcher stifled rallies with laser throws. Against Orioles starter Scott Erickson, Rodriguez topped his performances with a bases-empty home run that capped the Rangers' three-run fifth inning.

Erickson followed last Sunday's 5-0 win over Detroit with another credible outing, this one against a much more intimidating lineup. The Rangers grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first inning following leadoff singles by Tom Goodwin and Mark McLemore.

The Orioles quickly rallied in the second inning. After reaching on a fielder's choice, first baseman Jeff Conine took third on Ripken's flared double into short left field. Delino DeShields scored Conine with a ground ball.

The Rangers used brilliant defense against the Orioles, but their most glaring lapse preceded the visitors taking a 2-1 lead in the third inning. Anderson chopped a grounder to second base that Mark McLemore gloved but bobbled before throwing late to first. The error came to nothing. Anderson tested Rodriguez's unmatched arm and was easily thrown out. Anderson had succeeded on five of six steal attempts entering the game, and the Orioles were 24 of 31, but none were against competition as intimidating as Rodriguez.

A perennial Gold Glove winner, Rodriguez had thrown out 12 of 14 previous would-be base-stealers.

By giving away an out, the Orioles also gave away a run. Bordick followed Anderson's out by walking. Surhoff then singled, moving Bordick to third, and Albert Belle provided a 2-1 lead with a sacrifice fly to left field.

Belle would commit the second base-running sin in the fifth inning. Perhaps frustrated by his inability to generate doubles, Belle tried to press a routine one-out single into a double. Goodwin's throw was cut off by shortstop Kelly Dransfeldt, who still had time to get Belle at second. Belle had 49 doubles last year; this year he remains stuck on one after 120 at-bats.

Erickson stumbled in the inning's bottom half. Against a team that hit three homers in one inning on Thursday and slammed grand slams the two previous nights, Erickson ran into two-out trouble.

McLemore's two-out single was followed by Rusty Greer's third home run in as many nights, a 414-foot shot to left-center field. The blast gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead that lasted for mere seconds. On Erickson's next pitch, Rodriguez drove an opposite-field home run.

"I made two mistakes that hurt me. I thought I threw pretty well. The guy [Greer] got down 1-2 and had a great at-bat. That's all," Erickson said.

Undeterred by Rodriguez's earlier throw, Miller encouraged another attempt by DeShields in the sixth. The outcome was predictable.

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