At third, plate, Timlin throws off another win

Sidelight

Error, walks push closer to his 2nd loss in 4 games

May 23, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Sensing that his closer wasn't being aggressive enough, Orioles manager Ray Miller went to the mound in the ninth inning yesterday with instructions for Mike Timlin to "throw the ball down the middle of the plate."

"Maybe," Miller said later, "I should have said, `If you get the ball, throw it to second base.' "

Timlin didn't, and the Orioles found another bizarre and exasperating way to lose.

Timlin's decision to try for a force at third with two runners on and none out, rather than begin a double play at second, ignited an 8-7 loss to the Texas Rangers at Camden Yards.

The Orioles led 6-4 going into the ninth when Timlin surrendered a leadoff double to Roberto Kelly on a pitch off the plate that the Rangers' center fielder drove the opposite way.

A four-pitch walk to Mark McLemore brought up Rusty Greer, who hit a one-hopper to the mound. Timlin reached to his right to field the ball, then spun and threw wide of third baseman Cal Ripken, allowing Kelly to score.

Miller yanked Timlin in favor of Ricky Bones, who gave up a three-run homer to the first batter he faced, Juan Gonzalez.

Timlin, who had coughed up the lead in the eighth after inheriting two runners, picked up his fourth blown save in 10 opportunities as well as his fourth loss in five decisions.

"I've never seen that before in my life," Miller said of Timlin's decision to go to third, "but if you're going to do it, make a good throw."

To his credit, Timlin again stood at his locker and faced the music in a quiet clubhouse.

"I screwed up. I bet you guys are tired of writing that," he said.

"My first thought was to get the lead runner and I threw it away. I just babied it over there and didn't throw it. I should have turned and gone straight to Delino [DeShields at second]. That's a basic fact. I blew it."

"I think all of us felt he was going to second," said catcher Charles Johnson, "but sometimes you just react."

Before the ninth-inning meltdown, Timlin already had drawn Miller's ire for walking Todd Zeile with two aboard and one out in the eighth, leading to a grounder by Lee Stevens that brought in the tying run. And while walking McLemore in the ninth, Timlin vented his frustration at plate umpire Joe Brinkman.

"The leadoff double was all right, but the walk isn't," Miller said. "And when you stand out there and stare at the ump, you're not getting anything."

Miller saw a direct link to Timlin's frustration and the play at third, just as he's seen other unusual occurrences this season as the defeats build.

"When you lose control of yourself, you have a tendency to do things you normally wouldn't do," Miller said.

Just as Timlin did when fumbling a ninth-inning lead against Anaheim on Wednesday, costing Scott Erickson the victory, Timlin heard a chorus of boos from the crowd as he left the mound. Nobody, he assured reporters, felt worse than him.

"This is going to bother me probably until the sun goes down and it may bother me until I see my son's face and then all this really won't matter," he said. "It's just a game, but it is a job.

"The guys have been coming through lately and I just haven't been coming in and shutting the door. That's part of my job description. I'm supposed to come in and close it out, and I haven't done my job."

Part of the problem is his inability to throw strikes consistently. He walked Zeile on four pitches and fell behind, 1-0, to Stevens before getting a visit from pitching coach Bruce Kison.

"I was trying to throw the ball down the middle. For some reason it's just not going there," he said.

Timlin has been used sporadically this season, unable to find regular save chances and often brought into games in the eighth inning, which wasn't part of the plan when he signed a four-year, $16 million deal over the winter.

"For me, that's throwing out an excuse," he said. "It's just me pitching bad. If I'm pitching in the eighth or the ninth, I should pitch well and I haven't. And it's embarrassing."

Timlin's travails

Orioles closer Mike Timlin has failed to come through in three of his past four save opportunities. A closer look: 5/22 vs. Rangers, 9th inning, 6-4 lead. Kelly double, McLemore walk. Greer safe on Timlin error, run scores. Timlin lifted for Bones, who yields 3-run Gonzalez HR.

5/19 vs. Angels, 9th inning, 4-3 lead.Greene groundout. Glaus single. O.Palmeiro single. Walbeck strikeout. Sheets 2-run double.

5/12 vs. Indians, bottom of 8th, man on first, two outs, 5-4 lead. Ramirez single. Cordero walk. Justice 2-run single.

Pub Date: 5/23/99

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