Hairston rises, O's fall, 6-5

Rookie has 4 hits, but Jays' run in 10th fuels 6th straight loss

Rhodes struggles again

O's rally from 5 down

tie it with 2 out in 9th

June 30, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

TORONTO -- A five-run rally and a four-hit breakout by rookie second baseman Jerry Hairston weren't enough last night to prevent the Toronto Blue Jays from taking a 6-5, 10-inning win over the Orioles.

Left fielder Shannon Stewart's two-out single off Arthur Rhodes (3-3) sent the Orioles to their sixth straight loss after they had tied the game with two outs in the ninth on Jeff Conine's double.

The loss, continuing a free fall against teams ahead of the Orioles in the AL East, included four unearned runs in a five-run first inning and a third straight traumatic outing for Rhodes, who surrendered the game-winning hit on a shot between Cal Ripken and the third base line with a man on third.

Hairston helped the Orioles with two doubles and a stolen base -- all in his 11th major-league game and fourth start this season. But the Orioles again were left to explain a loss that came despite 12 hits, two home runs and a string of eight consecutive shutout innings thrown by four pitchers.

"That one is enough to make you sick," said manager Ray Miller.

The Blue Jays scored four unearned runs in the first inning following an error by first baseman Will Clark on a spinning ground ball by Tony Fernandez. The grounder spun off the heel of Clark's glove, bounced and spun between his legs. Playing his first game at SkyDome since fracturing his left thumb April 18, Clark groped futilely for the ball as Fernandez outran the play.

"A lot of weird things happened out there tonight," Clark said. "Very weird."

The Blue Jays scored in the first inning for only the fourth time in their past 34 games. Unfortunately for the Orioles, allowing first-inning runs has become an unwelcome tradition. Yesterday marked the third game in the past four they've allowed first-inning runs. Coincidentally, the Orioles have led for only one-half inning in that span.

Hairston's breakout occurred in only his fifth major-league start and only two days after his first major-league hit. Increasingly prone to looking toward the longer term, the Orioles noted it.

"With the number of veterans we have on this team and the degree of expectations that surround this club, you almost have to be an impact player when you walk through the door," Miller said. "He's shown that he can do a lot of things well. He may have been rushed here a little bit last year, but he has the kind of ability that opens those doors. It's exciting to see."

Hairston is young enough to have a teammate, designated hitter Harold Baines, who once shared the same clubhouse with his father, former Chicago White Sox outfielder Jerry Hairston. Hairston is gifted enough for the Orioles to have briefly considered him as their starting second baseman last autumn even as a 22-year-old with only two years of professional experience.

Rapidly fading from realistic playoff contention, the Orioles may consider giving players such as Hairston greater visibility.

Delino DeShields is expected to return from the disabled list before the next homestand. Until then, Hairston rather than veteran utility player Jeff Reboulet will be seen more often.

Only last weekend Miller had tried to ease Hairston's uneasiness over going hitless in his first 11 major-league at-bats. Last night's four-hit game showed how rapidly perspective changes. "I don't think you can call it pressure, but I was just so anxious to get that first one out of the way. I'm glad I did. But at the same time I want to win," Hairston said.

"It's good for him. It's good for the organization. It's good to see," Miller said.

At least starting pitcher Juan Guzman received some justice. The Orioles scratched for an unearned ninth-inning run against Blue Jays rookie closer Billy Koch to erase a potential loss from Guzman's seven-inning line.

The Blue Jays literally dropped a 5-4 lead in the ninth when first baseman Carlos Delgado muffed Koch's lob of Mike Bordick's sacrifice bunt. The extra out allowed designated hitter Jeff Conine to line a two-out double that scored Brady Anderson for a 5-5 game.

Hours before, Guzman did a poor job of containment following Clark's error and has now been bitten by six unearned runs in his last three starts.

The game turned early against him in the first inning, even after right fielder Albert Belle helped out by throwing out Shawn Green attempting to go from first to third on Delgado's RBI single. With two outs and Delgado at second, Fernandez skipped the grounder that Clark misplayed.

Darrin Fletcher (RBI single) and shortstop Tony Batista (three-run homer) turned the mistake into four unearned runs.

Threatened with a blowout, the Orioles responded with a four-run third inning that featured 12 total bases and back-to-back home runs by B. J. Surhoff and Belle within a four-pitch span. The home runs gave the Orioles 86 in their last 53 games.

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