Up two in 10th, O's still fall, 10-9

Fletcher's 3-run shot beats Orosco as Jays deal O's 7th loss in row

July 01, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

TORONTO -- The Orioles continued their self-destruction last night, losing in an especially cruel manner at a time when their season is fading to pitch. Able to rally from a four-run deficit, they bungled a ninth-inning lead before collapsing in the 10th for their seventh straight loss.

Darrin Fletcher gave the Toronto Blue Jays a sudden 10-9 victory with a one-out, three-run homer off out-of-role left-hander Jesse Orosco.

While no lead may be large enough to put off the Orioles, no game is apparently short enough for them to win.

The 32-44 Orioles tormented themselves for a second straight night, turning a 5-1 deficit into a 7-5 lead on a series of extra-base hits by Harold Baines, Jeff Conine and Mike Bordick, and temporarily preserving the decision with five outs from middle reliever Doug Johns. They grabbed a 9-7 lead in the 10th, then gave it up behind Orosco (0-2), who was punished by Fletcher after surrendering a leadoff walk to Shawn Green and a double to Carlos Delgado.

Orosco slumped then shuffled from the field. The Orioles were again crushed after rallying from a huge deficit.

"My biggest concern -- and I don't know what to do about it -- is the psyche of the ballclub. You get a two-run lead and give it right back. I can't ask for anybody to contribute more," said manager Ray Miller.

It was the Orioles' fourth loss when leading after eight innings, their seventh when leading after seven. They fell to 7-14 in one-run games, 4-19 within the American League East and 13-13 for June.

This one was as painful as any. Released by the Orioles last winter, Willie Greene tied the game by leading off the ninth against Mike Timlin with a pinch home run. Greene was batting for the first time since June 20, when he also connected for a pinch home run, thus making himself only the 16th player in American League history to homer on consecutive pinch at-bats.

"It seems just about every blown save and every loss has come against 7-8-9 in the order, and that's a shame," said Miller. "I don't care who they pinch hit, if a guy is in the seven, eight or nine hole you need to do something. But you can't defend walks and you can't defend balls riding out of the ballpark. You can't put anybody out there to catch them."

Miller remarked before the game how Timlin's pitches again showed life. He had been scored upon in only one of his eight previous appearances and was effective Tuesday night.

Greene jumped Timlin's second pitch for a drive that reached the center-field bleachers.

"That's why I tell you I worry about the psyche of the ballclub," Miller said. "Even after Timlin gives up the home run everybody's coming off the field saying, `Let's go. Let's get 'em.' Then we get a two-run lead. The bottom line is: You're paid to get somebody out, you need to get somebody out."

Orosco was subdued in defeat. "I don't think I threw more than one or two pitches where I wanted to," Orosco said. "That's been going on all year.

"Things don't turn around on their own. Speaking for myself, I've got to do what I'm supposed to do, and that's get the lefties out. When it goes bad, it goes bad."

Once again the Orioles immediately played from behind. They rallied from a four-run deficit last night just as they had come back from five runs down the night before. This time they went through left-hander David Wells, who had beaten them April 17 in a 7-4 decision. Wells was coming off his worst start of the season -- a seven-run performance against Tampa Bay -- but appeared in control through five innings as his offense pecked at Mike Mussina.

The Blue Jays took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when right fielder Shawn Green hit a two-out home run to break his career 3-for-25 frustration against Mussina.

The lead grew to 2-0 in the second after third baseman Tony Fernandez, whose average fell below .400 the night before, led off with a double and scored on shortstop Tony Batista's single.

Mussina was dull early. The Blue Jays hit for the cycle against him through four innings and Conine's drop of second baseman Jerry Hairston's routine-looking throw led to an unearned run during the Blue Jays' two-run third.

Blue Jays center fielder Jacob Brumfield began a curious fourth inning with a triple over center fielder Rich Amaral. Shannon Stewart extended his hitting streak to 16 during the third inning and returned in the fourth to score Brumfield on a sacrifice fly. Frustrated at what he had witnessed in this game as well as the six before it, Miller seized upon a questionable non-call to unsuccessfully strive for an ejection.

Craig Grebeck sliced a foul ball to right field. Albert Belle pursued it, gloved it, then dropped it just before colliding with a policeman, who had lifted his stool in a feeble attempt to escape just before Belle arrived. Miller argued the play constituted interference.

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