Up 6-0, O's come apart again, 8-6

Jays' five-run eighth keeps 'pen in pain

losing streak hits 8

Miller: `It's sickening'

Owner Angelos weighs major changes

July 02, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

TORONTO -- Tuesday night, a five-run rally wasn't enough.

Wednesday night, 16 hits were too few.

Yesterday, Scott Erickson offered the last-place Orioles a quality start after altering his delivery, left after 6 1/3 innings, then watched as the remnants of a 6-0 lead against the Toronto Blue Jays were blown apart in a five-run eighth inning.

The resulting 8-6 loss not only completed a three-game meltdown, but was followed by angry exchanges in the clubhouse and a blistering rebuke of the bullpen by manager Ray Miller, whose status is now being scrutinized, as well.

The loss extended the Orioles' losing binge to eight games, all but erasing the good work done in a preceding 11-1 stretch. They fell to 4-19 against AL East foes and have now lost 11 consecutive games at SkyDome, this one before a Canada Day crowd of 30,263.

As general manager Frank Wren returned from a three-day South American scouting trip last night, Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos was considering sweeping personnel changes, according to a club source.

Miller was suggesting the same, though on a smaller scale. Though saying any decision to overhaul the bullpen is "not my job," he challenged the courage of yesterday's threesome of Ricky Bones, Doug Johns and losing pitcher Mike Timlin (3-7).

"We've got guys who bust their tails doing everything in the world and then you don't have one [reliever] who will take the bull by the horns and shut the thing down," said Miller.

"I'm sick and tired of seeing people get hit and get walked when you've got someone out there who's pitching like he's scared to death. Nobody's stepped up out there yet. Either step up or we'll get somebody else. We'll get a whole new bunch up.

"It's sickening."

The Orioles slowly dressed in a clubhouse silent except for sporadic outbursts of frustration. Players now used to such late-inning collapses were still left stunned.

The turn of events represented a bonanza for Blue Jays reliever John Frascatore (3-0). In return for getting two outs, he received his third win in three days, only the ninth pitcher in major-league history to do so.

"I've got nothing to say because I don't want to say the wrong thing," said Orioles first baseman Will Clark.

The bullpen suffered all three losses, extending a negative run in which it has surrendered 21 earned runs in its last 18 innings covering seven games. Its season ERA of 5.96 is the league's worst.

"I would be embarrassed to stand in front of our ballclub right now if I was a reliever," said Miller. "I'd be embarrassed."

Miller insisted he will hold a meeting with the bullpen before today's series opener against the New York Yankees. "They'll hear all about it. I've been biting my lip in here," he said.

Relief roles remain vague as the season nears its midpoint. Jesse Orosco fumbled a chance to close on Wednesday night. Bones, most comfortable in long relief, became involved in the eighth inning yesterday and could not produce an out. Scott Kamieniecki was unavailable after warming six times the previous two nights.

Miller is so frustrated that he is now contemplating a more visible role for exiled Rocky Coppinger, who escaped blame as one of only two relievers not to appear during the series.

"I've got one guy out there who hasn't pitched -- Rocky. I'm going to find out what he can do," Miller said.

Johns relieved Erickson with one out in the seventh, pitched out of a jam, then returned in the eighth to hit Darrin Fletcher with a two-strike pitch and allow Tony Batista a single.

"I have no idea what [their] roles are now," said Miller. "I just wish somebody would take one. Just one. Doug Johns established a role last night. I tried to give it to him today. Then he hits a lefty and gives up a base hit."

Miller then summoned Bones, who had surrendered runs in 10 of his last 14 appearances. After seven pitches, six of them balls, the manager had seen enough and summoned Timlin with the bases loaded and No. 9 hitter Homer Bush batting.

"I didn't do my job, but I still have confidence," said Bones. "It's been a struggle for all of us. Every game has been a struggle. I don't have anything really to say. It's my fault."

Bush was 1-for-10 with five strikeouts in the series when he stepped in against Timlin. But he chopped a ground ball to third base that left Jeff Reboulet with no play.

Down 6-4, the Blue Jays drew within one on Shannon Stewart's groundout to first base. Willie Greene then batted with runners at second and third against a relaxed infield apparently ready to concede the tying run.

Greene, whose pinch home run against Timlin in Wednesday's ninth inning earned a 7-7 tie, smashed a two-run single to right field to give the Blue Jays a 7-6 lead. Miller later referenced Greene's .163 average against right-handed pitching.

With three left-handed hitters approaching, Miller allowed Timlin, rather than left-hander Arthur Rhodes, to face Shawn Green. The answer was a bases-empty home run that pushed the lead to two runs.

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