Folding O's imperfect 10 with loss

Brosius' 3-run homer off Rhodes in ninth extends O's skid, 6-5

Reliever blisters Miller

Of `up-down' warm-up: `I've had enough of this'

July 04, 1999|By JOE STRAUSS | JOE STRAUSS,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- Another ninth-inning lead evaporated within the Orioles' bullpen yesterday, this time because Arthur Rhodes could not close a two-run lead. The ugly result was Scott Brosius' three-run homer inside the Yankee Stadium left-field foul pole that gave the New York Yankees a 6-5 win and the disintegrating Orioles a 10th consecutive loss.

Once more the Orioles were left standing on the field as an opponent celebrated. They can no longer deny the overwhelming momentum.

"I think you can't help but have a carryover effect if you're going through the situation like we're going through," said third baseman Cal Ripken.

Rhodes, long critical of Ray Miller's use of the bullpen and his role in particular, blistered the manager for having him warm during the eighth inning only to sit and then try to warm again before the ninth. Miller has cited Rhodes' inability to warm quickly or pitch on consecutive days as a major hindrance to him taking over the closer role. Rhodes' recent performance can now be added to the list.

"If he don't know what he wants me doing out there, I just wish he'd put me back where I was, pitching the fifth and sixth in long relief," Rhodes said. "I've had enough of this. Up-down. Up-down. No one knows what the hell's going on."

Told of Rhodes' request, Miller said, "He'll get his wish."

Later, Miller said, "He's looking for a long-term contract and a lot of money. Are you going to get that in middle relief?"

For eight innings, the Orioles once again did enough to win. Albert Belle and Harold Baines hit back-to-back home runs to provide a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning off Yankees starter Orlando Hernandez. Ripken scored on Brady Anderson's two-out single in the fifth for a 3-1 lead. When Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter's two-out, two-run homer tied the game in the bottom of the fifth inning, B. J. Surhoff responded in the seventh with a two-out, opposite-field double to score Charles Johnson and Mike Bordick for a 5-3 lead.

Starting pitcher Sidney Ponson left the game to Doug Johns in the eighth. Johns handed off to Rhodes (3-4) in the ninth. Chaos.

A leadoff single by Chili Davis, a crushing walk to catcher Jorge Posada and a strikeout of pinch hitter Luis Sojo brought Brosius to the plate. Rhodes fell behind, 3-1, and fed Brosius a fastball over the plate. It never came back.

"These are things," said Brosius, "you do in your back yard."

Friday's 10-minute clubhouse meeting consisted of Miller criticizing the bullpen before the entire team. The meeting stayed with Rhodes, as he said sarcastically, "The bullpen gets blamed for everything. Just blame it on the bullpen now. Everything that happens, just blame it on the bullpen."

With Mike Timlin perhaps permanently out of favor -- he never stirred yesterday -- and Scott Kamieniecki not having appeared since June 25, Miller appears more comfortable with rookie Gabe Molina as his closer-in-waiting.

Among the Orioles' major-league-high 19 blown saves, Miller counts 15 that have been squandered against the lower third of the order. Yesterday's -- the fourth blown save of an 0-5 road trip -- was the latest as Rhodes failed to handle No. 7 hitter Posada after getting ahead in the count, 1-2. Brosius, a scuffling No. 9 hitter, ended it on a 3-1 count.

If anyone within the Orioles' silent clubhouse has experienced this before, they aren't telling. Not even nine previous defeats could prepare them for a staggering blow that warranted a curtain call for Brosius and further soul-searching by Miller about his amorphous bullpen.

The 10-game skid matches last year's longest and also dropped the Orioles to 4-22 within the American League East and to 15 games below .500 (32-47) for the second time this season. Their preceding 11-1 stretch has been nullified, any sense of optimism about the rest of the year extinguished and all suggestions about reversing course exhausted. Miller no longer looks to his veteran relievers for answers. The waiver wire seems an oasis by comparison.

"I don't know how many times you're supposed to get hit like that," said Miller. "The most sickening thing in the world is me sitting in the dugout watching my players walk off the field."

Miller has watched it happen three times in the last five games. Two times in Toronto the Blue Jays won with the last swing. During the 10-game streak the Orioles have suffered six one-run losses and a seventh by two runs. They are 7-17 in one-run games this season and have lost five times when leading after eight innings. (The Yankees have lost one of their last 145 games when leading after eight.)

"It's a situation where you think we should be out there clapping hands instead of them," said catcher Charles Johnson.

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