The Orioles search for a reliable closer brought them to rookie Gabe Molina last night. The search continues.
Willie Greene crushed a two-run homer off Molina in the ninth inning to carry the Toronto Blue Jays to a 7-6 victory over the Orioles before 42,275 at Camden Yards.
Molina had struck out Jacob Brumfield to end the eighth inning and strand the tying run at second. He retired Homer Bush to open the ninth and got ahead of Shannon Stewart, 0-2, before allowing a single. Greene then torched his former club by driving a 1-2 pitch over the scoreboard in right, the 20th blown save for the Orioles (34-49) this season.
Greene hit a game-tying homer off Mike Timlin at SkyDome on June 30, and the Blue Jays won it in the 10th. Timlin, who took the loss Tuesday night, had been warming last night as the ninth inning started. He stopped to watch the Blue Jays complete their 10th win over the Orioles in 11 games.
Bruised by a jagged first inning, Orioles starter Jason Johnson made a fast recovery and held down the Blue Jays while his club unloaded on Joey Hamilton. But once again, a game stretched too long for the Orioles to manage.
Cal Ripken broke a 3-3 tie with a two-run homer in the fourth inning, his 12th this season and the 396th of his career to match former teammate Joe Carter for 31st place on the all-time list. He also singled twice and raised his average to .317.
Mike Bordick singled in another run in the sixth, as the Orioles wasted a 13-hit attack. The Blue Jays scored twice in the eighth to narrow the Orioles' lead to 6-5. Molina allowed a two-run single to Tony Batista after replacing Jesse Orosco, who walked left-handed-hitting Darrin Fletcher.
Batista's single scored Greene with the fourth run. Tony Fernandez held up at third until seeing right-fielder Albert Belle's throw go behind second, then raced home.
Johnson (2-3) allowed three runs (two earned) in the first inning, then gave the Blue Jays nothing until being removed after the sixth. They managed only three hits off him, one after the first.
Acquired in a late-March trade with Tampa Bay, Johnson hasn't given up more than three runs in his last three starts, but has no wins to show for it.
The Orioles, and particularly Jeff Conine, got off to an inauspicious start.
Conine couldn't reach two foul pops that stayed in play and committed back-to-back errors when allowing throws to sail past his glove, including an attempted pickoff from Johnson. All four mishaps occurred before the second hitter had completed his at-bat.
Anyone believe in omens?
The Blue Jays sent nine batters to the plate and scored three times, but it could have been much worse as Johnson struck out Brumfield and Bush to end the inning.
To add a little more insult, Brady Anderson was denied a leadoff homer in the first when Brumfield made a leaping catch at the fence. But the Orioles cashed in the next inning.
Harold Baines, who had been touted by Miller as a worthy All-Star candidate, delivered his 18th homer. Conine followed with a double, and Ripken grounded a single. Rookie Jerry Hairston, whose speed has brought an added dimension to the lineup, beat out a infield hit that scored Conine.
Hamilton drilled Charles Johnson in the left ribcage to load the bases with one out, and Anderson dropped a single into center field to tie the score. Hamilton then went 3-2 on Mike Bordick before inducing the Orioles shortstop to ground into a double play.
Hamilton has been a bust since coming to Toronto in a December trade with San Diego. It took until June 21 to gain his only victory with the Blue Jays, and he needed lots of help, allowing four runs and nine hits in 5 1/3 innings.
He was gone by the fourth inning last night after giving up six runs and 10 hits. He couldn't hold a 3-0 lead, and he couldn't blame anyone but himself.
Perhaps sensing he wouldn't get much support behind him, Johnson took matters in his own hands after the first. He retired 11 in a row before Shannon Stewart led off the fifth with a single that barely eluded Bordick. Johnson struck out Greene and got Shawn Green to hit into a double play.
He walked Delgado to begin the sixth. With Scott Kamieniecki warming, Johnson never had to worry about the tying run coming to the plate because of two outstanding catches by Surhoff in left.
Opponent: Toronto Blue Jays
Site: Camden Yards
Time: 3: 05 p.m. TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Blue Jays' Kelvim Escobar (7-6, 5.93) vs. Orioles' Sidney Ponson (7-5, 3.70)
Tickets: About 5,000 remain
Big inning, big deal
Big innings, like the Orioles' three-run second and fourth last night, haven't been enough in a 1-10 season against the Blue Jays this season. Five times they've scored three or more runs in an inning against the Blue Jays this season only to lose. A look:
Date Big Inn. *Score Res
4/11 4-run 1st 4-0 L 9-5
6/29 4-run 3rd 4-5 L 6-5
6/30 4-run 6th 5-5 L 10-9
7/7 3-run 2nd 3-3
3-run 4th 6-3 L 7-6
* O's runs listed first
Pub Date: 7/08/99