Call-up disconnects O's

Mets' Dotel arrives, departs after 3 hits in 7 innings of 4-1 win

`He looked like Rivera'

Johnson, Rhodes yield 2 runs each in loss

July 20, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The name may not stick with the Orioles, but Octavio Dotel left quite an impression on them last night.

He also left them still searching for a win in this series. And for their missing offense, which was hijacked by a relative unknown.

Joining the New York Mets earlier in the day, Dotel fit right in by stifling the Orioles for seven innings and handing them a second straight loss, 4-1, before 42,615 at Camden Yards. The Dominican right-hander's only mistake was serving up Will Clark's ninth home run, which chipped away at a lead that never left him.

"We were told he was sinker/slider, but he was throwing a cutter. He looked like Mariano Rivera," said manager Ray Miller.

"It wasn't like he was tricking people," said Brady Anderson, one of six starters to go hitless. "He was going right after guys. He threw a ball that was running away a little bit from lefties and he was throwing hard. The second time around he started guys off with sliders to righties and curveballs to lefties. He mixed it up pretty well. And he was a good dancer."

At least humor wasn't missing.

The defeat was the 16th in the past 23 games for the Orioles (39-53), who again couldn't seize the chance to move out of last place in the AL East. They managed only three hits off Dotel, then were closed out again by former teammate Armando Benitez, who entered after Turk Wendell escaped an eighth-inning jam by getting Albert Belle to ground into a double play while representing the tying run.

It was the eighth save for the Dominican Strongman and included a leaping catch at the left-field fence from Melvin Mora to prevent a leadoff homer by Harold Baines. The game ended with Benitez, whose fastball reached 100 mph, striking out Charles Johnson -- two players traded for each other over the winter.

Jason Johnson (1-4) became the first Orioles starter who couldn't complete five innings since he lasted only 2 2/3 against Kansas City on June 15. He fell one out short last night, permitting only two runs but throwing 109 pitches against a team that leads the major leagues in walks.

"I don't know what it was tonight but I couldn't throw strikes, especially in the early innings," Johnson said. "[Umpire Rick Reed] didn't have a very large strike zone. When you throw the ball down the middle you expect to get the call. That didn't happen tonight.

"I could never throw my four-seamer for strikes. In the end everything I threw was a slider."

His replacement, Arthur Rhodes, failed to keep the deficit at 2-1 after Clark's homer. With scouts eyeing him for a possible trade before the July 31 deadline, Rhodes allowed bases-empty home runs to Edgardo Alfonzo and Robin Ventura in the seventh.

The left-hander had produced four straight scoreless appearances after allowing runs in his previous four outings. He's given up six homers, second among Orioles relievers to Mike Timlin's seven.

"Believe it or not, that's probably as good as Arthur's thrown in a long time. He popped the ball real well," Miller said.

The Orioles' only relief came when Dotel stopped doing his David Cone impression.

Dotel, who was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to make his fourth major-league start, retired the first 10 batters. But his flirtation with perfection would turn fickle in the fourth. Mike Bordick walked with one out and B. J. Surhoff dropped a single just over leaping shortstop Rey Ordonez. Belle failed to advance the runners, lining to center, but Dotel took care of that with an errant pickoff throw.

Baines flied to deep right to end the threat, but at least the Orioles had stirred.

Maybe Dotel became a little shaken. He got ahead of Clark, 0-2, leading off the fifth, then fed him a pitch up and over the plate that was redirected over the fence in right-center field to reduce New York's lead to 2-1. He wouldn't be touched again.

"I was just throwing the ball on the corner," said Dotel, who was working on three days' rest after his last start at Norfolk. "I think I got lucky because I threw a great game to those guys."

If nothing else, Jason Johnson should have been well-rested last night. He hadn't pitched in 12 days. His last appearance July 7 resulted in a no-decision, even though he gave up only two earned runs in six innings against Toronto.

Maybe he was too rested. Johnson walked three of the first seven batters he faced, including Rickey Henderson and Alfonzo leading off the game. Another reached on an infield hit, when the Mets loaded the bases with one out in the first inning.

Nobody scored.

Johnson struck out Ventura and retired Benny Agbayani on a popup to end the first, and Charles Johnson threw out Brian McRae attempting to steal second to wipe out another runner.

This has become routine for the Orioles' catcher. He's cut down 15 of the last 28 would-be base stealers since May 25, including the all-time leader, Henderson, on Sunday night.

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