Rays bury O's, 10-9

5-run second inning, burned-out bullpen dig a hole too deep

Johnson left in for 9 runs

Bordick reaches 4 times to aid rally from 10-3

August 10, 1999|By JOE STRAUSS | JOE STRAUSS,SUN STAFF

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Orioles nearly recovered from a seven-run deficit last night, but lost, 10-9, to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The closer they got, the more it hurt.

While a Tropicana Field crowd of 17,796 celebrated its second-year franchise's dominance against a team lost within its own division, the 49-63 Orioles bemoaned a game in which starting pitcher Jason Johnson (3-6) suffered a beating without rescue.

Trailing 10-3 after five innings, the Orioles scored in the last four at-bats and ended the game with leadoff hitter Brady Anderson having stolen his way into scoring position. Devil Rays closer Roberto Hernandez escaped with a save by producing a drive from Mike Bordick that his outfield ran down.

"We got awful close. I was proud of the way they battled," said manager Ray Miller, whose club suffered its fifth loss when scoring at least eight runs. "We stole some big bases. With the game on the line, if we'd gotten thrown out everybody was ready to hang me. With Jason, I don't know if it was pitching against his own club, but he wasn't as sharp as he was last time."

Last night's 15-hit pummeling was virtually preordained on Sunday when Miller needed six arms to cover 7 1/3 innings of an 11-inning loss to Detroit. Ricky Bones was lifted for surrendering three hits and two runs after throwing 54 pitches in 3 2/3 innings.

Johnson was left to roast last night for 12 hits and nine earned runs after throwing 86 pitches in four-plus innings. The Devil Rays placed six consecutive hitters against Johnson during a five-run second inning and six consecutive hitters against he and Doug Johns during a four-run fifth. Johns -- the only reliever not used Sunday -- didn't begin warming until the Orioles trailed 6-3.

Johnson would have liked nothing more than to stuff the team that traded him during spring training for Orioles outfield prospect Danny Clyburn. Instead, he became visibly frustrated at plate umpire Durwood Merrill's stamp-sized strike zone.

While Miller thought Johnson's start against his former team represented "growing pains," Johnson had a different take.

"I was going out there to get as many innings as I could. Nothing against umpires, but you saw the game," he said.

Johnson walked no one and threw 50 strikes among 86 pitches, but surrendered a career-high 12 hits. "I couldn't find his zone. I threw a high strike. I threw a low strike. They were both called balls. I threw it down the middle and let them hit it and they did," he said.

The outing caused Johnson's ERA to jump from 5.40 to 6.24 and marked the first time in 13 starts with the Orioles he had surrendered more than five earned runs or eight hits.

The Devil Rays have become accustomed to pounding on Orioles pitching. They are hitting .336 with 51 runs in seven games this season. Last night's win lifted them to 6-1 in this year's series and gave them a 13-6 edge over the Orioles in their two-year history.

Starting pitcher Ryan Rupe (6-6) benefited from the latest effort. Rupe allowed five runs, including designated hitter Harold Baines' 371st career home run, but faced the tying run for only one hitter after receiving a 5-0 lead.

Six consecutive hits in the second inning allowed the Devil Rays a 5-0 lead before Johnson faced his 12th hitter. Playing in place of 3,000-hit man Wade Boggs, third baseman Bobby Smith scored Paul Sorrento for the game's first run with a single. He then set up the second run on a steal of second that resulted in catcher Mike Figga's short-hop throwing error, allowing Jose Guillen to score. Second baseman Tony Graffanino capped the inning with a two-run double.

Under ordinary circumstances the Orioles would have climbed back into the game with a three-run third inning that began with Delino DeShields' double, continued with Bordick's two-run triple and included B.J. Surhoff's two-out single.

However, Guillen and Smith piled on for a 6-3 lead in the third as Guillen doubled with two outs and Smith followed with a single.

On most nights Johnson would have been removed before the Devil Rays' fifth inning. But a leadoff single and Sorrento's two-run homer failed to dislodge him. Only after Johnson hit Guillen was Johns summoned. A walk and two singles later, the Devil Rays enjoyed a 10-3 lead.

"I guess they were hoping to get as many innings as they could out of Jason," said reliever Jesse Orosco, who never stirred. "We had some guys who could pitch. We weren't all on empty."

"Yes," Miller confirmed, "I was hoping to get him through at least five innings."

Rupe's fourth walk immediately preceded Baines' 23rd home run with none out in the sixth inning, creating a 10-5 game. The home run gave Baines the fifth-most in a season by a 40-year-old player and left him only three shy of a tie for third. Baines is also seven home runs shy of his first 30-homer season.

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