O's roast Rays, 17-1

Knuckleballer Boggs yields last run as O's unload for 20 hits

Ponson: 6th complete game

Bordick's 5th RBI is off 3,000-hit reliever

August 11, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- With so much of their season devoted to improvisation and rationalization, the Orioles last night got to experience the thrill of retribution against the nettlesome Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Not only did they turn the Devil Rays' hex against them on its head with a 17-1 pounding based on 20 hits and the Rays' club-record four errors, the Orioles turned Wade Boggs into a 3,000-hit knuckleball pitcher.

With the Orioles leading 16-1 with two outs and the bases loaded, Boggs brought a chanting crowd of 17,848 to its feet when he entered in the eighth inning. Boggs ran a full count to Charles Johnson before ending the inning with a fly ball to right field.

Boggs immediately distinguished himself as the Devil Rays' most effective pitcher. He then surrendered three hits and a run in the ninth inning, prompting Jeff Conine to quip, "He gave up three hits so I think he should have to go back to 2,998."

"Larry [Rothschild, manager] always said after I got 3,000 hits I would be able to pitch," said Boggs. "It started shaping up and my palms starting getting sweaty. Bobby Witt kept saying, `You're in the game, dude.' But I didn't expect to come in with the bases loaded."

Pardon the Orioles if they didn't contain themselves.

The win ended a four-game losing streak at Tropicana Field and was only their second in eight games this season against the Devil Rays, who had pounded them for a .336 average before encountering Sidney Ponson (11-7).

Ponson cruised for his sixth complete game. His only mistake was throwing at the opposing pitcher when he spun Boggs during an eighth-inning at-bat.

Boggs returned in the ninth inning, striking out Delino DeShields on a called strike then getting Ryan Minor to ground to short. Rich Amaral ruined his run at perfection with a looping double. Mike Bordick followed with an opposite-field double for his career-tying fifth RBI and Conine reached Boggs for the Orioles' 20th hit. Boggs ended the show by getting Albert Belle on a fly ball.

The sideshow detracted from Ponson's mature outing. Given plenty of margin for error, Ponson used none in a six-hit, two-walk lockdown. He produced his third complete game since July 15 and allowed his manager to reconstruct a bullpen blown apart two days earlier.

"It's very tough to stay focused. You can't think that you have a 10-run lead and that you can take it nice and easy. You might get hurt right there," Ponson said.

Every Orioles starter except B. J. Surhoff had at least one hit before the seventh inning. But by then Surhoff had scored twice, twice less than DeShields.

No longer playing tentatively as if wrapped within a Hall of Famer's shadow, rookie third baseman Minor enjoyed the first three-hit game of his major-league career before the sixth inning. Bordick smashed a bases-loaded double in the second inning and contributed his fourth RBI during the Orioles' four-run sixth inning. Designated hitter Harold Baines continued a scalding run with three hits in his first four at-bats, leaving him with 2,750 hits.

Yet until Boggs' arrival, first baseman Will Clark was credited with putting a face on the game.

Clark's fourth-inning single scored Surhoff from second for a 7-0 lead, minor stuff within the Orioles' second-most lopsided win this season. For Clark, who had suffered through 45 at-bats without an RBI since July 24, Surhoff's run represented a monstrous relief. Clark shouted his appreciation at third base coach Sam Perlozzo, who had waved in Surhoff.

"I was just having some fun over there. I was used to it being first-and-third," said Clark, who counted eight hits with runners in scoring position since his last RBI.

Signed to a two-year contract to anchor first base and bat third, Clark's run production has been depressed by injuries, a drop to No. 6 in the lineup and a lack of speed preceding him.

He entered batting .300 with a .483 slugging percentage and a .303 average with runners in scoring position -- .459 with one or nobody out, .103 with two outs.

"When you go up to the plate with a runner in scoring position and two outs, it's all or nothing. With one out you can do a lot of things. In that area, I've had a fairly decent year," Clark said.

The Orioles traded places with the Devil Rays from the night before. On Monday manager Ray Miller fumed while Jason Johnson took a beating for a threadbare bullpen exhausted the day before. However, to survive a 10-9 game Rothschild had to use five relievers to cover the last four innings.

When starter Dave Eiland (2-7) struggled early, it was Rothschild's turn to stew as the Orioles broke out for six runs before Eiland faced his 12th hitter.

Belle put the Orioles ahead 2-0 with the first of their six doubles. Baines immediately followed with another double to give Ponson a 3-0 lead before he threw a pitch.

A single, double and two-strike pitch that hit Brady Anderson loaded the bases in the second. Bordick then cracked a bases-clearing double. A walk to Belle chased Eiland.

Ahead 7-0, DeShields began the fifth inning with a stand-up triple after center fielder Dave Martinez made a futile dive for his line drive. Minor produced his first RBI in 30 at-bats this season with a single. The game further deteriorated during a four-run eighth that forced Rothschild to call upon Boggs three days after crashing his 3,000th career hit.

No pitching novice, Boggs hurled against the California Angels on Aug. 19, 1997, while with the New York Yankees.

"The last thing Larry said to me was `Have fun with it.' Well, with a lineup of major-league hitters coming up, that was the last thing I was thinking."

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Site: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Time: 7: 05

TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: O's Mike Mussina (13-7, 3.68) vs. Devil Rays' Rolando Arrojo (2-7, 5.88)

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