O's yield to A's in 9th, 11th

Bullpen again shaky as 3-2 loss ends 6-game win streak

Trombley: Tying HR in 9th

Gift call that saved 2 runs isn't enough

April 24, 2000|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The tortured scene, as predictable as it has become frustrating, played out again last night. Able to count on one hand the number of outs needed for their next win, the Orioles were sent away mumbling about a great start turned into something merely good.

The Oakland A's beat the Orioles, 3-2, in 11 innings last night after de facto closer Mike Trombley stumbled for a second straight game by allowing a bases-empty home run to light-hitting catcher Ramon Hernandez leading off the ninth inning. The mistake erased a 2-1 lead and allowed pinch hitter Olmedo Saenz to end the game two innings later with a bases-loaded single off Tim Worrell.

Fact: The Orioles are 11-6.

Stronger fact: They would be 15-2 if able to hold leads for the final six outs of four games.

"Some nights you throw the ball down the middle and you get it back," Trombley said. "Some nights he chops it foul. Some nights he hits it out. This happens to be one of those times."

The loss -- the Orioles' fifth when leading or tied after the seventh inning and their second when leading after eight -- dropped them out of a one-day tie for the AL East lead. It also wasted a solid start from Jason Johnson and an umpires' gift offering.

"Any time you win a series, especially on the road, you can't be disappointed," said first baseman Will Clark. "Sure, you want to win this game. We had our chances. But they're a good ballclub and we won two out of three. That's nothing to be embarrassed about."

Even after Trombley's mistake on a 1-2 pitch, the Orioles had an opportunity to take an 11th-inning lead after consecutive singles by Mike Bordick and B. J. Surhoff created a first-and-third threat with one out. Summoned to face Albert Belle, A's reliever Jason Isringhausen quashed the threat by getting him to ground into a double play.

The A's weren't as wasteful. Left fielder Ben Grieve began the inning's bottom half against Tim Worrell (2-2) by driving a pitch into the right-center field gap. Having just entered the game, Brady Anderson's left ankle gave way, allowing Grieve a triple. Hernandez and Eric Chavez were intentionally walked to load the bases. Saenz drove Worrell's second pitch off the warning track for the game-winner.

Earlier the Orioles were more fortunate. Matt Stairs' potential two-out single in the fifth inning instead became a spectacular, if miscalled, tumbling catch in shallow left field.

The reprieve was seized upon by the Orioles. Johnson pitched a shutout sixth and handed the game over to a previously shaky bullpen.

The steady start was especially sweet for Johnson (1-0), optioned to Triple-A Rochester March 28 after six traumatic exhibition starts. The ordeal initially traumatized Johnson, who was asked to leave manager Mike Hargrove's office before returning a second time. Johnson argued he was given insufficient notice by Hargrove and his coaching staff. Instead of concentrating on results, Johnson said, he continued to tinker with his pitch assortment.

Angry, Johnson gave three dominant performances at Rochester, compiling an 0.90 ERA and pitching a complete-game shutout April 18. Last night's performance was equally taut, even though he was less than comfortable.

"I felt strong," Johnson said of his six-inning, four-hit performance. "I don't know what it was. I just didn't feel good out there on the mound. I guess I could be encouraged by getting that when I'm not feeling my best."

Mark Mulder, a veteran of only 25 professional starts, became only the seventh starting pitcher in A's history to win his major-league debut when he defeated the Cleveland Indians April 18. His presence forced changes to Hargrove's lineup as Rich Amaral spelled Anderson in center field, Jeff Conhue swung for Harold Baines as designated hitter and Jesus Garcia received his third start of the season in place of Delino DeShields.

For three innings, the precocious Mulder achieved perfection against a lineup that entered with a .309 average.

In the fourth, he ran into one-out trouble when Bardick reached on a double to left-center field. Bordick has hit safely in 16 of the Orioles' 17 games and shares the AL lead with 24 RBIs.

This time, Bordick's value was as catalyst. Surhoff followed with a single that scored him for a 1-0 lead and Belle followed with the inning's third consecutive hit to create a first-and-third opportunity for Cal Ripken.

No longer pressing for 3,000 hits, Ripken slashed career hit No. 3,007 with two outs, scoring Surhoff. The hit tied Ripken for 22nd place ali-time with Al Kaline. The RBI moved Ripken past Kaline into a three-way tie for 26th with Harmon Killebrew and Rogers Hornsby. Riding an eight-game hitting streak, Ripken remains on a tear since reaching his career milestone in Minnesota April 15.

The 2-0 lead extended the Orioles' penchant for playing from ahead. They've scored first in 13 of 17 games and never trailed in the series.

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