White Sox thrash O's again, 13-4

Mercedes lasts 1 2/3

errors ease way for slugging Chicago

Valentin hits for cycle

Hargrove headache on starters worsens

April 28, 2000|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

CHICAGO -- Mike Hargrove would have settled for six innings from his starting pitcher. He could watch for only five outs.

A delicate situation grew worse yesterday when the Chicago White Sox punished the Orioles with a 13-4 beating before 14,768 at Comiskey Park.

The Orioles completed a 2-4 road trip having lost three of four to the searing White Sox and wondering where their next positive start might come from.

Jose Mercedes (2-1), buoyed enough by his previous start to joke about 20 wins, became the latest Orioles starter to suffer a season-worst experience when he was removed after allowing four runs, eight baserunners and needing 51 pitches to cover 1 2/3innings.

Hargrove waited 39 pitches before pulling Mercedes from a three-run second inning.

To Hargrove, who watched his rotation allow 24 earned runs in 17 innings (12.70 ERA) in the series, it seemed like an eternity.

To Mercedes, who felt deprived by a safe call at first base that extended the inning that eventually evicted him, it seemed like nothing at all.

"You've got to throw strikes," Hargrove said tersely. "That's the name of the game today. That was the difference-maker today. We threw a lot more balls today than they did."

"Sometimes," said Mercedes, "when you think you have good stuff, you have nothing."

The scope of the loss overshadowed two RBIs from second baseman Delino DeShields, who compiled nine in the four-game series, and five credible innings from four of the five relievers asked to eat innings in a lost cause.

The AL Central-leading White Sox answered with 13 hits that mixed with eight walks and a historic day by shortstop Jose Valentin.

The Orioles' atrocities included Albert Belle and Brady Anderson being picked off first base before the fourth inning; two errors that contributed two unearned runs; and the White Sox slamming their eighth and ninth home runs of the series.

The White Sox batted around twice during the series, scored in double digits for the second consecutive game yesterday and now are averaging 7.9 runs per game.

Valentin became the fifth player in White Sox history to hit for the cycle when he went single, double, triple, home run against three pitchers. He capped the feat with a bases-empty home off Mike Trombley in the eighth inning.

"If you hit for a cycle in Milwaukee, you got a Harley," said Valentin, who came to the White Sox from the Milwaukee Brewers. "All I got here was congratulations."

Mercedes would have settled for that.

Hargrove cited his pitcher's troubled start as the continuation of a ragged bullpen session beforehand. Mercedes disputed the notion, saying he felt strong and in control. However, eight of 12 hitters to face him reached base.

One of the four outs was a sacrifice fly. When Hargrove ordered Mercedes to intentionally walk Frank Thomas to load the bases in the second, then popped from the dugout with his ouster, Mercedes appeared stunned.

That his replacement was Calvin Maduro, still noticeably hobbled by Tuesday's line drive off his shin, only heightened his surprise.

"He had trouble getting though his bullpen before the game and it carried over into his performance," Hargrove said. "Velocities were down. He said his arm felt fine; there just wasn't anything there today."

Mercedes could only think about Craig Wilson's one-out grounder in the second that wasn't turned for a double play. Mercedes argued Wilson was beaten by the relay and never touched the bag. Two hitters later, he was gone.

"I didn't expect to be out of the game," said Mercedes. "But [Hargrove] was looking, too. He might've made the right move that time. He might've made the wrong move. But he's the one who makes the move."

Hargrove's team is 12-9. But after witnessing a fourth loss in five games, he sounded like a weary warrior. Every starting pitcher who worked this series suffered his worst outing of the season.

The last three games produced only 10 2/3innings from the rotation, a red flag given a short-staffed bullpen.

"We got into the bullpen earlier today than we wanted .... a lot earlier yesterday than we wanted to," Hargrove said. "Guys out there are dragging a little bit. We'll have guys available tomorrow. We were able to save a couple, three of them."

The most embarrassing play of the season further tainted the afternoon. Chris Singleton sliced a triple into the right-field corner, but took a lap when DeShields' tardy throw trying to get Paul Konerko bounced off catcher Charles Johnson for an error.

"It was one of those games," said Jeff Conine, who doubled and homered while splitting time between right field and first base. "Twenty-one games into the season, we were due one. If we have one bad game every 21, we'll be fine."

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Texas Rangers

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 7:05

TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Rangers' Esteban Loaiza (1-1, 2.74) vs. Orioles' Jason Johnson (0-0, 1.50)

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