O's 'pen fails late

Angels rally in 8th, win in ninth, 8-7, spoil Rapp's effort

O's led 7-4 in seventh

Timlin takes loss as skid reaches 2-12

May 18, 2000|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

ANAHEIM, Calif. - The Orioles stumbled around Edison International Field for two straight nights, making ugly play after ugly play and looking very much like the team that had just lost nine out of 10 games to their three major division rivals.

And they almost got away with it, coming within two innings of an unlikely two-game sweep before the bullpen blew up again and the Anaheim Angels rallied to score a 8-7 victory and split the brief series.

Starter Pat Rapp recovered from a rocky start to pitch six strong innings, but three Orioles relievers conspired to hand back a three-run lead and the Orioles fell for the 12th time in their last 14 games.

It was just the night before that left-hander Buddy Groom and closer Mike Timlin combined to finish a one-run game and give the bullpen what seemed like a major lift. Now, it seems like a minor reprieve.

"You get close to the top of the hill and instead of getting over it, you get knocked back down a little bit," said manager Mike Hargrove. "It's disappointing. It's frustrating. But I'm not depressed over it. We'll continue to do what we need to do to get out of this."

Right-hander Mike Trombley was charged with a run in the seventh. Groom, who heretofore had been the most dependable guy in the 'pen, would be tagged with two in the eighth to cost Rapp what would have been his team-leading fourth victory.

Timlin would not escape responsibility, either. He came on to allow both of Groom's runs to score in the eighth and then surrendered the game-winner on a broken bat single by Scott Spiezio with one out in the bottom of the ninth.

Angels outfielder Tim Salmon walked to open the ninth and moved into scoring position on a perfect sacrifice bunt by Garret Anderson. Timlin walked Troy Glaus intentionally before Spiezio dumped his single into center field. Brady Anderson charged the ball and made a decent throw to the plate, but it was a step too late to save the game.

Instead of an uplifting first road sweep of the season, the Orioles headed to Texas still reeling toward the wrong end of the American League East standings.

And, everything had been going so well since the Orioles arrived in Southern California.

Coming off an injury, third baseman Cal Ripken celebrated his return to the starting lineup by delivering a run-scoring double in his first at-bat as the Orioles opened with three first-inning runs against Angels starter Scott Schoeneweis.

Brady Anderson and Mike Bordick greeted the second-year left-hander with back-to-back singles, and Delino DeShields beat out an apparent double-play grounder to put runners at first and third for the heart of the Orioles batting order.

Cleanup hitter Albert Belle brought home the first run with a sacrifice fly to center before Jeff Conine and Ripken delivered consecutive RBI doubles to stake Rapp to a healthy lead.

Ripken, back in the lineup after missing four games with soreness in his lower back and left leg, pulled a shot down the third base line and made a wide hook slide to evade a tag at second base. He said before the game that he would not try to protect his sore back by playing at half-speed, then immediately proved it with a great hustle play.

If only the Orioles were so aggressive in the field. For the second night in a row, they seemed determine to sever the historical link between good defensive play and winning baseball.

Angels left fielder Darin Erstad led off the bottom of the first inning with a fly ball to right-center that fell untouched for a double when Anderson and Albert Belle both stopped to allow the other to make the play. Adam Kennedy followed with an RBI double into the right-field corner and score the second Angels run when a sharp bouncer to first by Mo Vaughn skipped past Conine for an error.

Before Rapp had recorded an out, Salmon launched a double off the right-field fence to score Vaughn with the tying run. Four batters. Three doubles. Three runs.

"We were our own worst enemies," Hargrove said.

It looked as if it was going to be a short evening for Rapp, who had lasted just 3 1/3 innings in his previous start against the Boston Red Sox, but he worked out of the first inning and was still standing in the sixth.

The Orioles got a big break to regain the lead in the second, loading the bases with two outs for Belle, who hit a slow bouncer toward third that would turn into an unlikely two-run single.

Glaus could only hope to make a bare-hand pickup, but the ball dribbled past him and two runners - both off early on a full-count pitch - crossed the plate before anyone picked it up.

Belle drove in three runs in three innings without putting a good swing on the ball, perhaps an indication that he is getting ready to take off after a another tepid start.

There was a little bit of history made in the third inning, but Ripken probably wouldn't have minded if it had gone unnoticed. He grounded into the 328th double play of his career to tie Hank Aaron for the dubious distinction of hitting into the most in baseball history.

The Orioles padded their lead when B.J. Surhoff scored on an error by Glaus in the sixth and added another run in the seventh on a sacrifice fly by Conine.

Rapp did not give up another run until the sixth, then gave way to Trombley to start the seventh. Rapp gave up four runs on five hits and struck out four, but would see his potential fourth victory go up in smoke in the eighth inning.

"Pat did a good job for us," Hargrove said. "He struggled early, but he settled down and did a good job."

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Texas Rangers

Site: The Ballpark in Arlington, Texas

Time: 8:05

TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090AM)

Starters: Orioles' Sidney Ponson (2-2, 5.16) vs. Rangers' Rick Helling (5-1, 2.28)

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