Errors, blown lead leave Rapp steamed

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

`Those are kind of things that can't happen'

Clark comes off DL

Minor out

Notebook

May 19, 2000|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

ARLINGTON, Texas - A young season continues to get even with Orioles No. 4 starter Pat Rapp, who began with a 3-0 rush last month but now finds himself confounded by the same vagaries that have beset the rest of an inconsistent starting rotation.

Rapp lost a decision and nearly lost his composure on Wednesday night when the Orioles followed two defensive lapses in the first inning by failing to hold a three-run lead late as the Anaheim Angels rallied for an 8-7 win. The Orioles suffered their 10th blown save and Rapp went unrewarded for 115 pitches and overcoming the ragged first inning. Usually upbeat, he boarded the team charter for Dallas admittedly steamed."Those are the kind of things that can't happen but have been happening a lot lately," said Rapp. "It was tough. I almost lost it out there."

Leading 3-0 heading to the bottom of the first inning, Rapp dropped the lead before getting an out. The rally began when an innocuous-looking leadoff fly ball fell between outfielders Brady Anderson and Albert Belle. Rapp's mood soured further when a two-hop grounder skipped off first baseman Jeff Conine's glove to give the Angels an extra out."I burned all my pitches in the first two innings," said Rapp, who teamed with Angels left-hander Scott Schoeneweis to throw 100 pitches before the third. "Stuff was happening and then I was going 2-2 and 3-2 to everybody. Their No.9 hitter [Benji Gil] fouled 10 straight pitches. Heck, I was surprised I could throw 10 straight strikes."

Having survived only 3 1/3 innings in his previous start, Rapp thought Wednesday's effort was encouraging. However, he was irritated anew when he took friends' calls yesterday morning."Guys are calling me saying, `You gave it up early. You got rocked,"' said Rapp. "But all they're doing is looking at the line score in USA Today or watching ESPN. They didn't see the game. But all ESPN shows is guys jacking doubles. They don't talk about what happened before."

Rapp lasted six innings and allowed only two hits after the first inning. He technically emerged with a "quality start" as the Angels mustered only three earned runs against him.

The outing dropped Rapp's ERA to 5.32 and left him with 45 2/3 innings in eight starts.

Clark in, Minor out

First baseman Will Clark last night made his first appearance in Texas in an Orioles uniform since leaving the Rangers as a free agent before the 1999 season. The Orioles activated him from the disabled list and made roster space by optioning third baseman Ryan Minor to Triple-A Rochester.

Clark's absence because of a strained left hamstring on May 2 coincided with the Orioles' recent tailspin, which left them 2-12 without their No. 7 hitter and league leader in on-base percentage.

His .367 batting average would have ranked him fourth in the American League entering last night if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. Clark went 0-for-5 to drop his average to .338.

His playing time constricted by the addition of veteran utility player Mark Lewis, Minor was optioned after hitting .182 with one RBI in 11 at-bats.

It's the ball, stupid

Mike Mussina has a theory to explain this season's rampant offense. It's the ball.

Mussina, however, isn't riding the conspiracy bandwagon that claims the Bud Selig ball is "juiced" because of lower seams or Selig's signature. It's a matter of feel.

During some recent down time, Mussina unstitched this year's ball and another from last season. He noticed nothing different except for the hides. When he placed last year's cover on a table, it lay flat. When he did the same to this year's hide, it remained curved at both ends. His hypothesis: that properties that make this year's ball seem slicker and harder to rub also are responsible for the curvature."It doesn't feel the same," the Stanford grad explained. "You can't move [the hide] around on this ball. It's slicker and feels harder."

Mussina is among those who have suffered its consequences. In nine starts covering 65 1/3 innings, he is 1-5 for the first time in his career while carrying a 4.68 ERA, more than a run higher than his career figure (3.50). He has allowed as many home runs (14) as walks a year after surrendering only 16 home runs in 203 1/3 innings. Opponents' .494 slugging percentage against him was higher than against any starter except Scott Erickson (.507).

More Moose

Manager Mike Hargrove said he will start Mussina tomorrow instead of today, an unremarkable move except that Hargrove has previously kept his ace on a strict routine of pitching every fifth day, regardless of off days. This time, given Mussina's innings wear and Monday's day off, Hargrove opted to pitch him on four games' rather than four days' rest.

Around the horn

Cal Ripken's double play Wednesday gave him the all-time lead with 329. A discrepancy in club records initially led to an announcement that Ripken had merely tied Hank Aaron's record. ... With a first-inning single, Frank Catalanotto set a Rangers record with his ninth straight hit. He reached base 12 consecutive times, breaking the old club mark of 11 set by Todd Zeile. ... Orioles reliever and Texas resident Buddy Groom will be honored Sunday when nearby Red Oak High School dedicates its baseball field in his name.

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