Long end to long O's trip

Mets homer in 10th, 8-7

4-0, 6-3 leads fail to hold up as relief lacking to seal 3-7 trip

June 09, 2000|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - The game ended like so many others, with an Orioles reliever walking disgustedly off the mound and the opposing team high-fiving at home plate.

This time, it wasn't unforgivable. The bullpen didn't blow a huge lead. The New York Mets just outlasted the Orioles, 8-7, in 10 innings in the rubber game of a three-game interleague series at Shea Stadium. But the defeat still added to the accumulated frustration of a relief corps in crisis.

Left-hander Buddy Groom gave up a game-tying single in the sixth, but pitched well enough to keep the game under control until right-handed setup man Mike Trombley came on in the eighth. Trombley allowed a tie-breaking home run to Mets outfielder Jay Payton, but he held things together well enough for the Orioles to recover and push the game into extra innings.

Enter long reliever Jose Mercedes, who gave up a one-out walkoff home run to Mets shortstop Kurt Abbott that sent the Orioles to their seventh loss in eight games and closed out a disheartening 3-7 road trip.

It was just a garden variety extra-inning loss, but it still left the club mired in a bullpen crisis. Manager Mike Hargrove had his most dependable guys in at crunch time, but the rest of the middle relief corps has been so undependable that he had to go to Groom about an inning earlier than usual to bail out starter Jason Johnson. Trombley wasn't outside of his role, but he was pitching without any margin for error. Mercedes was just a last resort.

Hargrove hinted the other night that there would be changes if the bullpen situation continued to deteriorate. Though the cumulative relief performance last night was not egregious, it still seems likely that there will be a roster move - perhaps as soon as today - to change the chemistry in the middle innings.

Promising left-hander B. J. Ryan appears to be a strong candidate to be sent down to rebuild his confidence. The club does not have a lot of options available on the 40-man roster, so the most likely call-up may be right-hander Gabe Molina.

The Mets also had to go deep into their bullpen, using six relievers and getting to hard-throwing former Oriole Armando Benitez in a save situation in the ninth, but pinch hitter Will Clark tied the game with a sacrifice fly.

The series was a logistical nightmare for the Orioles. The rainout on Tuesday forced them to play on their only day off in three weeks and a shortage of hotel rooms in the New York area forced them to commute from Baltimore for the rain-delayed final game of a 10-game road trip.

But they seemed no worse for their whereabouts when they arrived back at Shea Stadium late yesterday afternoon. The club went through its normal pre-game routine and jumped on top of the Mets in the early innings.

Third baseman Cal Ripken, one of the players who was able to keep his hotel room in New York on Wednesday night, led off the second inning with his12th home run of the season - a towering shot off starter Glendon Rusch that landed in the left-field bleachers.

The Orioles squandered a bases-loaded opportunity in the third, but scored three times in the fourth to stake Johnson to a seemingly comfortable lead. Brady Anderson poked a two-out double down the left-field line to score B. J. Surhoff, and Mike Bordick followed with another shot into the left-field seats for his11th home run and team-leading41st and 42nd RBIs.

Johnson, who had the option of remaining in a hotel in New York on Wednesday night but chose to travel back and forth with the team, looked very sharp at the outset. He gave up just one hit through the first three innings and appeared to be cruising when the Orioles treated him to the four-run cushion, but one bad pitch in the fourth would tighten the game up considerably.

He retired the first two batters in the inning, but Mike Piazza banged a comebacker off his glove and Robin Ventura doubled to right to bring up former Oriole Todd Zeile, who launched a three-run homer over the 396 sign in right-center. Johnson would court disaster by walking the next two batters, but eventually struck out Rusch to end the inning.

Fortunately for Johnson, the Orioles' offensive attack was still in motion. Three consecutive one-out singles in the fifth led to two more runs. Jeff Conine started the rally with a base hit to left; Ripken singled to right and Surhoff poked a base hit through the right side of the infield to score Conine on a close play at the plate. Catcher Charles Johnson drove home Ripken from third with a sacrifice fly.

Unfortunately for Johnson, the Mets weren't through either. He walked Ventura to open the sixth and paid for it when Zeile followed with a single and Jay Payton drove a long double into the gap in right-center. Abbott followed with a sacrifice fly to left and Hargrove had little choice but to bring on middleman Groom about an inning earlier than he would have liked.

Groom got pinch hitter Benny Agbayani to fly to center, but rookie leadoff man Jason Tyner lined a hit to tie the game.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Philadelphia Phillies

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 7:35

TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters:Phillies' Randy Wolf (5-3, 3.82) vs. Orioles' Pat Rapp (4-3, 4.66)

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