Mora, O's save worst for last

Second baseman commits 2 errors on 1 play in 8th, allows W. Sox to rally, 4-3

O's first save opportunity blown

April 14, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

CHICAGO - Melvin Mora kept calling it a routine play.

Sitting despondently by his locker yesterday after another tough Orioles loss, this man of many positions insisted he had let one get away - not once, but twice.

Mora made two errors on the same play at second base, and that helped the Chicago White Sox overcome a one-run deficit in the eighth inning to claim a 4-3 victory over the Orioles at Comiskey Park.

Later, Mora didn't want to hear how challenging the play looked, how he took quick steps to his right to backhand a ball hit sharply up the middle, only to have it bounce off the heel of his glove.

"That's no excuse," Mora said. "It's a routine ground ball."

With Kenny Lofton on second base and the speedy Ray Durham racing toward first, Mora grabbed the ball and fired it toward first baseman David Segui, but the ball bounced in the dirt and got past Segui.

From there, the ball rolled tantalizingly slow toward the Orioles' dugout, taunting them as Lofton crossed home plate with the tying run. Three batters later, Paul Konerko drove home the winning run with a single off reliever Willis Roberts.

"It's frustrating because we've lost too many games," Mora said. "What happened in the inning is frustrating. I can't take it out of my mind because this club needs every little thing to win this game.

"If I don't do the right thing, we're not going to win."

This is what happens when an anemic offense continues to give a club microscopic margin for error: The mistakes look all the more glaring.

White Sox pitchers Todd Ritchie, Antonio Osuna and Keith Foulke held the Orioles to just four hits. Scott Erickson had another strong start, allowing two runs over seven innings, but the offense could only give him a 3-2 lead.

The Orioles managed a run in three separate innings, beginning with David Segui's RBI single in the third that drove in Mora. In the fourth, Tony Batista gave them the lead again at 2-1 with a bases-empty home run off Todd Ritchie. Mora singled and advanced to third on a wild pickoff attempt in the seventh, and scored on Chris Singleton's sacrifice fly.

Manager Mike Hargrove then turned to his bullpen, which had looked so reliable even with the rest of the team struggling. Quietly, the Orioles relievers had compiled a streak of 24 2/3 scoreless innings, but when Roberts took the mound in the eighth, it was the team's first save situation of the year.

Roberts struck out Royce Clayton to start the inning, gesturing with a flexing motion as the Orioles threw the ball around the horn. But Lofton, who has five hits in the past two games, got things started again with a single to left field.

Next came Durham, and Roberts immediately compounded his problems with a wild pitch, which allowed Lofton to reach second. Durham then hit the ball toward Mora, who played left field the first eight games of the season and has since moved to second base in place of injured Jerry Hairston.

After bobbling the ball, Mora knew he had little chance of getting Durham at first. "I don't think so," he said, "because the guy can fly." But instinctively, he tried anyway.

Asked if it was a particularly tough play for Mora because he's not a regular second baseman, Hargrove said, "It's a tough play for anybody, a backhand play up the middle like that."

Sensing Roberts was on the ropes, the White Sox executed the hit-and-run, with Durham advancing to third on a single by Frank Thomas. Roberts struck out Magglio Ordonez for a big second out, but then came Konerko, who ended an 0-for-16 slump with a single to left.

After fouling off two two-strike pitches, Konerko hit a split-fingered fastball that Roberts had left high in the strike zone.

"That's what happens sometimes," said Roberts, who didn't allow a run in his first five appearances of the season. "Today, I made only one pitch bad."

So the Orioles were left with their eighth loss in their past nine games. And afterward, instead of letting Mora and Roberts wallow in their own misery, Erickson and Mike Bordick made it clear this team can share the blame.

"It's unfortunate that it worked out that way today when we had a chance to win the game, but that happens," Erickson said. "There's not a bullpen in the league that doesn't relinquish a couple wins here and there."

Bordick, who struck out to end the game against Foulke, saw his average fall to .129.

"We just need to get more offense, that's the bottom line," Bordick said. "Shoot, I really need some hits."

Orioles today

Opponent:Chicago White Sox

Site:Comiskey Park, Chicago

Time:2:05 p.m.

TV/Radio:Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters:Orioles' Calvin Maduro (0-1, 9.00) vs. White Sox's Dan Wright (1-0, 3.38)

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