Yankees push O's, Towers over deep end

Struggling starter falls to 0-3, allows three HRs in 7-1 loss to New York

Towers: 8 homers in 3 starts

Roberts also roughed up for two home runs in 8th

Gibbons hits fifth for O's

April 18, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - Three starts, eight mistakes, eight home runs.

Orioles pitcher Josh Towers had those numbers racing through his mind last night, after he took his own sad version of home run derby to Yankee Stadium.

Alfonso Soriano, gone. Jorge Posada, gone. Jason Giambi, gone.

Towers served up three more homers last night, giving him the major-league lead with eight, and the New York Yankees hit two more off Willis Roberts for good measure, rolling to a 7-1 victory.

"It seems like no matter what, if I make one little mistake it gets crushed," Towers said. "I don't know why. Maybe it's because I'm not throwing enough off-speed [pitches]. Maybe it's because I'm not knocking people off the plate enough. I don't know."

Towers fell to 0-3, but if he could avoid those mistakes, he might be 3-0. Of the 12 runs he has allowed, 11 have come via the long ball.

That's little consolation for the Orioles, who fell to 2-4 on this 10-game road trip. Towers, Jason Johnson and Sidney Ponson - the three under-30 pitchers the Orioles were counting on for big seasons - are now a combined 0-7 with a 6.52 ERA.

With the way Rodrigo Lopez and Rick Bauer have pitched in relief, Orioles manager Mike Hargrove has some options, but he ruled out the possibility of taking Towers out of the rotation this soon.

"It's real early in the game," Hargrove said, "and you certainly don't want to put the cart before the horse."

But Hargrove also offered a telling answer for why he didn't let Towers pitch the eighth inning. Towers had thrown just 91 pitches, and the Yankees led just 4-1.

"With Giambi and Posada and [Robin] Ventura coming up," Hargrove said, "I didn't feel that it was a good situation to let Josh face them four times."

One theory for why Towers is struggling is overexposure. He was the American League's rookie of the month when he went 5-1 last June, but he has since gone 2-11 with a 6.08 ERA.

Yankees starter Orlando Hernandez (2-1), another pitcher who relies on precision control, held the Orioles to one run on six hits through six innings. He looked like he was in for a short night, as he threw 69 pitches through the first three innings, but he kept pitching out of trouble.

The Orioles left two runners on base in each of those first three innings. For the game, they were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position. Steve Karsay pitched two innings of relief for the Yankees, and Mike Stanton pitched the ninth.

Rondell White and Shane Spencer padded the New York lead with back-to-back homers off Roberts in the eighth. The Orioles' lone run came on Jay Gibbons' fifth home run, which led off the sixth inning.

By that time Towers had already dug the Orioles a hole. With his second pitch of the game, he hung a curve ball that Soriano blistered over the left-center field fence. It was Soriano's third homer of the season and first leadoff homer of his career.

Towers settled down for three innings, but Giambi led off the fourth with a double and Posada followed with a two-run homer. That one came on a 1-0 pitch, as Posada turned on a fastball and crushed it deep into the center-field seats.

"If I make a mistake, they're hitting the ball over the fence," Towers said. "There ain't no doubles and there ain't no triples. It's going yard.

"If that's going to be the case, I should just throw the ball to the backstop or something. I wish I knew when it going to happen because I would do that, bounce it or something."

Towers handed Giambi his first really sweet New York moment. After signing a seven-year, $120 million contract, Giambi has received some tough love from Yankees fans. He was booed loudly Tuesday night, and came into this game riding a 1-for-13 slump.

But that changed as Giambi led off the sixth inning and Towers fell behind in the count 3-0. After throwing a fastball for a strike, Towers left another one letter high, and Giambi hit a towering homer just over the right-field wall for a 4-1 Yankees lead.

The New York fans were so excited, they kept cheering until Giambi came out for a curtain call.

"Thank God, it was a short right field," Giambi said. "I hit that one high, and I didn't know if that was going to get out."

Asked if that was a home run in Oakland, Giambi said, "That was a can of [crap] in Oakland."

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