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 - As a pitcher who relies on pinpoint control, Orioles starter Josh Towers can't afford even the slightest mistake. He throws upward of 100 pitches every start, and the ones that miss often wind up in the outfield bleachers.

Home runs have killed Towers this season, and it happened again last night, as the Yankees used homers by Alfonso Soriano, Jorge Posada, Jason Giambi, Rondell White and Shane Spencer for a 7-1 victory before 27,912 at Yankee Stadium.

Towers gave up three of those home runs, and has now given up eight for the season in three starts. Little wonder he is 0-3.

If he could avoid those mistakes, he might be 3-0. Towers has given up 12 runs this season, and 11 of those have scored on home runs.

"It seems like no matter what, if I make one little mistake out there, they will crush it." Towers said. "I don't know why. Maybe it's because I'm not throwing enough off-speed. Maybe it's be cause I'm not knocking people off the plate enough. I don't know, they"re just hitting my mistakes every time."

That's little consolation for the Orioles, who fell to 2-4 on this 10-game road trip. Towers, Jason Johnson and Sidney Ponson - three twentysome thing pitchers the Orioles were counting on for big years - are a combined 0-7 with a 7.59 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.

The Orioles' lone run came on Jay Gibbons" fifth home run, which led off the sixth inning. Hernandez looked as if he'd be in for a short night, throwing 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.

Two pitches into the game, and the Yankees had their first run. Towers threw a first-pitch strike to Soriano, and then he hung a curveball, which Towers lined over the left-center-field fence.

It was Soriano's first career leadoff home run and the first for the Yankees since Derek Jeter did it on Aug. 18 against Seattle.

Towers settled down a bit for two innings, and then the Yankees added two runs in the fourth, as Giambi hit a leadoff 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.

Giambi, who signed seven- year, $120 million contract this off-season, has received some tough love from Yankees fans. He was booed loudly again Tuesday night, and came into this game riding a 1-for-13 slump.

But that changed in the sixth inning, as Giambi came up to lead off 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 Yankees 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. "When I hit it I didn't know if that was going to get out."

Willis Roberts allowed the final three runs in the eighth on White's two-run homer and Spencer's bases-empty shot.

Take away the long-ball mistakes, and Towers wasn't bad at all. He kept a low pitch count, throwing just 59 pitches through five innings. For the game, he allowed four runs on nine hits, walking two and striking out three.

When Towers gave up two home runs in Friday's loss at Chicago, Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said he wasn't concerned because Towers had just made two starts. If it kept happening, Hargrove said, then, yes, he would think about making a change. But after last night's outing, he suggested it was still too soon.

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

With the way Rodrigo Lopez and Rick Bauer have pitched in relief, Hargrove has the option of putting one of them in the rotation. Lopez has given up just one home run in 11 innings, and Bauer has pitched five innings without giving up a run.

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