Nearly no-hit, 0's drop 10th in a row, 7-1

Rangers' trio takes bid into ninth, but Hairston triples to open inning

Starter ejected after 2 pitches

Fresh start at home isn't as Stephens rocked early

September 04, 2002|By JOE CHRISTENSEN | JOE CHRISTENSEN,SUN STAFF

Texas Rangers starter Aaron Myette was ejected after throwing just two pitches last night, and by the time the game ended, the Orioles were the ones with the reddest faces.

Myette almost went into the record books for combining on a no-hitter.

The free-failing Orioles not only saw their losing streak reach 10 games, but also didn't have a hit until Jerry Hairston led off the ninth inning with a triple against Rangers reliever Joaquin Benoit.

So the Orioles avoided a little extra embarrassment, but they couldn't avoid a 7-1 loss before 29,248 at Camden Yards.

At 10 games, the Orioles matched their longest losing streak since they lost 21 games to start the 1988 season. It's the 10th time in franchise history the Orioles have had a losing streak of 10 games or more. They also had a 10-game skid last September, but that was different.

That streak didn't threaten to diminish about five months of positive developments the way this one has. After dropping three straight at Texas and Anaheim, the Orioles returned home and had Labor Day off. There was a sense before last night's game that this could be a fresh start.

"You can't let nine losses derail you," Orioles vice president for baseball operations Syd Thrift said as the team took batting practice. "[Twelve] days ago, we were 63-63. That wasn't an accident. I would say the talent exceeds the record right now. Our foundation remains stronger than ever."

But a team that looked like it might blossom in September is wilting, and wilting fast.

Last night marked the third time in four games that the Orioles recorded 16 outs before they recorded a hit. Angels pitchers Mickey Callaway and Ramon Ortiz held the Orioles without a hit for 5 1/3 innings on Friday and Saturday night, respectively.

In both cases, Geronlmo Gil got the Orioles' first base hit with one out in the sixth inning.

This time, the opposing pitcher didn't even make it past one batter.

Before the game, the umpires warned both teams that the commissioner's office had alerted them to some potential bad blood from when the two teams met last week in Texas.

On Thursday night, Orioles pitcher Travis Driskill hit Rafael Palmeiro with a pitch, and the next inning, Myette came back and threw behind Chris Richard. Nothing came of it that night, but this time the umpires were on the lookout for trouble.

With two outs in the first inning, Orioles starter John Stephens hit Alex Rodriguez in the shoulder with an 84-mph fast-ball. That came with an 0-2 count, and Stevens said the pitch simply got away.

"I get real tired of people misunderstanding," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "We didn't have any reason to hit [Rodriguez]. I don't know where that comes from."

But Myette came out and threw his first two pitches behind Orioles leadoff hitter Melvin Mora, prompting home plate umpire Mark Hirschbeck to eject him, without warning.

Rangers manager Jerry Narron argued the decision, to no avail.

"I don't know exactly what came from the league office, but there was supposedly some bad blood from our last series," Narron said. "it's [Hirschbeck's] discretion. He thought Myette did it Intentionally."

Hargrove said the original umpires' warnings "came as a complete surprise to me."

Texas reliever Todd Van Poppel relieved Myette and struck out five batters in two Innings. Then the Rangers turned to Benoit, who was supposed to start tonight's game, and wound up pitching seven innings for the longest save in major-league history.

Before Hairston hit his triple, the Orioles only had one play that was even close to being a hit. Mora led off the sixth inning with a hard grounder down the third base line, but Herbert Perry made a backhanded stop and fired across the diamond for the out.

"I was just trying to do my job and throw strikes and get people out," Benoit said. "I really didn't think about [the no-hitter]. If it's going to happen, It's going to happen. If you get too excited, you might blow it."

Hairston scored the Orioles' lone run on a grounder to second base by Richard.

"I think it was a combination of things," Hairston said. "[Benoit] had good stuff, and we'd been struggling a little bit as a team. We've got to get going. Hitting is contagious and not hitting is contagious. Hopefully, we'll break out in a big way soon."

Narron said Myette will come back and start tonight's game.

"Not much to talk about," Myette said of the pitches that went near Mora. "I pitch inside. Balls got away. I've never had perfect control."

Stephens went five innings, allowing four runs on six hits, and then Hargrove turned to Driskill, who made his first relief appearance since May 21. Perry hit Driskill's first pitch into the left-field seats, giving the Rangers 21 consecutive games with a home run.

The Orioles, for comparison, have hit a home run in just five of these past 10 games.

After the game, Hargrove chose not to hold another team meeting.

"We've already had three meetings [during the streak]," Hargrove said. "I don't know that another one does much good. We might have one [today]. But I know if I was out there, I wouldn't want to sit through another one [last night]."

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