KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Baltimore Orioles continued their descent into baseball purgatory last night, losing a close one to the Kansas City Royals and losing one of their most effective pitchers in the process.
Reliever Mark Williamson was hit on the right forearm by a line drive in the seventh inning of the Orioles' 3-2, extra-inning loss at Royals Stadium. X-rays were negative, but he left the field in obvious pain and figures to be sidelined for at least the next several days.
It was just another in a series of setbacks for the Orioles, who lost their third straight game on a 10th-inning RBI single by Royals outfielder Brian McRae that sent reliever Todd Frohwirth to his first defeat of 1991.
Williamson was taken to nearby St. Luke's Hospital for X-rays, the results of which were announced by Orioles trainer Richie Bancells after the game.
"It's a bad bruise," Bancells said. "It hit him on the right ulna [bone]. It's a bad bruise in a bad place for a pitcher."
Manager John Oates expressed hope that Williamson would not be out of action long, but had to concede that it might be a while before he is back in the bullpen.
"I'm sure he's going to be pretty sore," Oates said. "We're just going to have to wait and see."
Williamson seemed relieved that there was no fracture, but said that the disabled list is not out of the question yet.
"You never know," he said. "The doctor said that it depends on how bad it is. The area where it hit plays a vital role in the way I pitch."
The line drive off the bat of Royals infielder Terry Shumpert hit Williamson squarely on the arm. He dropped to his knees to retrieve the ball, but apparently could not get a grip on it with his right hand. After he got to his feet, he pointed to his forearm and told Bancells, "I broke it."
"I thought it was broken," Williamson said. "It hurt a lot worse than when I broke my finger. I heard the smack of ball hitting bone and I couldn't open my hand or close it. That isn't a very good sign."
It was not broken, but it was the latest in a series of injuries that have hampered Williamson over the past two years. He opened the 1990 season on the disabled list with a hip strain and spent the final six weeks on the sidelines with a broken finger on his pitching hand. He overcame a groin-muscle injury earlier this season to build a 22 2/3 -inning streak in which he has allowed just one earned run.
Williamson entered the game in relief of starter Jeff Ballard, who had given up just two runs over 6 1/3 innings in a pitching duel with former Oriole Mike Boddicker.
The Royals had just taken a 2-1 lead on back-to-back doubles by Kevin Seitzer and Carmelo Martinez, but the Orioles would come back to tie the game in the top of the eighth on an RBI single by Joe Orsulak.
Ballard has been one of the most consistent pitchers in a very inconsistent starting rotation, but he does not have a lot to show for a string of six starts in which he has pitched less than six innings only once.
He is just 2-1 over that period, which stretches back to his lone bullpen appearance of the year, a May 20 emergency relief outing that could have been a date with disaster.
Ballard still is feeling the effects of that 3 2/3 -inning appearance against the Detroit Tigers, which came just one day after he had been knocked around in the early innings of a starting assignment against the California Angels.
His left shoulder has been bothering him ever since, but it apparently has not been painful enough to affect his performance. He has been able to keep the soreness under control with anti-inflammatory medication and over-the-counter painkillers.
"It obviously isn't something that will keep me out of the rotation," Ballard said. "I'm monitoring it, making sure it does not get any worse."
The Royals managed just two hits off him through the first four innings, finally breaking a scoreless tie in the fifth when Carmelo Martinez pulled a curveball into the left-field bleachers for a bases-empty home run.
It was Martinez's fourth home run of the season and the 10th homer that Ballard has surrendered in his 15 starts. He leads the Orioles in that dubious department.
Boddicker was even more efficient, giving up just five hits over seven innings in his eighth career start against his former teammates.
The Orioles are never very happy to see him, unless it's for an evening of reminiscing about the 1983 World Series. Since the Orioles traded him to the Boston Red Sox in 1988, Boddicker has a 5-1 record against them.
The Royals were coming off a 7-2 road trip that began with a resounding three-game sweep at Memorial Stadium. They outscored the Orioles 26-12 in that series and went on to hit a combined .325 and average 8.8 runs per game on the trip.
Ballard quieted them considerably, but not enough to overcome a toothless performance by the Orioles offense, which had averaged nearly seven runs in the previous five games.
He worked into the seventh again last night, but needed a looping RBI single by Bob Melvin with two out just to get even with Boddicker.
* Orioles-Royals scoring Royals fifth: Martinez homered down the left field line on 1-1 count. Stillwell singled to right. Shumpert flied out to right fielder Orsulak. McRae lined into double play, first baseman Milligan unassisted. 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 0 left on. Royals 1, Orioles 0.
Orioles seventh: Orsulak singled to center. Gomez flied out to right fielder Tartabull. Milligan flied out to right fielder Tartabull. JTC Horn hit by pitch, Orsulak to second. Melvin singled to left, Orsulak scored, Horn to second. B.Ripken grounded out to pitcher Boddicker. 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 2 left on. Orioles 1, Royals 1.
Royals seventh: Macfarlane lined out to left fielder Anderson. Seitzer doubled to left. Martinez doubled down the left field line, Seitzer scored. Williamson relieved Ballard. Stillwell lined out to center fielder Devereaux. Shumpert singled to pitcher, Martinez to third. Hickey relieved Williamson. McRae flied out to center fielder Devereaux. 1 run, 3 hits, 0 errors, 2 left on. Royals 2, Orioles 1.
Orioles eighth: Montgomery pitching. Devereaux singled to center. Anderson sacrificed, first baseman Martinez to second baseman Shumpert, Devereaux to second. C.Ripken grounded out to third baseman Seitzer. Orsulak singled to center, Devereaux scored. Gomez grounded into fielder's choice, third baseman Seitzer to second baseman Shumpert, Orsulak forced at second. 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 1 left on. Orioles 2, Royals 2.
Royals 10th: Hulett to second base, batting 9th. Stillwell walked. Shumpert sacrificed, pitcher Frohwirth to second baseman Hulett, Stillwell to second. McRae singled down the left field line, Stillwell scored. 1 run, 1 hit, 0 errors, 1 left on. Royals 3, Orioles 2.