KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It was like judging a Roseanne Barr look-alike contest.
When it was over, the Orioles didn't know or care which of their two wins was the ugliest. All that mattered was they had three wins within 24 hours over the Kansas City Royals.
In a weird doubleheader in which they scored a total of one run in the first five innings, the Orioles won a pair of wild ones here yesterday by scoring 19 late-inning runs. They overcame a four-run ninth-inning deficit to win the opener 11-8 in 10 innings, then blew a five-run advantage in the ninth inning of the nightcap before eventually winning 9-8.
"Everything that could happen did," said reliever Mark Williamson, one of four Orioles pitchers who appeared in both games.
"All I know is I left the hotel 15 hours ago," said manager John Oates, "and if we had lost it would seem like 30. When you win, the days don't seem as long."
This might have been the exception. The final out was recorded eight hours and 41 minutes after the first pitch was thrown on a day when only one game had been scheduled. Friday night's rainout assured the Orioles of a delayed departure for Cleveland, where they have an off day to reflect today, but nobody could have imagined the bizarre circumstances that set everything in motion.
First the Royals turned comfortable 5-0 and 8-4 leads into a nightmarish defeat when rookie manager Hal McRae went to his bullpen too early and too often. A grand slam by Chris Hoiles, hitless in his previous 14 at-bats and 5-for-37 in the last month, enabled the Orioles to tie the game in the ninth. Home runs by Tim Hulett and Brady Anderson won it in the 11th as Jeff Montgomery blew a save opportunity for the third straight time.
It seemed that little could top the first game, especially when the Orioles got three runs batted in from Juan Bell, a four-hit game from Randy Milligan and three more hits from Hoiles in the second game. But relief ace Gregg Olson not only squandered an 8-3 lead in the ninth inning, but faced a bases-loaded, one-out situation with the winning run on third base.
"I got caught up in the moment," said Olson. "I wasn't thinking about what I had to do to get the game over. I just got the ball and went right back to the [pitching] mound."
After relieving Williamson, who gave up two hits and a walk in the ninth to load the bases with none out, Olson gave up a two-run single to Danny Tartabull, a sacrifice fly to Warren Cromartie, three other singles, a couple of wild pitches and an intentional walk. At that point Olson probably realized he couldn't throw away any more uniforms, and settled down to eventually win his first game of the year.
Two appearances ago Olson failed to save a game on "Turn Back The Clock Day," throwing three wild pitches and committing an error, and promptly trashed the replica of the 1966 uniform he was wearing. "Before then I had no idea what was going on," Olson admitted of the early part of the ninth inning last night. "Then, after the score was tied, I just said to myself 'wait a minute, enough of this.' I thought about what I had to do to give us a chance to win."
David Segui got a force at home on Brian McRae's grounder and Kirk Gibson flied out to end the disastrous ninth inning. For the next two innings Olson dominated the Royals and Paul Kilgus recorded his first American League save after a walk to Cal Ripken and singles by Milligan and Joe Orsulak gave the Orioles the lead in the 12th.
Olson volunteered to pitch his fourth inning, but Oates wasn't biting. "I like my job too much and I told him 50 [pitches] was enough," said Oates. "He wanted to go back out there, but there was no way -- he probably hasn't thrown that many pitches since high school."
If Oates was wrung out by the strangest experience of his big-league managing career, he managed to hide it behind a happy facade. "I don't know what was the biggest surprise -- coming from five runs behind to win, or losing the five-run lead," he said.
"So many times this year we've come back and been one hit
short," he said. "This time we got over the hump."
The Orioles got over the first game hump primarily because of a risky move that resulted in a pinch-runner hitting a grand slam to tie the game. Hoiles had entered in the eighth as a pinch-runner after Sam Horn's double made the score 5-3. Little did anybody know the fun was just starting.
"That was a big run and I knew I was going to hit for Billy [Ripken], so I couldn't use Bell," said Oates. "I don't know if the difference [in speed between Hoiles and Horn] had anything to do with the run, but I figured Chris was two or three steps quicker and that might make the difference."
It made a difference all right -- an inning later when Hoiles faced Montgomery with the bases loaded. At that point he had a .198 average, and after he crushed a 2-and-0 fastball over the left-centerfield fence he matched his previous RBI total.
McRae had backed himself into a corner with Montgomery, having been forced to bring his stopper into the game in the eighth inning. He removed starter Kevin Appier with a 5-1 lead with two outs in the sixth, then pulled lefthander Mike Magnate after 1 1/3 scoreless innings because he wanted him available for the second game.
Magnate was available to give up four hits in one-third of an inning in the second game -- after Steve Crawford relieved him in the opener and gave up two doubles and a triple to set the stage for the Orioles' comeback.
Playing the second game before the first game was official may have cost McRae big time. After Montgomery concluded the eighth inning, he threw the long ball three times before mercifully being lifted by McRae.
"Right now he is our closer," McRae said of Montgomery. "He is in a little slump. You can't get down on him. He has 15 saves and all we can do is send him out there and ride it through.
"That wasn't the big game," McRae said after the Royals had blown the first one. "The one coming up is the big one."
Montgomery didn't surface in the "big one," but Crawford returned with similar results as the Orioles built the lead they would eventually blow themselves.
It was that kind of day-night. Hardly anybody could remember that Olson had saved a 1-0 win for Bob Milacki less than 24 hours earlier.
Oates wasn't about to judge, to him all three wins were equally beautiful. "All I know is we came in here and lost a 3-2 game in extra innings [Thursday night] and then won three straight from a team that just came off a 7-and-2 road trip," said Oates.