ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Right-hander Rick Sutcliffe carried a shutout into the seventh inning last night, but the Orioles bullpen blew up in his face again.
Sutcliffe gave up a pinch-hit two-run homer in the seventh inning to make it a one-run game and the bullpen gave up four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to treat the California Angels to a 6-3 victory at Anaheim Stadium.
Right-hander Todd Frohwirth loaded the bases with none out in the eighth and left-hander Brad Pennington came on to walk in the tying run. Stopper Gregg Olson came on to try and hold it there, but Angels third baseman Damion Easley stroked a two-run single to right center with two out to break the game open. A third run scored on a throwing error by Harold Reynolds.
Sutcliffe has got to be wondering what the relievers have against him. He already has been the victim of three blown saves this year, or else he would be 8-2 right now and there would be speculation about a possible All-Star starting assignment.
He looked like he might get it done himself last night, but pinch hitter Torey Lovullo hit a two-out, two-run pinch homer in the seventh to break up the shutout. Frohwirth came on to start the eighth and walked the leadoff hitter, then gave up a base hit to Tim Salmon. Chili Davis walked to load the bases and bring Orioles manager Johnny Oates out of the dugout.
Pennington quickly fell behind 3-0 to rookie J.T. Snow, but fought back to fill the count before walking him to tie the game. Olson came on with one out to strike out former teammate Rene Gonzales, and had Easley down to his last strike before giving up the single.
Go figure. Going into the game, the Orioles bullpen led the American League with a 2.59 combined ERA. Frohwirth, Pennington and Olson all have been dependable of late. But the Angels just seem to have everything going their way right now.
Left-hander Mark Langston pitched eight innings and gave up three runs on five hits to improve his record to 5-1. He waited patiently until his teammates came through with a victory that moved them two games ahead of the second-place Chicago White Sox in the American League West.
Sutcliffe was coming off his worst start since April 27. He gave six runs (five earned) on seven hits over six innings against the New York Yankees on Tuesday night, but his good luck held and he recorded his fifth victory anyway. Last night, he was far more efficient, taking a shutout into the seventh inning, but things didn't work out quite so well.
He generally has gotten better run support than a couple of other members of the rotation with similar statistics -- Fernando Valenzuela and Ben McDonald -- but he didn't have that luxury last night, however. Langston has been the Angels' most overpowering pitcher and one of the most effective starters in the American League. He entered the game ranked fifth in the league with a 2.38 ERA and also stood among the top five in complete games (three) and strikeouts (63).
It was not the first time the Orioles had seen Langston this season. He worked six innings April 18 at Camden Yards, giving up two runs on eight hits in a game the Orioles would win after he left.
Langston seemed more in command last night, but he fell behind in the third inning on a leadoff home run by David Segui that barely cleared the left-field fence. It was Segui's second home run of the season, equaling his single-season high, and his first homer right-handed since July 1, 1991.
The Orioles managed just two other hits -- both singles -- over the first five innings, but they added a second run in the sixth on an RBI single by slumping Cal Ripken.
Oates has talked a lot this year about fundamentals and $H situational hitting, so he probably enjoyed the modest rally in the sixth. Catcher Jeff Tackett led off the inning with a single and Reynolds laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move him into scoring position. Tackett went to third on a groundout by Mark McLemore and scored when Ripken sliced a line drive into right field to end a 1-for-21 slump.
Ripken had spent part of the afternoon working in the batting cage with assistant general manager Frank Robinson. He recently changed his batting stance to pick up some power, but has watched his average continue to decline. Friday night, it dropped below .200 (.199) for the first time since April 19, 1992, but he pulled it back to .201 with the sixth-inning single last
The third Orioles run was a gift from an old friend. Former Oriole Gonzales, who had three hits the night before, made a throwing error that allowed Segui to score from first on a ground ball by Jack Voigt.