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O's find strange way to go down swinging Wacky loss opens door as Blue Jays retake 1st


About the only weird thing not to happen to the Orioles yesterday at Camden Yards was that they failed to repeat the three-men-on-the-same-base trick they pulled off back in April.

In a wild, roller-coaster afternoon during which Gregg Olson became the first Orioles pitcher to bat in a regular-season game since the designated hitter rule went into effect 20 years ago, the Orioles wound up losing to the Kansas City Royals, 8-6, before a sellout crowd of 46,216.

It seemed fitting that the game was decided by two players who reversed their recent roles. Olson, who had been untouchable for nearly two months, gave up a two-out, two-run single in the ninth inning to Felix Jose, who hadn't had an RBI in his previous 62 at-bats.

The Orioles came into the game leading the American League East by a half-game. The New York Yankees, who were tied for second with Toronto, lost to the Seattle Mariners, 10-3, but last night the Blue Jays defeated the Chicago White Sox, 4-1, to reclaim first place.

"It seemed like it lasted about seven hours," Orioles manager Johnny Oates said of the game after his team's three-game winning streak ended. "I can't even remember the first two or three innings. Did Mussina pitch today or yesterday? It was one of those ballgames where there were lots of things going on out there."

It began with the Orioles scoring a run in the first without the benefit of a base hit -- something they would do again in the fifth to close their deficit to 4-3 -- and ended with Olson (0-2) failing to save a game for the first time since May 27, a stretch of 16 straight save opportunities. Jeff Montgomery picked up his league-leading 28th save for the Royals.

Among the more notable things that happened in between:

* Red-hot Chris Hoiles was walked intentionally with two out in the first inning.

* Cal Ripken hit his 14th home run of the season, off Royals starter Chris Haney leading off the fourth, but the Orioles failed to score after loading the bases with nobody out.

* Starting pitcher Mike Mussina was pulled because of a stiff back after five innings with the Orioles trailing 4-3. Mussina was scuffed around for four runs and eight hits, but he seemed to be getting on track when he was replaced by Alan Mills.

* Oates pinch-hit for catcher Jeff Tackett in the sixth inning with Brady Anderson, then burned his designated hitter by moving Hoiles to catcher. Though Anderson lined out, Mark McLemore singled in two runs for a 5-4 lead.

* Royals manager Hal McRae, after several heated discussions with plate umpire Tim Welke, was tossed after questioning a ball-strike call in the seventh inning. It was the fifth time McRae had been ejected.

* The Royals went ahead in the eighth on a 1-2, checked-swing, infield single by pinch hitter Hubie Brooks against Olson that produced two runs. Brooks barely beat the throw from Ripken deep in the hole at short, but Greg Gagne clearly beat David Segui's relay after Brent Mayne scored the tying run. The runners were put in scoring position on a wild pitch by Olson.

* Oates went to Olson in the eighth, when his only alternatives were Mark Williamson, who had given up two runs in the ninth inning of Monday night's rain-delayed marathon, and Brad Pennington, who had pitched just once in the past 12 days. He knew Olson would have to bat, but he also expected his ace closer to get out of the eighth with the lead intact.

* In the bottom of the inning, on reliever Billy Brewer's first pitch, Segui tied the score with a homer to left-center. Brewer then struck out the side, including Olson, who became the first Orioles pitcher to bat in a regular-season game since Grant Jackson on Oct. 2, 1972.

"It was an exhausting game," said center fielder Mike Devereaux, whose misplay of what turned into a fifth-inning triple by Chris Gwynn turned out to be long forgotten. "When the sun came out, it got really hot. There's also a difference playing a day game after a night game, whether there's a lot of runs scored or not."

Said Olson: "It was one of those days when I couldn't get my mind into a routine. It's tough to explain. When everything's going good, there's such a feeling that this is the pitch. Today, it was like a complete fog."

When the fog lifted, the Orioles were leaving Camden Yards for a six-game road trip that begins with a four-game set starting tonight in Minnesota and concluding with a two-game series that opens Tuesday in Toronto.

The Orioles were able to maintain their perspective. After all, it was only the second defeat in six games since the All-Star break, their fourth in the past 13 games. The Orioles are 11-1-2 in their past 14 series.

"I guess it's good when you win two out of three and you're a little bit disappointed," said Ripken, who made his 11th error of the season. "Things have been going good. We had a chance to win this game, but Kansas City kept battling back. They wanted to win just as badly as we did."

Said pitcher Rick Sutcliffe, who will start tonight's game in Minnesota: "It's like a -- to the finish. Every game is big, and we've got to continue to play well. To me, a lot of good things are going on."

0 And weird things. An afternoon full of them.


Here's why Gregg Olson came to bat in the eighth inning of

yesterday's game -- the first at-bat by an Orioles pitcher in a regular-season game since 1972, the year before the inception of the designated hitter rule.

When manager Johnny Oates chose to pinch hit for catcher Jeff Tackett in the sixth inning, it meant that Chris Hoiles, the only other catcher on the roster, had to give up his DH role and become the catcher. The correct term for the DH is "designated hitter for the pitcher." If the DH is inserted into the lineup in any other role, the pitcher must assume a spot in the batting order.

Brady Anderson, who hit for Tackett, stayed in the game and played left field. The pitcher's spot became the leadoff spot in the batting order when Oates removed second baseman Harold Reynolds at the end of the sixth inning.

With a one-run lead at the time Olson entered the game, Oates opted to keep his defense intact. Even though he had two relievers (Brad Pennington and Mark Williamson) and three pinch hitters (Harold Baines, Jack Voigt and Damon Buford) available, Oates decided to let Olson hit because the score was tied, and because it allowed him to keep his closer in the game.

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