Smith doesn't take turn for worse just because his 0-and-2 pitch did


Lee Smith knew he did not throw his 0-and-2 pitch to Oakland slugger Mark McGwire in the right place.

"I didn't want it in the bullpen," Smith said. That's where it landed. Smith threw McGwire a cut fastball intended for the outside corner, but the pitch broke back over the heart of the plate.

McGwire's two-run shot gave the Athletics a 5-4, ninth-inning victory, and it prevented the Orioles from taking possession of first place heading into the All-Star break.

Smith was not about to let the pitch ruin his day.

"I'm not going to be jumping off the Bay Bridge because the guy hit a home run off me," Smith said.

It definitely will not ruin his season. Smith's 29 saves are one shy of his personal best for the first half. Yesterday was Smith's first blown save since June 14 and only his fourth of the year.

The all-time saves leader is making his first American League appearance in tomorrow's All-Star Game.

That's the last time McGwire remembered facing him, in the 1987 midsummer classic. McGwire was 0-for-5 lifetime against Smith, but the A's first baseman found his pitch at the end of yesterday's game.

"He has a cross-seam fastball. He threw two nasty pitches to me to get ahead," McGwire said. "I just tried to put the bat on the ball."

Smith made no excuses about the pitch. Having appeared in only three games during the 10-game homestand, Smith said it was not a matter of being physically tired before the break.

"That's probably my best fastball," Smith said. "I'm sure Mark thinks so, too."

The home run prevented the Orioles from heading into the All-Star break in first place, or in the fourth playoff spot, for that matter.

Smith is not overly concerned.

"For myself, it really doesn't matter if we're in first place [at the All- Star break]," Smith said. "We're probably going to be going back and forth for the rest of the season."

Smith will be there for the Orioles, according to former Chicago Cubs teammate and fellow closer Dennis Eckersley. "Lee's in his own world. He's been doing it forever. He'll have more saves than anybody, ever. It will be hard for anybody to catch him," said Eckersley, who notched his 15th save yesterday and is sixth on the all-time list.

"I played with him when I was a starter in Chicago. He's always been awesome."

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