Orioles falter, then fall, 5-3

THE BALTIMORE SUN

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Body language can be powerful, and the unspoken signals emitting from Orioles pitcher Kevin Brown when manager Phil Regan came out to remove him last night made it abundantly clear he wanted to stay in the game.

But with one out in the sixth inning, Brown gave way to Arthur Rhodes, who gave up the lead and was the pitcher of record in the Orioles' 5-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals. The Orioles, who got their runs on three homers, didn't lose any ground in the AL East standings, remaining six games behind as first-place Boston lost to Minnesota.

"I was hoping he would just come out and talk strategy," Brown said quietly after the game, kicking gently at the base of his locker. "But it wasn't the case."

Brown, in his second start since coming off the disabled list, had cruised through the early innings, retiring the Royals 1-2-3 in the first and second innings. It wasn't until Brown walked Brent Mayne, hitting .199, with two outs in the third, that he got into trouble; that base on balls eventually cost him a run.

He shut out the Royals in the fourth and fifth innings. However, he would not get through the sixth. Vince Coleman hit an infield single that Cal Ripken smothered near second base. Then Tom Goodwin hit a one-hopper back to Brown, who turned to throw to second. But he hesitated for a moment, not sure if he was throwing to Ripken or second baseman Bret Barberie.

He threw to Barberie, as it turned out, but the moment's delay cost the Orioles a double play; Barberie's relay to first, a strained throw made off his back leg, was too late to get the speedy Goodwin.

Keith Lockhart singled to right, and Goodwin, bolting from first with the pitch on a run-and-hit, raced to third.

To this point, Brown had allowed five hits and a run in 5 1/3 innings, and had thrown 63 pitches. He has been, over the course of his career, someone who regularly pitches eight or nine innings, and he was surprised when Regan emerged from the Orioles' dugout.

When Regan has something to say to his pitcher, he will half-jog to the mound, speak his piece and leave. Regan stepped out of the dugout in the sixth inning. Slowly. A change was coming, with the left-hand hitting Wally Joyner coming to bat.

Brown, waiting on the mound, yelled out loud, and looked down, holding the ball at his side in his cupped hand. Regan reached the mound, hand outstretched. For just an instant, Brown held onto the ball, until Regan gave a little jerk of his wrist, asking for the ball.

Brown yelled again going into the dugout, and disappeared down the runway. He came back and sat on the bench to watch how Rhodes fared the rest of the inning.

Regan explained afterward that he had a number of reasons for making the change. First, Regan wanted a left-hander pitching to Joyner, batting approximately 100 points lower against lefties than righties this year. Second, Regan wanted a strikeout, hoping to keep Goodwin from scoring; Rhodes is more of a strikeout pitcher than Brown. Third, Rhodes has been pitching well in relief, having allowed just three hits and a run in 11 innings since being moved to the bullpen.

And lastly, the Royals lineup was loaded with left-handed hitters, as it had been on July 13, when Rhodes relieved Mike Mussina and shut down the Royals. "I'm looking at all those left-handed hitters in the lineup," Regan said. "That one [July 13] we did [get outs], and tonight, we didn't."

Rhodes bounced a pitch in the dirt to Joyner, and Goodwin scored and Lockhart advanced to second. Then Joyner struck out, and pinch hitter Gary Gaetti lined out to left, ending the inning. Brown waited to shake hands with Rhodes before going into the clubhouse.

Brown couldn't have been happy, though, with what happened in the seventh.

Jon Nunnally grounded to Ripken to open the inning, but Royals shortstop Greg Gagne mashed a long homer to left, far enough that Orioles left fielder Brady Anderson took several steps back toward the wall.

David Howard grounded out for the second out of the inning, and then Mayne singled. Three of the four hitters had swung at the first pitch; obviously, somebody had informed the Royals that Rhodes likes to throw his fastball early in the count.

Rhodes fell behind Coleman by throwing a ball, then came back with a low fastball. Coleman absolutely bashed it. Coleman trotted slowly to first, giving him the opportunity to see the ball fly over the left-field fence.

"I was surprised on Coleman," Rhodes said, "because I made a good pitch and he hit it. I made good pitches, and they hit them. The pitch to Coleman was inside and down, and Gagne hit a good pitch. . . . They just did their job tonight."

The two-run homer, Coleman's third homer of the year, gave the Royals a 5-3 lead, and somewhere in Kauffman Stadium, Brown was feeling royally blue.

"I would've liked to stay in there," he said, his tone even. "I guess he [Regan] didn't like the way things were progressing. . . . I don't know if it was because I wasn't throwing the ball well at that point and time, or what. I don't know if he didn't like the matchups, or what. There aren't too many times a starting pitcher wants to come out."

The Orioles had built a 3-1 lead with power. Greg Zaun, who had BTC driven in four runs on Friday night, followed that with a solo homer one out into the third inning. With two outs in the fourth, Harold Baines reached out and slammed a fastball, low and away, to left, over the opposite-field wall, Baines' 12th homer of -- '95. Then Leo Gomez homered.

The lead would change hands, however. From Brown to Rhodes.

HITS AND MISSES

On the field: Kevin Brown had the index finger of his right hand dislocated last month when he reached out and tried to knock down a liner by Boston's Troy O'Leary. Bob Hamelin smashed a grounder up the middle with one out in the fourth last night, and Brown reached down before jerking his hand back. Shortstop Cal Ripken gloved the ball behind second base, twirled and gunned down Hamelin at first.

In the dugout: The night after Bret Barberie had five RBIs and Leo Gomez had three hits, both were back in the lineup. It was the first time Barberie had back-to-back starts since June 3-4, against Oakland.

In the clubhouse: "I'm not a natural-born hitter. I was drafted because of what I do behind the plate. I think I'm a pretty good hitter. I've learned a little bit from everybody [among his coaches], to get to the point I'm at now." Greg Zaun, who is filling in for injured Chris Hoiles.

ORIOLES TONIGHT

Opponent: Kansas City Royals

Site: Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.

Time: 8:05

TV/Radio: ESPN/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Mike Mussina (10-5, 4.74) vs. Royals' Tom Gordon (6-6, 3.83)

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