Another six outs, and Johnny Oates would have had to wait out another winter to beat the Orioles. Another six outs, and the Orioles would have drawn within 3 1/2 games of the first-place Boston Red Sox, the Orioles' best standing since May 9.
Another six outs. But the Rangers scored two runs in the eighth against Jesse Orosco, the Orioles' Teflon reliever, ended their 10-game losing streak and broke the Orioles' four-game home rTC winning streak, 2-1, before 41,832 at Oriole Park.
Will Clark and Mickey Tettleton had run-scoring doubles in the eighth against Orosco (2-2), as Texas beat the Orioles for the first time this year in the teams' last meeting of the season.
"That was a tough one to lose," said Orioles manager Phil Regan. "We had our chances to score and simply did not capitalize."
The Orioles' really big hurt came in the sixth. They already had scored a run in that inning when they loaded the bases with nobody out, yet got nothing more from the rally, and that failure would haunt them and prevent Kevin Brown from picking up his first victory since June 2.
"It would've been nice if we could've beaten them," Brown said quietly.
The Rangers were down by that one run -- rather than three or four or five -- when Otis Nixon dumped a single to center leading off the eighth inning, on Brown's 119th pitch. Regan called on Orosco for the third time in three days.
Mark McLemore attempted to bunt Nixon to second, and Orosco struck him out. But Clark, who had faced Orosco four times in four games without success, pulled a hanging curveball to right for a double and Nixon scored the tying run.
"I threw him a breaking ball and it just didn't bite," said Orosco. "I don't know if I threw it too hard or what."
Tettleton pulled a double to left, scoring Clark, the first run charged to Orosco since June 24.
Brown sat on the bench and sweated, his arms crossed. For his good work, he had a no-decision.
In his first two starts since the All-Star break, Brown's fastball was mediocre. Not much bite or zing. But last night, his fastball fish-tailed like a bottle rocket, extraordinary movement. He would throw inside and the ball would nearly clip the knuckles of the hitter. He would throw outside and, on one occasion, the ball broke so much that catcher Greg Zaun flat missed it, a wild pitch.
Louisville Slugger or Adirondack or some other bat-maker should expect a call from the Rangers today because of Brown. Texas had as many broken bats (five) as hits (five) as they attempted, unsuccessfully, to fend off Brown's vicious sinking fastball. Brown didn't have his best velocity, but as pitching coach Mike Flanagan said, he had great location and movement.
He struck out two of the first four hitters he faced. The count ran to 2-2 on Rangers catcher Ivan Rodriguez with one out in the second inning, and Zaun ran out to the mound to discuss the situation. Somehow, they decided to throw a changeup to Rodriguez -- who had caught Brown for years -- and Rodriguez whacked a double down the left-field line.
No more of that. Brown stuck with his sinking fastball, and stuck it to the Rangers.
Brown shattered the bats of Rusty Greer and Jeff Frye, the first two hitters he faced after Rodriguez's double, and escaped that jam.
Mike Pagliarulo doubled off a low fastball to lead off the third, one of the few Brown fastballs that didn't explode with movement. Benji Gil advanced Pagliarulo with a sacrifice bunt, and the Orioles' infielders came in, attempting to choke off a run. Unusual strategy in the early innings, and it worked.
Nixon hit a chopper to second baseman Bret Barberie, who froze Pagliarulo at third before throwing to first. McLemore popped out to end the inning.
Brown broke Clark's bat in the fourth and got three ground-ball outs in the inning. He induced two more ground-ball outs in the fifth, escaping Pagliarulo's second double.
The Rangers stirred a bit in the sixth. Clark singled and Tettleton walked with one out, and Rodriguez hit a hard smash that staggered third baseman Leo Gomez. Gomez recovered, and he raced Clark to the bag. Clark actually beat Gomez to the base, but his front foot was raised, his spikes threatening. Gomez, undaunted, stepped on third for the second out. Greer flied out.
The Orioles took a 1-0 lead in the sixth, although they could have had much more.
Brady Anderson, facing Rangers starter Roger Pavlik, pulled a liner that skipped to the wall. When the ball took an unusual bounce off the fence, Anderson picked up speed and slid into third with his sixth triple, which ranks third in the league.
Barberie, batting left-handed against the right-hander Pavlik, slapped another liner, this to left field. McLemore mistimed his leap, landing and somersaulting, and the ball bounced to the wall. Anderson scored, and Barberie had a double and his eighth RBI in six games.
Rafael Palmeiro was hit by a pitch and Cal Ripken singled to load the bases. But Harold Baines struck out, a huge out for the Rangers.
"Anytime in that situation . . . you've got runners on base and Harold Baines at bat, and you get him to chase a bad pitch, it's a big out," Oates said.
Kevin Bass flied to short left (Barberie had no chance to tag and score) and Gomez flied to right. From all that, one run.
The Orioles had one last chance in the ninth, trailing by a run. Zaun singled to right against Texas closer Jeff Russell, and Jeff Huson pinch-ran for Zaun. Curtis Goodwin failed to get down a bunt on strike one, and when the count ran to 2-2, Huson spied in at catcher Rodriguez and saw him flick two fingers. A curveball.
With Russell slow to the plate anyway, Huson figured that with a curveball, he had a great chance to steal second. He lurched toward second, Russell's curveball stayed high -- something Huson hadn't figured on -- and Rodriguez, with a cannon arm, caught the ball chest high, in good position to throw. He gunned down Huson, shortstop Gil slapping the tag on Huson's back.
"To me, it's a good play," Regan said. "We're going to do that. We're going to be aggressive."
Good play or not, the out killed the inning, just one more lost chance for the Orioles.
Opponent: Chicago White Sox
Site: Oriole Park at Camden Yards
TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: White Sox's Wilson Alvarez (4-5, 4.74) vs. Orioles' Mike Mussina (11-5, 4.57)
Tickets: 500 remain