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Orosco is all but unhittable


When you continually face Will Clark in crucial situations, you have to expect to lose eventually.

That's true even for Orioles left-handed reliever Jesse Orosco, who had been nearly untouchable in his recent outings.

With the Orioles clinging to a one-run lead over the Texas Rangers in the eighth inning last night, Orosco was called on to face Clark with the tying run on first.

It was the third time this series and the fifth time this season that Orosco and Clark had met with the left-handed first baseman representing the tying or lead run.

Orosco retired Clark the first four times, but the slugger gained a measure of revenge last night by smashing a game-tying double to right field. Orosco then gave up a go-ahead double to Mickey Tettleton to take the loss.

"A guy like that, you're going to see him one at-bat in a game," said Clark, who is 4-for-14 (.286) lifetime against Orosco. "Sometimes he gets you. Sometimes you get him. Jesse and I have historically had some pretty good battles."

Before last night's setback, however, Orosco repeatedly had done his job in crucial situations.

It was only the second in 17 chances that Orosco has failed to hold a lead. The other time came in his first outing of the year, April 28 at Minnesota.

Orosco (2-2, 2.25, 35 strikeouts in 28 innings) had not allowed a run in his last 14 appearances (10 innings) and had given up runs in only five of 38 games this season.

He has allowed inherited runners to score in just five of the 23 games he has entered with men on base.

"It's been a good stretch for me," Orosco said. "I'm trying to keep the same tone and not get overly excited if I'm doing well. [Orioles manager Phil Regan] has defined my role real well."

That role is primarily to get out left-handed batters in tight situations. When Orosco was signed before the start of the season, however, there was some question as to how successful the 38-year-old reliever would be in that capacity.

But unlike recent years, Orosco is getting hitters out consistently from both sides of the plate.

Left-handers are hitting .170 (8-for-47, 19 strikeouts) off him and right-handers are batting .213 (10-for-47, 16 strikeouts).

Conversely, while Orosco was with the Milwaukee Brewers last season, lefties hit 68 points higher against him (.263 to .195).

Orosco, a former closer who saved 102 games with the New York Mets from 1983-87, was coming off a subpar 1994 season with the Brewers. He had a 5.08 ERA and was 0-for-3 in save opportunities.

And after a slow start with the Orioles, speculation arose about Orosco's future in the major leagues.

"The one thing is that I've never given up on myself," Orosco said. "I probably had better stuff when I was younger and I've pretty much kept the same speed on my fastball, but I've learned how to pitch now.

"I told my manager at the beginning of the season, 'Just don't give up on me, because I'm going to work real hard and get my stuff together.' "

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