Sierra's 7 RBIs drive Yankees past O's, 11-4

THE BALTIMORE SUN

NEW YORK -- Orioles manager Phil Regan said Sunday that his team has played pretty well of late, losing only because of a few bad innings. But when bad innings are becoming characteristic, there's a problem.

The Orioles: Bad innings are us.

The Orioles led 2-0 in the sixth inning last night, rookie Rick Krivda actually beating David Cone, actually shutting out the New York Yankees, and then the Orioles had a couple of those bad innings. The final: New York 11, Orioles 4. Manager Phil Regan wasn't around to see the end, having been ejected for the first time this year.

The Orioles are 10 games out of first place in the AL East for the first time this year.

With a three-run homer, three-run double and RBI single, Yankees designated hitter Ruben Sierra drove in seven runs for the Yankees. Seven. The Orioles haven't scored seven runs in a game since last Tuesday, when they scored 10 against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Remember, they lost that game, too. Bad inning.

"It seems like we had one bad inning," said right fielder Bobby Bonilla, "and the floodgates opened."

The Orioles had one good inning, the sixth, when they took a 2-0 lead.

With one out, third baseman Jeff Huson singled to right, and Brady Anderson stepped to the plate, 6-for-18 against Cone in his career. He had grounded out weakly in his first two at-bats; almost all the Orioles had looked horrible to that point. But on a 1-1 pitch, Cone tried slipping a low fastball past Anderson.

No go. Anderson mashed a two-run shot to right, his first homer in almost a month.

The Orioles stayed on the attack. After Bret Barberie flied to left, Rafael Palmeiro lifted a skyscraper fly toward the right-field corner. Yankees right fielder Paul O'Neill ran back to the wall, felt TTTC for the padding. But he had overrun the ball, which hit the wall slightly behind him. Palmeiro, running almost all the way, slid into third with a triple.

Cone pitched around Bonilla, walking the slugger on four pitches, to face Cal Ripken, 2-for-17 lifetime against the Yankees right-hander.

Ripken slapped a hard grounder up the middle, where second baseman Randy Velarde was positioned. He looked to flip to second for the force on Bonilla. Problem: Shortstop Tony Fernandez wasn't at the bag. Velarde had to throw to first, off his back foot, and the ball short-hopped to first baseman Don Mattingly. Replay would show that Ripken beat the throw by a half-step.

But first base umpire Greg Kosc, who had missed a critical call in the middle of the Yankees' three-run rally Monday, called Ripken out, and the Orioles went ballistic. Ripken screamed at Kosc -- There's no way! There's no way! -- and Regan, charging out of the dugout, took up the fight. With his first utterance to Kosc, Regan was ejected.

Regan went chest-to-chest with Kosc, leaning against the umpire and screaming, until Kosc put both his hands on Regan's chest. Regan knocked Kosc's hands down and yelled, "Don't push me." Kosc put his hands on Regan's chest again, and again Regan pushed them down. "Don't push me," he yelled.

The missed call, Regan said, "was an important part of the game. Just like last night, an important part of the game. But I'm not saying that's the reason why we lost."

The Orioles led 2-0, but things changed quickly. "To that point," Regan said, "we were playing a good ballgame."

Krivda had baffled the Yankees the first two times through the batting order, but the third time around, they got him. Wade Boggs grounded a one-out single past second baseman Barberie, and then Krivda hit Bernie Williams with a pitch.

O'Neill flied to right. Two outs. But Krivda fell behind Sierra two balls and no strikes. Krivda had to throw Sierra a strike. Sierra crushed it, a three-run homer into the Yankees bullpen in left-center field, one of the deepest parts of one of the bigger parks in baseball.

Mike Stanley singled, and was replaced by pinch runner Jim Leyritz because of a bruised foot. Mattingly nearly hit a homer, but the ball went foul -- Krivda was tiring and fooling nobody by this point -- and then lined a double into the left-field corner. The relay from Kevin Bass to Ripken to catcher Chris Hoiles barely got Leyritz as he tried bulling his way to the plate.

But the Yankees continued the onslaught in the seventh, against the Orioles bullpen. Armando Benitez in. Two walks. Benitez out, Mark Lee in. Walk and a two-run double by Bernie Williams. Lee out, Jesse Orosco in. O'Neill walked. Sierra doubled in to the left-field corner, three more runs. Yankees 8, Orioles 2.

The damage was done, a big hurt for a team that has struggled for runs for two weeks and had struggled early against Cone.

Cone would take his time to warm up between innings, and as soon as a hitter stepped in the box he pitched with the alacrity of a court reporter. Catch and fire.

He struck out three Orioles in the second inning: Bonilla on an inside breaking pitch, Ripken on a slider away, Harold Baines with a fastball that seemed to submerge as it neared the plate. An army of Coneheads stood in the upper deck in left field and did whatever it is that Coneheads do when they're happy.

With one out in the third, Bass slapped a single through the left side of the infield. The no-hit drama was over, and for the Orioles, hitting .169 in the six games before last night's and facing Cone, this was a genuine rally. An opportunity, perhaps, to put a runner in motion.

Cone sensed this and threw nimbly to first a half-dozen times, Bass belly-flopping back into first. Cone struck out Huson on a breaking pitch in the dirt.

The Orioles needed two more singles or an extra-base hit, with two outs, and the way Cone was pitching, a lot to ask. So, with Anderson at the plate, Bass bolted for second, and the throw from catcher Stanley sailed into center field. Bass got up and hustled to third.

The Orioles needed anything. Base hit, wild pitch, error. Or an infield hit. And Anderson chopped a grounder in front of home plate. Bass scrambled toward the plate, Anderson sprinted up the line, Cone hustled off the mound to get the ball. Three-man race, and Cone won, picking up the ball and whipping a throw to first.

HITS AND MISSES

On the field: Rick Krivda got out of a first-inning jam with the aid of an unusual play. With runners at first and second and one out, Ruben Sierra hit a broken-bat blooper to right. Both runners froze as they waited to see if Bobby Bonilla would catch the ball. He did -- on the hop, and fired sidearm to Cal Ripken at second for a force play on Paul O'Neill. Bonilla might've been more comfortable throwing quickly from that angle because of his experience fielding bunts as a third baseman.

In the dugout: New York manager Buck Showalter gave Darryl Strawberry the night off against left-hander Krivda, using Sierra as his designated hitter, Gerald Williams in left and O'Neill in right.

In the clubhouse: "He seems pretty cool to me. He seems to have a lot of poise. He doesn't seem to be overwhelmed by the major leagues." -- Orioles manager Phil Regan, on rookie Krivda

ORIOLES TODAY

Opponent: New York Yankees

Site: Yankee Stadium, New York

Time: 1:05

TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Jamie Moyer (6-4, 4.38) vs. Yankees' Scott Kamieniecki (3-2, 4.45)

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