KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Orioles manager Davey Johnson is a half-full kind of guy, choosing to focus on the positive.
If he were the half-empty sort, he might rant and rave about how David Wells gave up five runs to the Royals in the first inning last night, right after the Orioles scored three. But as a half-full optimist, Johnson can take heart in the fact that Wells showed some heart, came back and lasted eight innings.
However, Wells was long gone in the 16th inning, when Mike Macfarlane's sacrifice fly scored David Howard to give the Royals a 7-6 victory over the Orioles in the longest major-league game of the year, by innings. Royals reliever Mike Magnante allowed just one hit in 5 1/3 innings to get the win.
Howard, in his seventh plate appearance, led off the Royals' half of the 16th against Rick Krivda, the Orioles' sixth pitcher. He lined a ball into the right-field corner, and by the time Bobby Bonilla dug it out and threw back to the infield, Howard was going into third with a headfirst dive.
"He threw me a curveball," said Howard. "I was looking off-speed."
Jose Offerman, who had struck out four times and in each of his last three at-bats, grounded to third. B. J. Surhoff went to his knees to knock the ball down, look Howard back to third and throw to first. Krivda intentionally walked Joe Randa to face the left-handed-hitting Keith Lockhart, but Macfarlane pinch-hit for Lockhart.
Macfarlane hit a 2-1 pitch to medium-deep left field, and Jeffrey Hammonds' throw home wasn't even close. The Orioles appealed to third, saying that Howard left early, but their appeal was denied.
The Orioles are 35-29 and two games behind the New York Yankees in the AL East.
The Orioles trailed 5-4 after eight innings, but Royals closer Jeff Montgomery, successful in 16 of 20 save chances, hit Roberto Alomar with a pitch leading off the ninth. Montgomery threw a sinker that didn't sink to Cal Ripken, and Ripken pulled it down the third-base line and into the corner, a double. Alomar stopped at third.
First baseman Offerman and third baseman Randa came in before Montgomery pitched to Rafael Palmeiro, in an effort to cut off the run at the plate. Palmeiro, with 10 hits in his last 13 at-bats with runners in scoring position, ran the count to 2-2 before pulling a slow grounder toward the first-base hole. Offerman backhanded the grounder and looked at Alomar, who stood, frozen, some 30 feet from third base. Offerman turned to run to first, to step on the bag, and Alomar broke -- having outsmarted Offerman -- and scored the tying run without a throw home. Ripken stayed at second.
Bobby Bonilla struck out, but Surhoff drove a double over the head of left fielder Tom Goodwin, and Ripken scored.
Wells tried to persuade Johnson to let him pitch the ninth, but Johnson went with Randy Myers. Like Montgomery, the Orioles' closer blew the save. The Royals had runners at first and third with two out, no runs in, and Randa hit a liner toward the right-field corner. Bonilla hustled over and reached out, keeping the ball from bouncing into the corner. Sal Fasano had scored the tying run, but Bonilla's play gave the Orioles a shot at throwing out Howard, the potential winning run.
Bonilla threw to cut-off man Alomar, who whirled and fired to catcher Gregg Zaun, who was waiting to tag Howard out. The game went into extra innings, Wells' chance for victory gone.
But Wells, who threw seven shutout innings after his first-inning disaster, said he would derive a positive out of this start. "It was a great comeback," Wells said. "I just had to bear down. I didn't want to come out of this game early. You try everything you can.
"Yes. It'll go into my next game, for sure, coming back from that bad inning. It's a good sign. It's a positive."
Last Monday, Wells pitched shutout ball against the Detroit Tigers two outs into the fifth inning. One out into the sixth, he was exhausted and out of the game. The next day, Orioles pitching coach Pat Dobson changed the running program, taking all of the pitchers to the outfield to monitor their sprints; the target of Dobson's concern couldn't have been more obvious.
But a few days of running wouldn't prepare Wells for the conditions at Kauffman Stadium last night. The cold spring has turned into the hot summer in Kansas City, 84 degrees and muggy.
The worst imaginable fate for Wells in the first inning, after his lousy efforts against in two of his last three starts, after the Orioles posted three runs in the top of the first, was for the Royals to come right back and score a bunch.
It happened. Five runs, just like that.
"I felt incredible out there warming up," Wells said. "I told [Dobson], I got my stuff back. My mechanics and control felt great. I should've stayed out there until the second inning. The first inning, they hit every pitch. . . . I was stunned."
But Wells did not quit, as his former manager Sparky Anderson thought he did in California two weeks ago. He did not fall apart, as he did in Detroit. Believe it or not, Wells would complete eight innings for the first time since May 7.
After his miserable first inning, he began changing speeds extremely well. Time and again, Kansas City hitters were way out in front of his changeup or curve, and as a result, Wells generated lots of easy fly balls and pop outs. No more than one Kansas City hitter reached base in any inning after the first.
Johnson looked exhausted when he met reporters after the game, but in spite of the loss, he had a smile on his face. Mike Mussina pitched a great game Friday, and Wells battled back to pitch seven good innings last night.
Opponent: Kansas City Royals
Site: Kauffman Stadium
Time: 8: 05
TV/Radio: ESPN/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Rocky Coppinger (1-0, 7.20) vs. Royals' Tim Belcher (6-2, 4.41)
Pub Date: 6/16/96