Having tried and failed the conventional method of scoring runs -- that is to say, swinging bats and making contact -- the Orioles last night resorted to a secret weapon employed by Little League coaches worldwide. It's called the Five-Walk Rally. No hits, no errors, just walks, and with it, the Orioles scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth to beat Milwaukee, 4-3.
Camden Yards came alive as it happened, as if 44,241 Little League parents gathered to proudly cheer their boys beat a team from the neighboring county.
For nine straight games before last night, the Orioles hit two or more homers, but they managed just two hits against the Brewers, matching their season low. "Not hitting a home run and getting only two hits," said manager Davey Johnson, smiling. "That's the Oriole way."
Riding their unconventional attack, the Orioles pulled to within 7 1/2 games of the New York Yankees. The Orioles have made up 4 1/2 games in the past 16 days.
For seven innings, the Orioles looked like 10-year-olds trying to hit Milwaukee left-hander Scott Karl, who played the role of a 12-year-old who hit puberty early.
A week ago the Orioles inflated Karl's ERA by scoring 10 runs on 12 hits in 6 2/3 innings in a 12-2 thrashing in Milwaukee. But last night, Karl returned the favor and shut down the Orioles, allowing a single to Rafael Palmeiro in the first and a single to Chris Hoiles in the fourth. That was all.
Karl started the eighth inning and walked Palmeiro, and immediately Milwaukee manager Phil Garner emerged from the dugout to call for a reliever. This walk, Garner would say later, was tremendously important: Karl retired the Orioles with six pitches in the seventh, and then walked Palmeiro to lead off the eighth. Inexplicable.
Karl was out, and former Orioles closer Doug Jones was in, a reliever renowned for his control, to face Bobby Bonilla. Jones threw him four pitches. All balls.
Johnson used six relievers in three innings on Sunday, and Garner would challenge that multiplicity last night -- he yanked Jones and called for his third pitcher of the inning, left-hander Graeme Lloyd to pitch to the switch-hitting Eddie Murray.
The Orioles veteran flied to right, and Palmeiro tagged and moved to third. B. J. Surhoff was next, and battled and fought without really getting a good swing. He managed to fight off several pitches, fouling them off, and on the 10th pitch of the at-bat, Surhoff walked. Bases loaded, one out. Johnson would call Surhoff's at-bat the key to the whole rally.
Garner was on the move again, calling for right-hander Bryce Florie to face the right-handed-hitting Hoiles, a sinkerballer facing a slow right-handed hitter. Milwaukee was thinking double play.
Florie was no relief -- like Lloyd, he threw four balls, the crowd roaring louder with each. On ball four, Palmeiro scored, drawing the Orioles to within 3-2.
"That's what separates the experienced team from the inexperienced team," Milwaukee third baseman Jeff Cirillo said later.
Johnson had long since told Brady Anderson that he would pinch hit for Mike Devereaux, who was behind Hoiles in the lineup. But he wanted Anderson, who had batted once in the last four days because of a strained calf, to stay down in the runway, out of sight, so the Brewers wouldn't think about warming up a left-hander to face Anderson. Keep Brady out of sight, Johnson told his coaches.
But after Hoiles walked, Johnson turned to look for Anderson -- and there he was beside him, one foot on the top step of the dugout, ready to go. "Brady seems to smell blood," Johnson said.
Anderson walked to the plate, the crowd roaring at the possibility of the Orioles' top home run hitter batting with the bases loaded. "I wanted the fans to be a little quieter," said Anderson. "They were making me nervous."
Anderson swung at Florie's first pitch and fouled it off, which Johnson said didn't surprise him. "Not at all," he said. "It was a little bit up. We all knew what he had on his mind. He was going to the brick building there."
The brick building: The warehouse. A home run.
Then, like the other Orioles who batted before him, he worked the count, running it full, three balls and two strikes. Florie fired a fastball and Anderson took it. Ball four. Bonilla walked across with the tying run, and Florie, recently acquired from San Diego, walked behind the mound, furious, gesturing to a teammate, as if to say: What's a strike in this league?
Florie fell behind Roberto Alomar three balls and one strike, and Alomar hacked viciously and missed at strike two. But then he lifted a deep fly to left, and Surhoff rambled across with what proved to be the winning run.
"Downright terrible," said Milwaukee manager Phil Garner. "It's about as ridiculous as it gets right now. We gave a team three runs without letting them get a hit. That's ridiculous. You've got to quit finding ways to lose a ballgame and start finding ways to win."
With that, the Orioles capitalized on a terrific pitching performance by rookie Rocky Coppinger.
Coppinger made a mistake in the first inning, throwing a fat fastball to Dave Nilsson, the one Milwaukee batter the Orioles made a point of pitching around last week. Nilsson launched his 14th homer well over the scoreboard in right.
Coppinger was spectacular after that, save for Jeff Cirillo's two-run homer in the sixth. Coppinger's slider approached the plate at sharp, unhittable angles, his fastball occasionally reaching 95 mph on a fast radar gun. He threw only 36 pitches in the first four innings, 30 for strikes. Coppinger threw first-pitch strikes to 11 of the first 13 hitters he faced, whiffed the final two hitters of the fourth inning, two more in the fifth and finished with seven over seven innings, matching a career high.
"Stuff-wise," Coppinger said, "I had my best stuff tonight."
Great stuff. Lots of strikes. Only two walks. If Garner doesn't appreciate the Five-Walk Rally, he can appreciate this.
Opponent: Milwaukee Brewers
Site: Oriole Park
Time: 3:05 p.m.
TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Brewers' Jeff D'Amico (3-5, 5.36) vs. Orioles' David Wells (9-10, 4.55)
Tickets: 500 remain
Pub Date: 8/14/96