Brady Anderson tried reminding himself to stay calm as he batted in the late innings last night. Nothing like asking the impossible while in the vortex of an emotional whirlwind.
No one could dream up a crazy game like the Orioles' 12-11, 10-inning victory over Oakland last night. The Orioles fell behind 3-1, jumped ahead 8-3 in a rally that included three homers and a knockdown pitch to Cal Ripken, fell behind 10-8, tied the game in the bottom of the ninth, blew a chance to win the game in the ninth, fell behind again in the 10th -- before winning in the bottom of the 10th on an RBI triple by Anderson and a bases-loaded walk by Ripken. Totally absurd.
The Orioles vaulted over the Chicago White Sox in the wild-card race, and lead by a half-game. All nine starting hitters for the Orioles scored at least one run, and eight of nine scored for Oakland.
Orioles manager Davey Johnson was remarkably sedate after the game. "I can't get excited any more," said Johnson, hospitalized with an irregular heartbeat last week. "The doctor told me."
Oakland took an 11-10 lead in the top of the 10th, when Mike Bordick singled home pinch runner Rafael Bournigal. But Athletics reliever Mark Acre hit Chris Hoiles with a pitch leading off the 10th for the Orioles. Mike Devereaux bunted pinch runner Manny Alexander to second. After Roberto Alomar struck out, Anderson -- hyped by the roaring crowd and reminding himself to stay cool -- ripped a triple into the right-center-field gap, tying the game.
The crowd, Anderson said, "was probably as loud as I've heard it."
Acre said: "It comes down to one pitch. I threw a good forkball, and Brady smoked it."
Oakland intentionally walked Rafael Palmeiro and Bobby Bonilla to load the bases, and Acre completely lost control, throwing four balls in five pitches to Ripken -- the last a ball that knocked Ripken on his back. The crowd of 43,361 exploded, and Acre walked off, dejected.
"Maybe that was the best place he could've thrown the ball," Ripken said. "Otherwise, I would've swung at it."
It took four hours and seven minutes, 350 pitches, nine pitching changes, four pinch hitters, two pinch runners, seven homers, five ties, five lead changes and two knockdown pitches to decide the game. That's all.
The third-inning knockdown pitch to Ripken may have stemmed from the five-game series in Oakland the weekend of Aug. 15-18. The Orioles blasted the Athletics in the first two games of that series, 18-5 and 14-3, and some Oakland players privately felt the Orioles swaggered unnecessarily through those blowouts, showboating as they circled the bases. Oakland really did nothing to express its displeasure in that series.
But either the A's found the need to address this in the third inning last night, or starter John Wasdin lost his cool, or he suddenly lost his control on a fastball that would've rearranged Ripken's teeth.
With two outs in the third and a runner on first, Palmeiro homered and then Bonilla homered. Ripken stepped in to hit, and whether intentional or not, Wasdin knocked Ripken on his rear with his very next pitch.
Ripken glanced out to the mound and he gathered himself, and " Wasdin stood on the mound, shoulders squared to home plate, his face expressionless. Home plate umpire John Shulock immediately moved out in front of home and pointed his finger at Wasdin, warning him that another pitch like that would mean ejection.
A's manager Art Howe came out to discuss the warning with Shulock, and as they talked, there was another conference going on, between Ripken and Oakland catcher Terry Steinbach, players with mutual admiration.
Johnson said he thought Wasdin threw at Ripken. "It's the natural thing to try to do," Johnson said. "It's not necessarily meant as a malicious pitch, but . . . any game I've played in and they've hit back-to-back homers and [the next pitch] is a neck ball, it's a warning."
Ripken said: "Pitching high and tight is sometimes part of the game. . . . I genuinely don't think he was trying to throw at me. Only he will know that. In my heart, I don't think so. Maybe it got away from him a little bit."
Ripken had the perfect answer for Wasdin, slamming a single and setting up a grand slam by Hoiles that came three batters later. But even with the Orioles leading 8-3, the outcome was far from decided.
Oakland came back, tying the score in the seventh on Matt Stairs' bases-empty homer and taking a 10-8 lead in the eighth when Tony Batista hit a two-run homer off Alan Mills, who seethed.
Mills was at the end of a long and emotional day; earlier, his wife Shareese had given birth to the couple's first child -- a boy named Tyson. Mills knocked down Scott Brosius with his next pitch, a fastball over Brosius' head. Shulock, who had warned both teams after Ripken went down, went to the mound and talked with Mills; Howe yelled at Shulock from the dugout. Mills said: "An eye for an eye. That's probably why he didn't throw me out."
But the Orioles weren't finished. Alomar led off the Orioles' ninth with a single. Doug Johns replaced Buddy Groom, one left-hander relieving another, to face Anderson. Oakland's outfield shifted to right, because Anderson never hits the ball into the left-field corner. This time, he did.
Anderson hit a sinking line drive down the line that barely eluded the dive of left fielder Phil Plantier. By the time Plantier relayed the ball back to the infield, Alomar had scored and Anderson was diving into third with a triple.
Palmeiro hit a liner that hit the chalk of the first base line, a double, and Anderson trotted home with the tying run. Oakland intentionally walked Bonilla, and Acre relieved Johns to face Ripken.
The Orioles' shortstop tried to bunt the runners along, but popped out, and B. J. Surhoff flied to right, the second out. Eddie Murray banged a hard shot to right, just a long out.
"I thought we had it won in the ninth inning," Johnson said.
Hardly. The drama was just starting, in a game the Orioles should've won and should've lost two or three times over.
Opponent: Oakland Athletics
Site: Camden Yards
Time: 7: 35
TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Athletics' Ariel Prieto (4-5, 4.11) vs. O's David Wells (9-12, 4.84)
Tickets: 4,200 remaining
Pub Date: 8/27/96