Closer Randy Myers has noticed that even when playing well this year, the Orioles have had a curious habit of losing the final game of homestands and road trips, making for some somber flights.
But the Orioles returned home early yesterday morning, owner Peter Angelos on board, with a sense of accomplishment, having won four of seven games in their last trip of the season to the West Coast. They won the final game Wednesday, beating the Angels, 4-2, with a burst of power, a strong outing by Scott Erickson and some freak luck that halted a late California rally.
Orioles manager Davey Johnson said, "Well, that was a big win. We needed that. . . . We needed to stay where we're at, or get better."
"We had to come away with a winning road trip."
They seemed to be headed for a losing road trip in the early innings Wednesday. Catcher Mark Parent hasn't been with the Orioles very long, and as California knuckleballer Dennis Springer shut them out into the middle innings -- continuing a shutout string Springer began Aug. 25 -- Parent wondered if his new teammates would begin to get a little anxious.
The Orioles had a lot at stake. They knew the White Sox had won and stood to gain a game on the Orioles in the wild-card race, and the Yankees, leading the AL East, were on their way to victory over Oakland. California relievers Mike James and Troy Percival were rested and ready to go in the bullpen; those two, Johnson said later, effectively reduce the window of scoring opportunity from nine innings to seven, and here they were in the sixth.
Parent looked for signs of urgency, a little panic. He saw none. Anderson said, "The best thing to do is stay calm, and not look at [the situation] with a sense of urgency."
The Orioles remained composed and within a span of four hitters, they turned a 1-0 deficit into a 4-1 lead, as Brady Anderson (No. 44), Todd Zeile (No. 3 for the Orioles and No. 23 overall) and Rafael Palmeiro (No. 32) all homered, the 223rd, 224th and 225th homers of the year for the Orioles; the 1961 Yankees, who hit 240 homers, are the only team in major-league history to hit more homers than the '96 Orioles.
But nothing has come easy for the Orioles this year, and this win didn't, either. Erickson gave up a leadoff double to Jorge Fabregas in the eighth, and after George Arias grounded out, Johnson relieved Erickson, who shook his head in disagreement after reaching the dugout. Erickson had thrown only 95 pitches, but Johnson said afterward he thought Erickson was beginning to elevate his fastball. Erickson pitched a great game, Johnson said, but "it's not like he was coming off three good starts."
Jesse Orosco perpetuated the California rally by allowing a walk to Randy Velarde, and Terry Mathews relieved Orosco and gave up a run-scoring single to Darin Erstad that cut the lead to 4-2. Jim Edmonds flied out to deep, deep left-center, and Velarde tagged up and moved to third.
The theme from "Jaws" blared on the public address system while Mathews carefully pitched to slugger Tim Salmon, finally walking the Angels right fielder on a ball in the dirt. When the ball skipped away 10 feet from Parent, Velarde began a dash homeward.
But Parent recovered quickly, and after a short rundown, Velarde was thrown out at home. A pleasant surprise. "I was more pleasantly surprised to see where the ball was," Parent said. "I felt like I got a good piece of it [with his glove]. I just assumed Velarde was coming, because he's a good aggressive base runner. It just backfired on him."
NOTES: Eddie Murray returns to Camden Yards one homer shy of 500. He was the final hitter for the Orioles in each of the past four games. The Orioles have an elaborate celebration in store for Murray whenever he does hit No. 500, although they no longer are posting his career homer total on the scoreboard in right field during his at-bats. . . . Anderson needs six more homers to break Frank Robinson's single-season club record of 49 homers. "I just try to keep going with the focal point on tTC winning," said Anderson, "and it's easy not to get carried away with it. I don't look too far back or too far ahead." Anderson has six homers in his past seven games. . . . Zeile has hit in all six games since joining the Orioles.
Opponent: Detroit Tigers
Site: Oriole Park
Time: 7: 35
TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Tigers' Felipe Lira (6-12, 5.35) vs. Orioles' David Wells (10-13, 4.72)
D8 Tickets: Bleachers and standing-room tickets remain.
Pub Date: 9/06/96