Bonilla hits nothing but air as slump goes from bad to worse Four-strikeout game is his second in 3 starts; ALCS notebook

THE BALTIMORE SUN

NEW YORK -- Bobby Bonilla's postseason slump continued yesterday.

Bonilla struck out four times, his second four-strikeout game in the last three games.

Bonilla's last hit was a bases-empty homer in his first at-bat of Game 4 of the Division Series.

He was asked which pitches he struck out on yesterday, and Bonilla rattled off a long list.

"When you strike out four times, everything looks tough," Bonilla said. "I struck out on everything."

Bonilla is 3-for-23 (.130) in the playoffs, but two of the hits are homers, including a grand slam.

Ump moves closer to seats

After two incidents of fan interference in Game 1 that went uncalled, right-field umpire Larry Barnett chose to play farther down the line yesterday than Rich Garcia did Wednesday.

Garcia was stationed on the left-field line yesterday and was signing autographs between innings for Yankees fans. Barnett said it is up to an umpire's individual discretion to position themselves down the line.

"We are constantly making changes," Barnett said. "We want to do anything we can to get it right."

Replays showed that in Game 1, Derek Jeter's eighth-inning home run would not have cleared the fence if a 12-year-old hadn't reached out of the stands and knocked it over.

Camden crowd to reach?

No one will be surprised if the Camden Yards crowd goes out of its way to catch balls in the field of play this weekend.

"We could have a big problem with that in Baltimore," Barnett said.

Both managers agreed.

"The kid [Jeff Maier] probably went through security; he's probably going to be a heck of a center fielder or something," Orioles manager Davey Johnson said. "I was concerned about it because the fans are very active here.

"I'm sure at Oriole Park, we're going to have a lot of 12-year-olds with gloves out there hanging over the fence."

Yankees manager Joe Torre said: "I'm not sure it's going to be limited to 12-year-olds, either. There's not much you can do about it, with all of the people."

False alarm

Outfielder Tony Tarasco and bench coach Andy Etchebarren, who both argued with Garcia during the controversial Game 1, received phone calls at the team hotel early yesterday from a man identifying himself as Rich Garcia. The caller chastised Tarasco and Etchebarren.

But Garcia, widely respected in baseball circles, said flatly he did not make any phone calls to anybody. "Never," he said. "No way."

Before the game started, Garcia called Etchebarren out of the dugout and they held a friendly chat.

Boggs takes a seat

Yankees third baseman Wade Boggs had three things working against him yesterday: lingering back pain, a horrendous slump and a left-hander (David Wells) on the mound.

Those elements combined to keep Boggs on the bench.

Batting second Wednesday, Boggs went 0-for-5 with a walk and a strikeout. He has one hit in 17 postseason at-bats (.059) with three strikeouts.

Boggs has been overanxious, often swinging at the first pitch rather than working the count.

"I'm going to sit and talk with him," Torre said. "I think he's just struggling right now, trying to force it a little bit. It just looks to me like Wade's hitting zone is a little bigger than it normally is."

Kid stuff

Mike Mussina, today's Orioles starter, wasn't surprised by the media spotlight Maier attracted.

"He was on TV [yesterday] morning," Mussina said. "He was on 15 minutes after it happened. He is going on ['Late Show with David] Letterman.' His 15 minutes of fame have turned into two weeks."

Etchebarren was critical of all the attention.

"I think it's wrong that they make it out like he was a hero," Etchebarren said. "Under normal circumstances, they'd take the kid and throw him out of the ballpark."

No Alomar aftereffects

Johnson said in no way does he believe Garcia's blown call on the fan interference play was payback for Roberto Alomar spitting on umpire John Hirschbeck in Toronto in late September, nor does Johnson say Alomar is getting more strikes called against him because of his action.

"That's an issue of integrity, and I think the umpires are the most honorable people in baseball," Johnson said.

Young fan gets choice seat

Maier had a front-row seat yesterday, courtesy of a New York newspaper, but Yankees public relations director Rick Cerone said the Yankees had nothing to do with it.

"The Yankees have had no contact with the young man," Cerone said. "His father called the PR department [yesterday] morning, and I made it very clear to him that, in our view, even though the umpire didn't rule [interference], he likely interfered with the ball in play. And obviously, there was nothing the Yankees could or should do to reward or condone that type of behavior."

O's make Lee an offer

The Orioles have made an offer to amateur free agent Travis Lee, the second pick overall in the June draft and a first baseman for the U.S. Olympic Team. If the Orioles sign Lee -- and to do so, they'll have to overcome a $4 million offer reportedly made by California -- they would move him to the outfield.

Scouting director Gary Nickels, who would not divulge the amount of the Orioles' offer, said he expects Lee to sign with a team by the end of the week. Lee became a free agent after Minnesota Twins, the team that drafted him, did not tender him a contract offer within the required 15 days.

Jeter moves up in order

One day after hitting ninth and going 4-for-5, Yankees rookie shortstop Derek Jeter was in the leadoff spot against Wells, and Tim Raines was dropped to No. 2.

Jeter, who is batting .481 in the postseason, led off the bottom of the first with a single and scored the Yankees' first run. He finished 2-for-5 with two strikeouts.

"After the first time through the lineup, he's hitting in the same place he would normally hit -- in front of Raines," Torre said. "His numbers against left-handed pitchers through the season were very impressive. That's why we do it. "

Jeter hasn't been as effective in the field during this series -- the outfield, that is. He let a shallow fly ball fall between him and left fielder Raines in Game 1, and yesterday did the same thing with center fielder Bernie Williams on a ball hit by Eddie Murray in the fourth. inning. Cal Ripken, who singled to lead off the inning, was forced at second.

Both times, Jeter was lectured by a Yankees coach when he got back to the dugout.

Around the horn

Since opening the year 11-2, the Orioles are 10-50 when they score fewer than five runs. The Game 1 winner in the ALCS has won the pennant 17 of the past 26 years. The Orioles' only other extra-inning, postseason loss before Wednesday also came in New York. The Mets won Game 4 of the 1969 World Series, with Orioles manager Earl Weaver being ejected. Former Orioles pitcher Mike Boddicker will throw out the first ball tonight. Ex-Orioles center fielder Paul Blair will throw out the first pitch tomorrow, and 1983 ALCS hero Tito Landrum, whose Game 4, 10th-inning homer won the series for the Orioles, will do the honors for Game 5 on Sunday. Bruce Hornsby, who performed at Cal Ripken's record-breaking game, will play the national anthem tonight.

In the clutch?

How the Orioles and Yankees have fared hitting with runners in scoring position this series:

Game 1

Orioles, 0-for-9, .000

Yankees, 1-for-14, .071

Game 2

Orioles, 1-for-6, .167

Yankees, 1-for-10, .100

Pub Date: 10/11/96

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