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ORIOLES RALLY BUT FALL IN 10 TO SOX, 11-9; DAVIS' GRAND SLAM CAPS CLIMB FROM 9-2 HOLE; BENITEZ FOILED IN 10TH; FIRST LOSS OF YEAR AT HOME; COPPINGER YIELDS 6 RUNS IN 2 2/3 IN FIRST '97 START

THE BALTIMORE SUN

On a night cold enough to freeze Chicago White Sox manager Terry Bevington to his bench, the Orioles gave a lesson in persistence only to be undone, 11-9, in 10 innings.

What might have been a magical comeback from a seven-run deficit died in the 10th when Armando Benitez extended a string of unpredictable outings.

Tony Phillips began the rally with a single followed by a walk to Frank Thomas, who had four hits. Albert Belle's grounder advanced both runners, leading to an intentional walk of Harold Baines. Able to get ahead of Lyle Mouton, Benitez surrendered a sacrifice fly on a 1-2 pitch. Phillips appeared to tag early but escaped on appeal. Dave Martinez, who like Mouton had homered in the second inning, scored Thomas for an 11-9 lead on a single as the Orioles lost at home for the first time after seven wins.

That the Orioles reached extra innings was remarkable enough. Given 6 1/3 strong middle innings by Mike Johnson, Terry Mathews and Randy Myers, they were burned on both ends, beginning with Coppinger and ending with Benitez.

The Orioles issued a season-high 11 walks and allowed 15 hits.

Down 9-2, they overcame a fruitless night by starting pitcher Rocky Coppinger and Shawn Boskie to force a seventh-inning tie on Eric Davis' grand slam off numbed White Sox starter Jaime Navarro.

"Six RBIs looks nice on paper," said Davis, who also drove in runs in the first and sixth innings. "But if you don't win the game, it don't mean anything."

Navarro controlled the Orioles for five innings, hinted at fatigue during a two-run sixth then was abandoned by Bevington and his defense in the seventh.

Slow in coming, the rally transfixed Bevington, who ordered Tony Castillo and Bill Simas to warm, apparently for cosmetic reasons. A bloop hit, an infield error, an infield single and a walk carried the inning to Davis. With the score 9-5 and the remnants of a crowd of 42,902 roused, Davis represented the tying run with nowhere for Navarro to go.

Two pitches later, Davis turned a Navarro fastball 397 feet into the left-field stands. Unmoved, Bevington allowed Navarro to finish the inning.

The grand slam was the ninth of Davis' sometimes brilliant career.

The Orioles rotation entered the game riding a string of success. The staff as a whole had amassed a 2.20 ERA over the last 10 games, carrying a lethargic offense for the last week. Only one starter had allowed more than three earned runs in the last 11 games.

Both numbers were quickly trashed by a White Sox team that raised its record to 6-14. They are 15-11 vs. the Orioles in Camden Yards.

With a lineup including Jeff Reboulet at shortstop, Jeffrey Hammonds for B. J. Surhoff in left field and Lenny Webster spelling Chris Hoiles, the night was made for improvisation. Unfortunately for a team accustomed to solid pitching, the Orioles were almost eliminated by a starter's confused outing. For the next five days the Orioles will wonder if Coppinger exhibited rust or something more serious.

Coppinger struggled throughout his first start of the year. He walked six, allowed four hits and was touched for back-to-back home runs.

The home runs in the second by Mouton and Martinez snuffed out a 2-0 lead. Thomas' second hit, a double into the right-center-field gap, put the Sox up 3-2 in the third. However, the night's hardest-hit ball may have been Belle's liner to the mound, which Coppinger gloved in self-defense. On a cold night, the smack against Coppinger's glove carried throughout the park.

From there, the game collapsed around him. Walks to Mouton and Martinez loaded the bases and a wild pitch allowed Thomas to score for a 4-2 lead. Irritated by plate umpire John Hirschbeck's strike zone, Coppinger then reloaded the bases by walking Ron Karkovice. Having seen 77 pitches, 42 of them balls, Davey Johnson replaced Coppinger with the deposed Boskie.

Coppinger was not through yet. As he walked from the mound, he yelled his disapproval at Hirschbeck, who gave little reaction.

"He was fighting himself early," Webster said. "There were a couple of pitches that didn't go his way and he started fighting even harder. I tried to tell him we had a long way to go; it's only the third inning. But it just didn't happen tonight."

The White Sox capped their four-run rally with only their second hit of the inning, Ozzie Guillen's two-run single.

More worrisome than Coppinger's numbers was his roundabout approach. After Mouton and Martinez homered, he appeared to relapse into the same dependence on breaking pitches that had led Johnson to suspect an injury.

The Orioles now face their first concern over their starting pitching this year. Boskie and Coppinger are a combined 0-2 in three starts and have surrendered 18 earned runs in 10 2/3 innings while walking 12 against 10 strikeouts.

The White Sox didn't stop against Boskie. Fueled by three consecutive hits, they bumped the lead to 8-2 on Karkovice's two-run single. Mouton and Martinez again scored as they accounted for six of the White Sox's eight runs.

Success against the Orioles is nothing new for Martinez. He entered last night's game hitting a career .400 (24-for-60) with 15 RBIs against them.

Boskie did little to reassert himself. He allowed eight hits and two walks in 3 1/3 innings.

The White Sox lead grew to 9-2 in the sixth inning. Still without his first home run, Thomas completed his first four-hit game and would score on Mouton's sacrifice fly.

Navarro finally weakened in the seventh. He walked Roberto Alomar to begin the inning and allowed Rafael Palmeiro to double off the base of the right-field scoreboard. Alomar took third, then scored on Davis' sacrifice fly to right. Advancing behind Alomar, Palmeiro likewise scored on Ripken's sacrifice fly to right.

Pete Incaviglia reached on a looping single and took third when Guillen threw Webster's grounder into right field. The misplay would lead to five unearned runs.

Anderson beat out an infield single to score Incaviglia, making the score 9-5. A walk to Palmeiro loaded the bases.

Bevington never moved despite having his bullpen ready. Davis then unloaded on a 1-1 pitch for his ninth grand slam, turning a one-time rout into a tie.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Boston Red Sox

Site: Oriole Park

Time: 7: 35

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Red Sox's Chris Hammond (0-0, 6.10) vs. Orioles' Scott Kamieniecki (1-0, 4.02)

Tickets: 7,500 available

Pub Date: 4/24/97

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