The Orioles offered a new look last night against the Anaheim Angels. A model of fundamental baseball for most of the past five weeks, they did little right in a 7-2 loss against rookie right-hander Jason Dickson.
And it all started with the pitch Scott Kamieniecki couldn't find.
After beginning the night with five consecutive quality starts from the rotation and eight straight error-free games, the Orioles saw both streaks end at the hands of Kamieniecki. The error didn't matter. A bizarre first inning did as Kamieniecki literally walked into a two-out mess he couldn't escape.
After routinely retiring the first two batters he faced, Kamieniecki suddenly went looking for his control at the Camden Yards lost-and-found. He walked Dave Hollins, walked Jim Leyritz and then allowed Tim Salmon an RBI single. His pattern became frustratingly predictable. Fall behind hitters, then either follow through with a walk or a flat strike.
Kamieniecki walked Garret Anderson to reload the bases and Shawn Boskie went into action in the bullpen. Kamieniecki further stirred a crowd of 41,296 by allowing exiled Oriole Eddie Murray a two-run single to make the score 3-0. Luis Alicea followed with the inning's third single to bump the lead to 4-0.
The assisted breakout was a rarity against Orioles pitching. It had allowed multiple runs in only one of the previous 43 innings.
"I made some good pitches, I just couldn't get the third out," Kamieniecki said. "It wasn't like they were hitting the ball all over the ballpark. I felt like I gave them the opportunity by walking the three guys and they were able to get the ball out of the infield a few times and got four runs. It's a tough situation to get yourself into, allowing four runs in the first inning. It's a tough way to lose."
"I was about at the end of my rope. He kept us in there, but we couldn't get anything going," said manager Davey Johnson.
The unsightly loss dropped the Orioles to 19-9 while allowing the Angels to return to .500 (14-14). However, the Orioles maintained their 4 1/2 -game lead in the American League East as New York lost to Minnesota.
The Orioles' only scoring came from shortstop Mike Bordick, who pulled his first home run into the left-field seats in the fifth inning. The homer was Bordick's first as an Oriole, sixth in two years and 22nd in 2,738 major-league at-bats.
Most nights, the Orioles would have been allowed back into the game by indifferent pitching. Most nights, Jason Dickson doesn't pitch.
Dickson (5-1) became only the fourth starting pitcher to beat the Orioles this year, joining Roger Pavlik, Doug Drabek and Aaron Sele. Kamieniecki joined the equally short line of Orioles starters who have helped beat themselves.
Kamieniecki entered with a reputation as a cliff diver accustomed to creating peril only to somehow slip past barely nicked. In the first inning he came too close to the rocks.
"You've got to stay away from the big inning," he said. "You can't walk guys so one or two hits hurts you. That's what I've got to change. Other nights I've been able to get away with it. I didn't tonight."
After the traumatic first inning, he retired 13 of 14 and allowed only one hit during a four-inning span. In the sixth, Hoiles picked him up by throwing out Salmon stealing, ending an 0-for-18 streak.
"You have to give a lot of credit to Kammy for keeping us in the game," Bordick said. "It was a rough first inning for him. He did a great job of settling down and keeping us in it."
Kamieniecki's resilience was encouraging but his sudden loss of bearings mystifies a team that has anointed him its No. 5 starter. He needed 34 pitches to get through the first inning, 68 to get through the next six.
"He's a breaking ball pitcher, but he really hasn't found his breaking ball yet," said pitching coach Ray Miller. "He had it in the bullpen, but it left him in the first inning."
Dickson had a better start. He tied himself for the league lead in wins with the Orioles' Jimmy Key, Texas' Bobby Witt, Boston's Roger Clemens and the New York Yankees' Andy Pettitte. Dickson, who opened the season with a complete-game shutout of the Boston Red Sox, has pitched into the seventh inning in five of six starts. Only four other times has an Angels starter gone as deep into a game.
After clubbing the Oakland Athletics for 11 runs on Sunday and raising its team batting average 26 points over the past eight games, the Orioles struggled against Dickson, who showed no fear working with a four-run lead.
The Orioles had their best chance to tie in the seventh, but ran themselves out of a rally. Dickson walked Hoiles to begin the inning and with one out walked Anderson on his 101st pitch. Angels manager Terry Collins then went to Chuck McElroy.
Hitting from the right side, where he was struggling at .154, Roberto Alomar drilled a single at left fielder Garret Anderson. Third base coach Sam Perlozzo waved Hoiles home as Anderson reached the ball. But Anderson threw a strike and Hoiles was easily tagged out. The inning died when Mike James came on to strike out Eric Davis. The Orioles' hottest hitter, Davis stranded seven runners on the night, including four in scoring position.
The game collapsed quickly in the eighth as Terry Mathews relieved Kamieniecki. Hollins singled. Then, compounding a bad fielding night for pitchers, Mathews gloved Leyritz's double-play grounder and flung it several feet over Bordick into center. With runners at first and third, the Orioles played the infield back. The outfield couldn't go back far enough.
Mathews' next toss ended up in the center-field stands as Salmon ripped open a 4-2 game with his fourth home run.
Opponent: Anaheim Angels
Site: Oriole Park
TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Angels' Chuck Finley (0-1, 4.86 ERA) vs. Orioles' Scott Erickson (4-1, 2.78 ERA)
Tickets: 10,000 remain
Pub Date: 5/06/97