CHICAGO — CHICAGO -- The Orioles came upon a bizarre land of bunts, stranded base runners and microstrategy yesterday. Held scoreless by four pitchers for 11 innings, they fell, 1-0, to the Chicago White Sox after setting a game high for frustration.
Ex-Oriole Harold Baines ended the 4-hour, 19-minute National League-style game by flaring a one-out single into shallow left field to score Dave Martinez. Fittingly, Martinez began the inning by working Randy Myers (1-3) for a walk, then had his trip assisted by a passed ball and a wild pitch along with Baines' hitting with first base open.
Able to escape a no-out, bases-loaded jam in the ninth inning, the Orioles left seven runners in their last three at-bats. Losing their third straight to the White Sox, they were shut out for the first time since last July 20 -- a span of 122 games -- becoming the last team in either league to be blanked this season. They were beaten by the last AL team without a shutout win.
"It was one of those deals where we had some chances, they had some chances, and it came down to a ball off the end of the bat," said Orioles second baseman Jeff Reboulet, a pivotal player in a lost rally.
The Orioles stranded 14 runners and were allergic all day to the bunt play. They nearly lost in the ninth inning because of their inability to stop it. They failed to take a lead in the top of the 11th because of their failure to execute it. Twice the White Sox bunted for hits; twice the Orioles failed to move runners along.
The penalty: The Orioles have stranded 24 runners, 11 in scoring position, and scoring just three runs in the series. "When we come in and pitch, it's a byproduct of everything that's happened up to that point. That's always the way it is," Myers said.
The rain-smeared marathon canceled out a tremendous duel between Orioles starter Scott Kamieniecki and left-hander Wilson Alvarez. Neither allowed a runner to third base. Both consistently worked ahead in counts, combining for three walks.
Pitching for the first time in 11 days, Kamieniecki allowed three hits and two walks in seven innings. He needed only 86 pitches before Johnson reached for his bullpen. Kamieniecki faced only two runners at second base and allowed only one leadoff hitter to reach. His seven scoreless innings dropped his ERA to 3.15, second-lowest among the rotation.
The Orioles all but eliminated themselves in the ninth, only to have Armando Benitez save them with one of the season's most dramatic escapes.
Jesse Orosco began the inning by allowing Ray Durham a leadoff single off his left ankle, Durham's third hit of the game and only the White Sox's fourth.
Here, the Orioles nearly beat themselves by poorly handling a bunt situation. Martinez was willing to sacrifice himself but instead became involved in the afternoon's most bizarre at-bat.
Squaring on the first pitch, Martinez wrapped the bat's barrel with his left hand and ball glanced foul off his thumb. Orosco became preoccupied by holding Durham, the league's fifth-leading base-stealer. Between pickoff attempts he worked the count full against Martinez, causing the bunt to be removed.
Instead of conceding the out, Martinez lifted a pop fly into no-man's land behind third base. Left fielder B. J. Surhoff broke in but had no chance. Shortstop Mike Bordick went horizontal but missed. The ball landed three inches inside the left-field foul line with Durham holding second.
Benitez replaced Orosco. His first move was to intensify the fire with a defensive lapse.
When pinch hitter Darren Lewis bunted tamely between the mound and third base, Cal Ripken retreated toward the bag. However, Benitez froze, leaving the ball to die for a single and load the bases with no outs and Albert Belle approaching.
Benitez defeated Belle, freezing him on a running fastball for the first out. He then topped the strikeout by getting Baines to ground to Bordick, who began a saving 6-4-3 double play.
"It was one of those days. We set the table but just couldn't punch it across. After we got Belle with the bases loaded in the ninth inning, I thought for sure we would come back and score in the next inning," Johnson said.
The Orioles loaded the bases with two outs in the 10th but Roberto Alomar struck out against Roberto Hernandez, who covered the final 1 2/3 innings for the win. An even better chance passed in the 11th after Surhoff and Chris Hoiles led off with singles. Bordick twice failed to bunt them over, then grounded into a fielder's choice, moving Surhoff to third. Brady Anderson was intentionally walked, loading the bases.
In the Orioles' most pivotal at-bat, Reboulet fouled off an attempted squeeze play, then grounded into an inning-ending double play.
"It was a fastball down the middle. I don't know," Reboulet said of his bunt attempt. "It was going about 150 miles an hour. I was just trying to get it. After that he made some good pitches and I was done."
And so were the Orioles. Martinez fell behind 1-2 against Myers before wrangling a walk. He took second on Hoiles' passed ball and third on Lewis' sacrifice. Belle was intentionally walked to set up a double play but the plan disintegrated when Myers short-hopped Hoiles, giving Belle second base.
With the count at 3-1 against Baines, who was in an 0-for-13 funk, Johnson decided against another intentional walk with right-handed-hitting rookie Mike Cameron on deck.
"I've been in a bad slump where I've been getting myself out," Baines said. "It was a good pitch. I didn't hit it that hard but I'll take it."
Somebody had to.
Opponent: Chicago White Sox
Site: Comiskey Park, Chicago
Time: 2: 05 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Jimmy Key (9-1, 2.68) vs. White Sox's Danny Darwin (2-2, 3.30)
Pub Date: 6/08/97