BOSTON — BOSTON -- The Orioles may have the best record in baseball, but they are starting to show signs of wear at just the wrong time. There were three errors in a blowout loss to the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday and a couple of fundamental lapses in the series finale last night.
That kind of baseball just won't cut it in the National League.
The Red Sox jumped on right-hander Scott Kamieniecki for three runs in the third inning and five in the fourth to score a 9-5 victory and salvage a split of the four-game series at Fenway Park.
There was a time when a split would have been a satisfactory outcome here, but not after the Orioles swept a doubleheader to open the series and not when you're playing .700 ball and the Red Sox are playing dead.
The Orioles looked tired. They played tired. They were tired. And they had better wake up before four-time Cy Young winner Greg Maddux takes the mound tonight for the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.
"I was just saying that what we've been through the last week or two just kind of showed up tonight," manager Davey Johnson said.
"We have played a little like a tired team the last couple of days."
Case in point: The Orioles appeared ready to put the hammer down in the second inning against Red Sox pitcher Aaron Sele, but scuttled a potential big inning with an aborted sacrifice bunt that turned into a deflating double play.
Sele had allowed the first four Orioles batters to reach base and already had surrendered two runs when Tony Tarasco broke for third base and Mike Bordick popped up a bunt. Catcher Scott Hatteberg caught the ball and had an easy play at second base to knock the wind out of promising rally.
Johnson said later that Tarasco missed a sign and mistakenly thought it was a hit-and-run, forcing Bordick to offer at a pitch up in the strike zone. Whatever the reason, the Orioles went from potential blowout to getting blown out two innings later.
"It's tough," Johnson said. "In a week, we played eight games against stiff competition. We split with both clubs and that's not bad, but it can take it out of you."
Leadoff hitter Nomar Garciaparra hit two long home runs and Mo Vaughn added his third of the series as the Red Sox teed off on the Orioles for the second straight night, this time making Kamieniecki pay dearly for his inability to adjust to home plate umpire Dan Morrison's strike zone.
He worked out of a bases-loaded situation in the first and got through the second without incident, but Vaughn tied the game with his 19th home run of the year -- a 422-foot shot to straightaway center in the third. The Red Sox took the lead later in that inning when Reggie Jefferson doubled and scored on an RBI groundout, then broke the game open in the fourth.
Kamieniecki walked two batters and Garciaparra continued to make his case for American League Rookie of the Year honors with a shot into the screen above the Green Monster in left field. The Red Sox would get four more hits in the inning and increase their lead to six runs before Kamieniecki turned the game over to the bullpen.
"I think he got a little frustrated," Johnson said. "He didn't get the low [strike] early and he wasn't getting the corners early. I think he let that affect him. His bread and butter is down there, and then when you try to put a little more on it, you start getting the ball up. Garciaparra is a good hitter, but he's a better high-ball hitter. If you get it up there, he's going to hit it hard."
Kamieniecki had not given up more than four runs in any of his 11 previous starts, but the eight earned runs last night pushed his ERA from 3.15 to 3.96 and sent him to his first loss in nearly a month (May 15).
It was the first time he had failed to get into the fifth inning this year.
"Everything was down the middle of the plate," he said. "When you get behind 2-1 and 3-0 to everybody, it's tough to pitch."
If the Orioles were road-weary, Kamieniecki wasn't using that as an excuse, but he was critical of what he felt was an inconsistent performance by Morrison behind the plate that made it difficult to adjust to the strike zone.
"I would say yes to that, but I still don't know what the strike zone was," he said. "Frustrated? I was in wonderment, considering what their pitcher was getting and the pitches our guys were striking out on. It's fine if he wants to have that strike zone, but our guys should get it, too."
Sele worked seven innings and gave up three runs on six hits to improve his record to 7-5.
The Orioles didn't score on him again until Bordick doubled to open the seventh inning and scored two outs later on a grounder by Roberto Alomar. They added two more in the eighth when B. J. Surhoff wrapped a fly ball around the foul pole in right field for his eighth home run of the season.
With that, the Orioles headed to the next stop on their grueling, 10-day, 11-game road trip, and a potential World Series preview against the Braves, but Johnson didn't want to talk about interleague play anymore.
"Ask me about interleague play on Sunday," Johnson said.
"I'm either going to love it or hate it."
Pub Date: 6/13/97