MIAMI — MIAMI -- The roof is, indeed, collapsing on the Orioles.
On a night when a top portion of their dugout ended up on the steps, the Orioles took another spill, wasting a tie-breaking homer by Cal Ripken and losing to the Florida Marlins, 7-6, at Pro Player Stadium, to complete an interleague sweep and extend their losing streak to five games.
Gary Sheffield homered off Shawn Boskie, the fourth reliever in an increasingly hurting Orioles bullpen, with one out in the ninth. The ball carried over the wall in left field, taking with it a little more air out of the team with the best record in the majors.
The Orioles (85-51) were saddled with their seventh loss in nine games, but remained 6 1/2 games ahead of the Yankees going into their series tonight in the Bronx.
Boskie (6-6) replaced Armando Benitez to begin the ninth and retired Edgar Renteria on a grounder. He got ahead of Sheffield, 1-2, before leaving with his second loss in the series and making a winner of former Orioles farmhand Jay Powell (5-2).
Manager Davey Johnson said Benitez, who had retired the last two batters in the eighth, left because of some stiffness in his back. With Arthur Rhodes (side) and Alan Mills (groin) unavailable because of injuries and Terry Mathews needing a breather, Boskie was sent into the game, to throw off the same high mound that seemed to take as much out of the Orioles as the opposition.
"Everybody I got to throw off it came up lame," Johnson said. "After that football game, I think they had a little extra dirt and added it in, or something. It just about wiped out my whole pitching staff."
The Orioles were in search of some momentum to take into the four-game Yankees series, and appeared to receive the jolt they needed in the fifth when Ripken hit a three-run homer to left for a 6-3 lead. At the same time, the scoreboard showed Philadelphia coming back to tie the Yankees.
The good feelings were fleeting. Reliever Brian Williams, called upon in the sixth to protect a 6-3 lead, promptly gave up three runs as the Marlins batted around. Two were delivered by pesky second baseman Craig Counsell, a midseason pickup from the Colorado Rockies whose triple into the right-field corner scored two. Pinch hitter Jim Eisenreich's single through a drawn-up infield tied the game at 6.
Ripken's blow looked as though it would break the Orioles' losing spell and make a winner of Scott Kamieniecki, who scuffled all night but left after five innings with the lead.
Kamieniecki gave up eight hits and three runs before being replaced by Williams, making his first appearance with the Orioles since June 11 at Boston. He gave up four hits and walked two.
"Kammy threw about 95 pitches [actually 93]," Johnson said. "I went up to him and said, 'I'm going to get you some help.' He said, 'Yeah, you should have gotten me help for the full five innings.' He wasn't objecting to it. I didn't want to push him today.
"I thought Brian was throwing the ball good, but he wasn't getting anybody out."
Florida pushed across a run in the fourth to wipe out a 3-2 deficit. Given new life, Marlins starter Al Leiter fell into trouble, allowing singles to Aaron Ledesma and Geronimo Berroa to open the fifth. Rafael Palmeiro struck out, and Leiter fell behind 2-0 before serving up Ripken's 16th home run.
The original plan was for the Orioles to come into Florida on a roll, but losing two of three to Kansas City and the New York Mets changed that idea. Then came the suggestion that they could get healthy against the Marlins, rising to the level of their competition. But good health is a foreign concept to this club, helping Florida, which has won six in a row, close to within 2 1/2 games of Atlanta.
In need of a stopper, the Orioles turned to Kamieniecki, who was making his first career start against the Marlins. The introduction wasn't polite.
First-inning singles by Devon White, Sheffield, Bonilla and Darren Daulton staked the Marlins to a 2-0 lead.
In the fourth inning, the Orioles loaded the bases with one out on a walk to Ripken and singles by B.J. Surhoff and Lenny Webster. Mike Bordick, once so deep in a slump you could see only the top of his head, collected his sixth hit of the series, bouncing a single up the middle that tied the game at 2.
Hammonds moved the Orioles in front with two outs, singling under the glove of second baseman Counsell. But in the finest tradition of this series, an Oriole was thrown out on the basepaths. This time, Bordick was cut down at third by Sheffield.
Kamieniecki couldn't hold the lead. Charles Johnson and Counsell singled to lead off the fourth, but the rally seemed to die when Leiter bunted into a double play that started with Ripken fielding the ball and throwing to Bordick covering third. Instead, the Marlins pulled even when White lined a single to left.
Leiter hadn't won since July 17 before defeating his former team, the Toronto Blue Jays, on Friday. With a home ERA of 1.86 before last night, the left-hander was in his element.
He spent most of his five innings in hot water. But it was the Orioles who got burned.
Opponent: New York Yankees
Site: Yankee Stadium, New York
Time: 7: 35
TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Rick Krivda (2-0, 7.77) vs. Yankees' David Wells (14-8, 4.21)
Pub Date: 9/04/97