On a night made for payback, the Orioles took a well-played, 7-4 win over the New York Yankees and former teammate David Wells. But their revenge for a three-game sweep at Yankee Stadium last month was nearly overwhelmed by a seventh-inning incident in which reliever Mike Stanton hit Orioles center fielder Eric Davis with a pitch immediately following a home run.
Leading 6-4 after Rafael Palmeiro's two-out home run last night, the Orioles saw a mirror image of last month's incident when Armando Benitez appeared to strike back after a game-winning home run by hitting Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez.
Similarities to May 19 were unmistakable. Stanton hit Davis, No. 24, between the numbers on the first pitch just as Benitez had drilled Martinez, No. 24, slightly higher on the back with a first pitch.
Stanton appeared disgusted with himself. Regardless, he received a thumb from plate umpire John Hirschbeck rather than an Oscar.
"As apparent as it was with Benitez, I think it was just as apparent [with Stanton] and I guess we'll just have to wait and see if justice is as swift and severe in the state of Maryland as it is in the state of New York," said Orioles manager Ray Miller, adamant that Stanton should receive the same eight-game suspension given Benitez last month.
Orioles starter Scott Erickson (7-6) took the win for seven innings in which he allowed two game-tying home runs to rookie left fielder Ricky Ledee and catcher Jorge Posada. Joe Carter scored two go-ahead runs and contributed a first-inning home run among three hits for eight RBIs in his last seven games.
Wells made his first return to Camden Yards since signing a three-year, $13.5 million contract with the Yankees before the '97 season. Wells' return came almost exactly one month after he threw the first regular-season perfect game in Yankees history against the Minnesota Twins May 17.
He had extended the roll, dropping his ERA to a season-low 4.25 in his last start and had struck out 46 against five walks in his last seven appearances. The loss was Wells' first since April 2 and broke a string of eight wins.
The Orioles broke a 4-4 tie on Mike Bordick's sacrifice fly that scored B. J. Surhoff in the sixth inning. Palmeiro then pushed the lead to two runs with his two-out homer against Stanton. Davis took the next pitch to the back.
Played out before a sometimes raucous sellout crowd of 48,022, the scene unfolded with Yankees manager Joe Torre immediately protesting Hirschbeck's ejection of the left-handed reliever. Doubled over, Davis received attention from trainer Richie Bancells before leaving the game. The Orioles never left their dugout as Hirschbeck warned Miller against retaliation.
"The guy [Palmeiro] hit the home run and 'boom.' I'm very well aware of what happened three weeks ago, but you go out and treat that like a new series," explained Hirschbeck. "I don't care who was playing or what the history was. When a guy hits a home run and the very next pitch he drills him in the back, I'm running that pitcher. Every time. No exceptions.
"Joe says he didn't mean it. That's fine. But we've all got to do what we've got to do out there."
Stanton called Davis afterward to apologize. Miller lingered by his phone for a similar call from Torre, just as he had called the Yankees manager in New York to apologize.
"It was tough to tell looking at it from the side. But when you come up here and see the replay, it was obvious," said catcher Lenny Webster. "He hit him in the back between the numbers. That's not the place to hit him."
While he cut short questions regarding the matter until he heard the other clubhouse's account, Miller was clearly peeved. He was at the top step of the dugout screaming until Hirschbeck ejected Stanton. He then ordered his bullpen not to retaliate but intends to pursue the same eight-game suspension for the Yankees reliever that league president Gene Budig levied against Benitez.
"The only thing that stands out in my mind is as I said with Benitez, the guilt or the truth lies within the guy that threw the ball," said Miller, struggling to hold his tongue.
The Orioles, especially Miller, suspect the severity of the fine given Benitez had as much to do with the setting as it did the infraction. Like Stanton, Benitez has never admitted throwing at Martinez.
"There was no warning in effect just like there was no warning last time. It was as obvious-looking as Benitez was," Miller said.
Miller may press the league to exact the same pound of flesh from the Yankees. He has consistently groused that missing Benitez and then Alan Mills for two games obliterated an already taxed bullpen.
Hirschbeck said he will notate in his report to the league office that he considered the pitch intentional. However, an eight-game suspension for Stanton is unlikely.
One Oriole conceded Benitez's act looked worse because of his subsequent staredown with the Yankees dugout. (Benitez says he only glared at Darryl Strawberry.) "Stanton didn't stand out there flicking his fingers at the dugout daring our guys to come out. That's what brought them out up there. Tino wasn't going to do anything just like Eric wasn't. He was hurt," said the Orioles player.
Davis appeared satisfied by Stanton's call. "I'm a man. I'm not a vindictive type of person," he said. "But nobody wants to get hit with a baseball."
"No way I was throwing at him," insisted Stanton. "I don't fault the umpires for throwing me out. I know they have to keep control of the game, and that's the No. 1 weapon to do it. It was just a situation where the pitch got away from me. It was in the wrong situation as far as following the home run. But in my defense there was absolutely no way I was throwing at him."
Torre admitted circumstances hurt Stanton's innocent plea, saying, "I can understand where the umpires are coming from."
Though the Orioles showed restraint, bad blood still seeped.
When Yankees reliever Graeme Lloyd entered the eighth inning, he was greeted by a tape of Michael Buffer intoning "Let's get ready to rumble!" Of course it was Lloyd who threw the first punch in last month's 10-minute melee.
Opponent: New York Yankees
Site: Camden Yards
Time: 7: 35
TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Yankees' Hideki Irabu (6-1, 1.59) vs. Orioles' Sidney Ponson (0-4, 6.21)
Tickets: Fewer than 400 remain
Yankees left-hander David Wells had fared better against right-handed batters (.210 average) than left-handed ones (.271). How the Orioles' left-handed hitters did vs. Wells:
Batter .. .. .. .. H/AB .. RBIs
Harold Baines . .. 2-3 ... .. 1
Rafael Palmeiro .. 2-3 ... .. 1
B. J. Surhoff . .. 1-3 ... .. 0
Total ... .. .. .. 5-9 ... .. 2
Pub Date: 6/16/98