NEW YORK -- The Orioles' familiar and deadly combination of short-lived starting pitching, untimely hitting and a wasted early lead followed them to Flushing last night. The creeping sameness resulted in their second straight 6-3 loss to the New York Mets and further evidence that this club will enter the All-Star break with a losing record.
Before a Shea Stadium crowd of 29,789, the Mets did more with nine hits than the Orioles could do with 14, largely because they created a four-run fifth inning out of several wild pitches and a costly throwing error by starting pitcher Pete Smith.
Now 16-14 in their last 30 games, the Orioles fell to 37-41 with 10 games left before the break. They have two three-game winning streaks since a 10-2 start.
The Orioles brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth inning against Mets closer John Franco but saw the threat evaporate when pinch hitter Joe Carter grounded into a double play. For all their pitching shortcomings, the Orioles have lost touch with an opportunistic offense.
Now 18 1/2 games out of first place, the Orioles didn't suffer last season's 41st loss until Aug. 9 in their 112th game.
Mets starter and former replacement player Rick Reed (9-4) was less than dominant but still more than enough to handle the Orioles, who scored their only run off him after right fielder Eric Davis was hit by a first-inning pitch. Even that was painful as the ball struck Davis on his right elbow where he is dealing with bone chips.
Davis doubled over but remained in the game long enough to score on Roberto Alomar's one-out ground ball. Barely able to throw, he left the game after 3 1/2 innings.
Orioles manager Ray Miller hoped Smith could piece together a staff left vulnerable by Monday night's rain-marred loss at Camden Yards when Alan Mills, Arthur Rhodes and Armando Benitez were all used. Miller hoped Smith could carry the game for at least six innings. And except for Brian McRae's game-tying home run in the second inning, Smith effectively mixed his off-speed pitches. Still, he crashed five outs short of Miller's goal.
Smith (0-2) smacked the wall in a familiar place. In his three starts with the Orioles, he has pitched between 4 1/3 and five innings. Smith has surrendered five home runs in his 14 American League innings compared to five home runs in 43 1/3 innings in the National League. Yesterday's twist came from a self-destructive lapse that opened the door for a telling fifth inning that included an error, three wild pitches and a chopped single over a drawn infield.
His collapse began when Reed slapped a one-out single to break a run of nine consecutive batters retired.
Smith then appeared to become unnerved. He wild-pitched Reed to second then allowed Edgardo Alfonzo's single to center field that moved the pitcher to third base.
With Bernard Gilkey batting, Miller played for the double play by relaxing his infield. Mets manager Bobby Valentine countered by starting Alfonzo on a hit-and-run. Gilkey grounded back to Smith, who spun, hesitated, then forced a throw to second base that sailed into center field. Reed, who had retreated to third, scored the go-ahead run and Alfonzo took third.
Mike Piazza immediately made it a 3-1 game when he singled to right. Four hitters after cruising through the Mets order, Smith was ousted for Norm Charlton.
Charlton then torched the inning by buckling against left-handed hitters John Olerud and Carlos Baerga. Olerud flared a single over Alomar that scored Gilkey. Facing Baerga, Charlton unleashed the inning's third wild pitch to score Piazza for a 5-1 lead. Baerga walked, but the Mets' rally went no further.
The Orioles consistently put pressure on Reed. And just as often they failed to capitalize.
After taking their first-inning lead, the Orioles were twice undone by the absence of a designated hitter. Cal Ripken's leadoff double and Chris Hoiles' single created a first-and-third chance with none out in the second inning. But when No. 8 hitter Mike Bordick popped to short, Smith was left to hit for himself. He struck out when unable to get a bunt down. Reed finished the escape by getting Brady Anderson to ground out.
Tied in the fourth inning, third base coach Sam Perlozzo took a daring but calculated risk by sending Hoiles home on Bordick's two-out single to center field.
Perlozzo would not have taken such a risk in the American League. But with Smith on deck, he dared center fielder McRae to catch Hoiles. McRae did with a one-hop throw that beat the catcher by about five feet.
The Orioles' last best chance against Reed came in the seventh inning when Hoiles and Bordick again led off with consecutive hits. Jeff Reboulet, who replaced Ripken during a double switch the previous inning, struck out. Anderson topped a grounder to first. And right fielder Rich Becker struck out looking.
Through seven innings, nine hits brought the Orioles one run, seven men left on base and a pile of frustration.
Valentine stirred some drama into the game by removing Reed for Bill Pulsipher to begin the eighth inning. Recalled only Sunday from Triple-A Norfolk, Pulsipher was quickly jumped for two runs on Rafael Palmeiro's second double of the game and B. J. Surhoff's 12th home run. Down 6-3, the Orioles got the tying run on deck before Valentine rushed Mel Rojas into the game to quell the threat.
Opponent: New York Mets
Site: Shea Stadium, New York
Time: 7: 40
TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: O's Scott Erickson (8-6, 4.51) vs. Mets' Hideo Nomo (2-8, 4.95)
Short and long of it
Beginning with June 10, the Orioles, with two exceptions, have won when their starter has pitched more than five innings and lost when he hasn't. A look:
D .. Opp Starter ... IP .. ER .. Score
6/10 Phi Ercksn .... 7 1/3 2 .. W 5-2
6/12 Tor Mssina .... 5 1/3 2 .. W 9-5
6/13 Tor Drabek .... 2 .... 5 .. L 9-8
6/14 Tor Smith ..... 4 2/3 6 .. L 7-4
6/15 NYY Erickson .. 7 .... 4 .. W 7-4
6/16 NYY Ponson .... 6 2/3 0 .. W 2-0
6/17 NYY Mussina ... 6 .... 5 .. L 5-3
6/18 Tor Johns ..... 4 2/3 4 .. L 13-6
6/19 Tor Smith ..... 5 .... 4 .. W 7-4
6/20 Tor Erckson ... 9 .... 3 .. W11-3
6/21 Tor Ponson .... 5 .... 5 .. L 7-3
6/22 NYM Mussina ... 9 .... 2 .. W 7-2
6/23 NYM Johns ..... 3 2/3 2 .. L 6-3
6/24 NYM Smith ..... 4 1/3 5 .. L 6-3