NEW YORK -- Needing no help in finding ways to lose this season, the Orioles received unwanted assistance yesterday. A ninth-inning bunt play that might have reversed a game's outcome instead became a source of controversy as the staggering club tumbled to a 4-3 loss to the New York Yankees.
Not only did manager Ray Miller fail to receive a reversal, he got an ejection rather than a hearing.
Another controversy at Yankee Stadium and once again the Orioles find themselves seeking justice. Maybe it's the curse of little Jeffrey Maier. Or maybe it's another twig of suspicion that only good teams get the calls. Whatever, the 38-49 Orioles apparently can't get out of this Bronx hellhole without losing a pitcher to an eight-game suspension or a game because of a botched call. They are now 0-7 in New York. The last
game of their sentence is up today. "If it's not one thing, it's another," summed catcher Chris Hoiles, whose too-hard bunt started the chaos in the Orioles' 10th loss in 11 games. "What next?"
Trailing by a run with nobody out and runners at first and second, Hoiles attempted to bunt pinch runner Jeff Reboulet and Brady Anderson into scoring position. Yankees closer Mariano Rivera pounced on the bunt and spun toward third baseman Scott Brosius. Rivera's throw easily beat Reboulet, but Brosius never controlled the waist-high throw as he attempted a quick relay to first.
From behind the play, third base umpire Marty Foster quickly called Reboulet out. Miller jumped from the third base dugout to argue Foster was out of position and wrongly anticipated the call. Crew chief Ken Kaiser denied Miller an appeal to any other member of the crew.
Miller was ejected when he started toward plate umpire Fielding Culbreth anyway. (Culbreth would have been of little help since he was struck by Hoiles' bat as the play unfolded.)
Told of Miller's claims, Kaiser said, "What year of umpire school did they go to? What they contend is only their opinion and has nothing to do with the play."
Replays indicated the Orioles were justifiably enraged. Third base coach Sam Perlozzo ran at the rookie umpire and received the first ejection of his 12-year coaching career. Perlozzo didn't curse Foster as he wore a Fox microphone and referred any doubters to the tape.
"You're not allowed to come out on the field," Foster said when Perlozzo demanded to know why he deserved a thumb.
Kaiser quickly ejected Miller when he insisted on asking the plate umpire for his opinion. Miller never got an answer. "He said I have no right to ask on a judgment call," said Miller, "and I said it can't be judgment if it can't be seen."
Hitting coach Rick Down assumed Miller's chores for the fifth time this season. Bench coach Eddie Murray took over Perlozzo's coaching duties until Rich Becker's double-play grounder ended the game with the tying run at second base. Murray screamed at the crew chief from the Orioles dugout about the call, pointing to the stands as if to claim the umpire was intimidated by a boisterous crowd of 37,390.
"It's not about showing somebody up. It's about getting the call right," said first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, who had a ringside seat to the play. "One thing is for sure: This isn't the Orioles' year."
Yankees manager Joe Torre insisted the right call was made but added he considered his team "lucky" to receive it.
Brosius described the fumble as "one of those calls that could go either way. It's a tough one."
Miller indicated before leaving the field that the Orioles were playing the game under protest.
"He's not out of line for wanting the call. But he's out of line with the protest," commented Kaiser, a partner with Miller on a commercial filmed at spring training. "You can't protest a judgment call."
"Maybe they're out of control; maybe they don't have to answer to anybody. I don't understand what it is," Miller said. "I don't think it's showing anybody up simply asking somebody to get play right. Everybody, including the Yankees fans, knew the guy didn't grab the ball."
Culbreth and Foster are replacements for vacationing regular umpires. Miller did not make an issue out of either man's experience; however, crew chief Kaiser refused to allow either man to answer questions about the call.
Miller examined a replay afterward. Kaiser, who never offered his opinion on Foster's call, said he didn't and refused to second-guess anything his crew had done. "You're not going to go 160 games and get everything right. I'm not going to run in here and say, 'Gee, was I right?' We don't look to see if we're right or we're wrong. That's not our job," he said.
The loss went to starter Doug Drabek (5-9) after he left with a 3-2 lead and two runners on in the sixth inning. Alan Mills followed and allowed both runners to score on Chad Curtis' two-strike single.
The Orioles grabbed a 2-0 first-inning lead against Orlando Hernandez (3-1) on Anderson's two-out flare. The Cuban defector pitched eight innings and allowed six hits and three runs, two earned. The Orioles hit into three double plays, but used an error by Yankees left fielder Ricky Ledee to take a 3-2 lead in the fifth after hits by B. J. Surhoff (3-for-3) and Eric Davis.
The Orioles threatened Rivera with consecutive singles by Cal Ripken and Anderson. Miller then ordered Hoiles to sacrifice and controversy quickly followed.
"I think it's bad for baseball. I think it's absolutely a shame that a play like that can decide a game when it's obviously not right and you're not allowed to change," Miller said.
Opponent: New York Yankees
Site: Yankee Stadium
Time: 1: 35 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: O's Scott Erickson (8-6, 4.43) vs. Yankees' David Cone (11-2, 4.39)
Pub Date: 7/05/98