NEW YORK — NEW YORK - The Orioles got mad yesterday, but it was the New York Mets who got even.
The Orioles, disgruntled by a scheduling decision that forced them to check out of the team hotel yesterday and commute from Baltimore for tonight's final game of the three-game interleague series at Shea Stadium, found themselves even more discouraged after the Mets rallied in the late innings to turn a close game into an 11-3 blowout and even the series at a game apiece.
Starter Scott Erickson (2-3) took a solid performance into the sixth inning and even made a rare contribution at the plate, but the Orioles' bullpen let the game get out of hand in a hurry.
Erickson allowed a pair of runs in the sixth before a parade of relievers allowed the Mets to tack on seven more over the next two innings. If anyone thought that the club's early-season bullpen problems were behind them, last night was a wake-up call the Orioles did not want to answer.
Manager Mike Hargrove brought on left-hander Chuck McElroy to face Robin Ventura. Walk. Hargrove went to right-hander Al Reyes. Run-scoring single. Sacrifice fly. Reyes and B. J. Ryan combined to give up five runs in the seventh. By the time Mike Trombley restored some semblance of order in the eighth, Orioles relievers had allowed 10 of 13 batters to either reach base or drive in a run.
"The guys just didn't do the job tonight," Hargrove said. "Everybody is entitled to that. It's certainly not enjoyable to watch, but I don't think you can say, 'Hey, the bullpen cratered again.' We may move the roles around, but I'm putting this down to a bad night. If it continues tomorrow night, I might answer the question a little differently."
Though it wasn't evident by the final score, the struggling offense showed signs of emerging from a weeklong struggle with a 12-hit attack that should have produced better results. The Mets watered it down with a couple of big defensive plays - particularly a crucial out-field-to-home plate double play in the fourth - and waited for an opportunity to get to Erickson.
The Orioles left 10 runners on base, but Hargrove couldn't point to that as the reason for the club's sixth loss in the last seven games.
"They scored 11 runs," he said. "The inning we scored one to tie the game [the fourth], we had runners at second and third and didn't score. That didn't beat us, but those were two important runs we left out there."
Meanwhile, Mets second base-man Edgardo Alfonzo had a home run and a triple and former Orioles third baseman Todd Zeile drove home three runs during the late-in-fling onslaught. The Mets also got three hits from the ninth slot in the batting order - one from pitcher Rick Reed and a couple of damaging extra-base pinch hits.
The weather had improved considerably in the 24 hours since the Mets postponed Tuesday night's game because of rain and angered Orioles officials by re-scheduling it on the day off today. The sky was clear and the ball was carrying very well - perhaps a little too well to suit Erickson.
He retired the first two Mets batters in the bottom of the first inning, but surrendered back-to-back home runs to Alfonzo and Mike Piazza. Alfonzo launched a ball into the left-field bullpen and Piazza followed with a moon shot that ended up in the parking lot behind left field.
The ball landed just short of the perimeter fence behind the bullpen and bounced into the parking lot, a shot estimated by Mets officials at 448 feet. Erickson collected himself quickly and retired 12 of the next 13 batters as the Orioles battled back against Reed. "I was in a good groove before the homers," Erickson said. "They just hit them. That happens. I may have gotten the ball up a little bit, but they were looking for pitches and they hit them"
Cal Ripken took advantage of the apparent jetstream with his 11th home run in the top of the second and the Orioles tied the game with another Ripken RBI in the fourth. Albert Belle started the modest rally with a leadoff single and B. J. Surhoff followed with a double to put runners at second and third with no one out.
Ripken would drive home the second run with a line drive to left that clanked off the glove of rookie outfielder Jason Tyner. The play was ruled an error - though Tyner was in full sprint when he reached for the ball - and Ripken ended up at second base with what went into the scorebook as a sacrifice fly/two-base error.
The Orioles were denied a second run in the inning when Tyner atoned for his misplay when he threw out Surhoff trying to tag up from third on a medium-deep fly ball by Charles Johnson.
Erickson would help put him-self in front in the fifth with a lead-off single - his first major-league hit in 14 at-bats (including post-season). He would score the go-ahead run on a double by Delino DeShields, but the Mets would rally in the sixth to regain the lead and run him out of the game.
Mets infielder Kurt Abbott, who entered the game in a double switch when Reed left after the fifth, sliced a triple into the right-field corner to lead off the sixth and scored on a sacrifice fly by Tyner. Derek Bell beat out a broken-bat infield hit and Alfonzo sliced another triple into the right-field corner that gave the Mets the lead.
"There were two fly balls that landed within a couple feet of the foul line and [broken-bat single] wasn't really a hit," Erickson said. "I felt good. I didn't walk anybody until the end. I had decent control."
Erickson's first walk of the game brought Hargrove out of the dugout. He went to his bullpen in an attempt to keep the game under control, but the club's relief troubles continue. McElroy came on to walk Ventura and load the bases. Reyes quickly replaced him and surrendered an RBI single to Zeile and a sacrifice fly to center fielder Jay Payton as the Mets opened up a three-run lead.
It would just get worse. Pinch hitter Benny Agbayani opened the seventh with a double and - in one particularly damaging stretch seven straight Mets batters reached base with two outs to blow the game open against Reyes and Ryan. The rookie's two-run, no-out outing brought his earned run average to 7.91.