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.
When Erickson faltered, a parade of relievers followed him to the mound and kept the bases well-stocked for the next two innings. By the time Mike Trombley arrived to restore some sense of order in the eighth, the bullpen had allowed 10 out of 13 batters to either reach base or drive in a run.
Though it wasn't evident by the final score, the struggling offensive lineup 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 and waited for an opportunity to get to Erickson
Second baseman Edgardo Alfonzo had a home run and a triple and former Orioles third baseman Todd Zeile drove home three runs during the late-inning 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 rescheduling it on what was to be a day off today. The, sky was clear and the ball was carrying very well - perhaps 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. Alfonzo launched a ball into the left-field bullpen and Mike 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.
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 an opposite-field 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 himself in front in the fifth with a lead off single his first major-league hit in 14 career at-bats (including postseason). He would eventually 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.
Erickson walked Piazza and manager Mike Hargrove had seen enough. He went to his bullpen in an attempt to keep the game under control, but the club's relief troubles continue. Left-hander Chuck McElroy came on to walk Robin Ventura and load the bases. Right-hander Al Reyes quickly replaced him and surrendered an RBI single and a sacrifice fly as the Mets opened up a three-run lead.
B. J. Ryan poured more fuel on the fire, as the struggling rookie gave up two runs without retiring a batter.