One more time last night, the Orioles worked the familM-W iar formula. Or more preM-W cisely, the formula worked them.
Four bases-empty home runs and a frustrated performance from a starting pitcher couldn't overcome a second inning of unsightly defense as the Philadelphia Phillies became the latest team to seize upon a lapse for a 9-5 win over their designated interleague "rival," before a quick-exiting crowd of 46,218 at Camden Yards. The Orioles lost for the eighth time in nine games and fell 10 games below .500 (24-34) for the first time this season.
The Phillies scored six unearned runs, five with two outs in their seven-run second inning and three on third baseman Scott Rolen's home run to cap the breakout. Jeff Conine, Charles Johnson and Albert Belle homered within a span of nine hitters but looked up to still find themselves trailing 8-3.
"If we could go back and play the second inning again, we might have a different outcome," said manager Mike Hargrove. "Pretty much anything that could go wrong in that inning did go wrong."
Let those in the warehouse continue debating the future of this team. Occupants only need lift the shades to find the unsettling truth.
The Orioles are 13-29 since April 22, haven't won any of their last eight road series and are hostage to whatever shortcoming each game reveals.
Last night, the Orioles homered three times off Phillies left-hander Randy Wolf (6-3) in the first four innings and drew no closer than four runs due to the botched second inning. In the night's most bizarre footnote, Pat Rapp (4-4), still the Orioles' winningest pitcher, came within a questionable call of a "quality start" only to be lifted after 5M-. innings and 123 pitches.
Hargrove checked himself before offering criticism. He noted the team's back-and-forth travel to New York the past two days and how it refused to go away after finding itself down seven runs.
"The way things were on this road trip, for this team not to go belly up in the second inning and compete ... that says a lot to me about the character of the players on this team," Hargrove said. "There's always a silver lining in everything. Sometimes you have to go long and hard to find it. ... They're good people; they play hard."
They also have been playing inefficiently lately.
An infuriated Rapp needed 53 pitches to escape what may well have been the Orioles' worst defensive inning this season, a collection of missed ground balls, botched defensive assignments and poor damage control. Before he was done, Rapp surrendered five unearned runs on top of two earned as the Phillies sent 11 hitters to the plate. Two walked and one reached on second baseman Delino DeShields' costly error following the Orioles' failed try to get an out from a mangled double- steal attempt with two outs.
Chuck McElroy was ordered to warm. Cal Ripken and Johnson appoached the mound to calm the frustrated starting pitcher. The seven-run inning equaled the most damaging allowed by the Orioles this season, tying the Boston breakout of May 14.
"It kind of snowballed that one inning. They would've just had two runs," said Rapp.
Rapp wasn't blameless. A lapse of control fueled the inning and his slow glove extended it. However, two indifferent defensive plays that followed were what provoked a Camden Yards crowd to boo the team as it jogged from the field.
The rally began like so many others against this team - with a pair of walks and a timid single. Still, Rapp faced a bases-loaded situation with two outs and no runs allowed.
A quicker glove might have ended the inning but Rapp was unable to stop Doug Glanville's one- hop smash through him that scored Rob Ducey and Pat Burrell, both of whom walked on full counts.
"I certainly think there's plenty of blame to share. I don't think you can heap it on any one person," said Hargrove. "We walked two hitters early in the inning. You'd like to get an out in the rundown. The pitches we threw to Glanville for the base hit. ... I could sit down and go down the list and tick them off. ... There was plenty of blame for all of us to share."
From there, the inning - and the game - witnessed its pivotal sequence of unkempt defense. With Ron Gant trailing in the count, the Phillies attempted to work a delayed double steal in which Glanville broke from first base with Mickey Morandini edging from third. The Orioles threw after Glanville but broke off the pursuit when Morandini moved toward the plate. The throw ended up at third base behind Morandini's slide.
Gant, an atypical No. 2 hitter, ended his defensive at-bat with a dribbler to the right of a retreating DeShields. DeShields anticipated making a flip to second for the forceout but a bad hop handcuffed him. Morandini scored, Gant reached and the inning exploded.
Bobby Abreu singled home the inning's fourth run. Rolen, activated from the disabled list (ankle) only Thursday, then jumped on a Rapp curveball for a three-run homer to jack the lead to 7-0.
"It seems like the team's letting it snowball just like in that one inning," said Rapp. "We played a good game, hit some home runs but no home runs with men on. We're not going to win like that."
The Orioles wasted little time hammering away pieces of the lead with sledgehammer swings. Jeff Conine slammed a 1-for-18 funk in the bottom of the second by driving his sixth home run.
In the third inning, Johnson drove his 10th home run - and fourth in 10 games - to right-center field; Belle continued his warming trend in the fourth inning, celebrating the year anniversary of his infamous dugout confrontation with former manager Ray Miller by extending his hitting streak to 11 games with a towering home run to left field to make it an 8-3 game.
Belle has four home runs during his hitting steak and has now hit safely in 32 of his last 36 games.
"We didn't hit those big three-run homers tonight. We just had a few solo shots here and there," said Johnson, who added one more in the eighth.
After homering with their first three hits, the Orioles pulled to within 8-4 on three singles, including center fielder Rich Amaral's first RBI since April 25.
The Phillies pressed their lead to 9-4 in the seventh with their sixth unearned run, this one following Rolen's leadoff smash through Conine at first base. Able to take second as the ball trickled into right field, Rolen scored immediately on Mike Lieberthal's double.
Opponent: Philadelphia Phillies
Site: Camden Yards
TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Phillies' Curt Shilling (1-3, 5.64) vs. Orioles' Sidney Ponson (3-3, 4.70)