Orioles shortstop Melvin Mora survived his latest brush with disaster. He started last night's game against the New York Yankees after being drilled in the back by a Chris Carpenter pitch on Thursday night against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Mora straightened up as the ball struck him, grimaced and collapsed to the ground. He stayed in Thursday's game after being attended to by trainer Richie Bancells but was removed in the fourth inning for Jesus Garcia.
"He wasn't talking," said manager Mike Hargrove. "When he gets hurt like that, he doesn't say anything. 'Melvin, are you OK?' Silence. 'Melvin, if you're OK, tap the ground.' But I think he's all right."
What's one more bruise?
Mora had to leave a Sept. 19 game against Oakland after fouling a ball off his left knee. He returned to the lineup three nights later in Boston.
This has been a rough month for Mora, who missed seven games after straining his left hamstring while fielding a ball in Cleveland on Sept. 1. He was batting .203 (12-for-59) in 16 games before last night since the injury. He had two singles and two walks last night.
Jose Mercedes' wife, Leonor, gave birth to the couple's second child on Wednesday. Dicelli Mercedes, their first daughter, was born at 9:28 a.m. at Greater Baltimore Medical Center.
"I was there. I saw the whole thing," he said. "I'll never forget it."
Mercedes will have more time to spend with his family after starting the season finale tomorrow against the Yankees.
Tough staying loose
While the Orioles were setting a team record for runs scored in Thursday's 23-1 rout of the Blue Jays, pitcher Pat Rapp was finding ways to stay loose.
He took extra warm-up tosses between innings, as many as seven. "I tried to rapid-fire some fastballs in there," he said.
Rapp also did lots of stretching rather than remain stationary in the dugout while the Orioles were tying a club record with 10 runs in the fourth inning. But his gaze never left the field. He took great pleasure in watching the offensive uprisings, which he joked "killed my [low] run-support for the year."
"The fourth inning was probably the most difficult. That's probably the longest rest I've had," he said. "The next inning we put five more up and they asked me if I wanted to go in the cage [to throw]. I said, 'No, I'll be all right, I guess.' It worked the last inning so I guess it'll work this inning, too.
"It's a lot more to fun to watch than worry about getting cold, I guess."
With such a large margin to work with, Rapp was more apt to groove a fastball when behind in the count rather than proceed with caution. He went seven innings, allowing only two hits and walking one.
"I'm not going to mess around with curveballs and changeups with that big a lead," he said. "But to me, when I went back out there, it was still 0-0 and I was still going to try to get ahead and make pitches."
Rapp finished the season 9-12 and lowered his ERA to 5.90. The Orioles hold an option on his contract for 2001, but haven't indicated whether they'll exercise it.
Catcher Brook Fordyce, who was behind the plate for Rapp, said he'd rather play in a closer game. "But if it has to happen, which it did, we want to be on the 23 side rather than the one side," he said.
"I'm sure there were some good pitches they made, but at that point there's nothing you can do. You may as well walk the guy because everything else is going to fall in. Maybe it's contagious. Brady [Anderson] started off with a home run, and everybody was aggressive. We hit everything. They could have thrown it behind our heads and we probably would have gotten a hit."
After the lead grew to 21-1 in the fifth, Hargrove couldn't resist bringing up the lack of run support that has defined Mike Mussina's season.
"I said, 'You know all those runs we haven't scored for you? There they are, right there. They all came out tonight.' "
Former Arundel High pitcher Denny Neagle won't start in this series, but could make an appearance out of the bullpen before the Division Series begins on Tuesday.
Neagle has allowed 18 earned runs in his past three starts covering 10 2/3 innings, with the blame being placed on faulty mechanics when pitching from the stretch. He addressed the problem while throwing on the side yesterday.
"Joe [Torre] noticed it the other day. He said that was the reason he pulled me, because it just didn't look like I could get comfortable," said Neagle, who is 7-7 with a 5.66 ERA since being acquired from the Cincinnati Reds in July.
"My problem has always been the same thing. I get so conscious of keeping runners on base that I tend to start getting quick out of the stretch. Now, you fly open, your shoulder's dragging and everything's up in the zone.
"What's been killing me is the pitch in on righties or away on lefties. Joe compared it to golf, and he's right. When you're golfing, when you're nice and relaxed and swinging easy, you're going to have your better drives. If you start forcing it, trying to get quick, you're not going to be as sharp.
"Obviously, I'm not throwing the ball the way I know I'm capable, the way the guys here know I'm capable. But Joe mentioned that he hasn't lost any confidence in me, and I haven't lost any confidence in myself."