- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 4, 2000

BALTIMORE Baltimore Orioles manager Mike Hargrove continues to say that Chuck McElroy's job is safe but the left-handed middle reliever is putting that to the test.
On a night when the Baltimore Orioles were in position to survive a poor game from fifth starter Jason Johnson and struggling slugger Albert Belle showed signs of life with a home run and two other hits, McElroy allowed what proved to be the game-winning homer as the Orioles fell to the Anaheim Angels 6-5 before 37,961 at Camden Yards.
The Orioles (15-11) must win this afternoon's finale to avoid losing their first home series of the season. The Angels improved to 14-14.
"He doesn't have to feel like his job's in jeopardy," Hargrove said of McElroy. "His velocity is between 87 and 90, he's shown he can throw the split-fingered fastball and the curveball for strikes… . He made one bad pitch tonight, but otherwise he pitched very well."
It was not surprising that McElroy served up a home run, because he entered the game with a 14.14 ERA. What was mildly surprising was that Hargrove went to him with a man on first and down just a run in the sixth inning when McElroy had yet to prove himself reliable this season and had given up three runs in his four previous innings.
Most of the buttons Hargrove has pushed have been the right ones but bringing in McElroy in a critical situation wasn't one of them. McElroy has blamed his problems on "trying to be too fine" and "not being aggressive enough," and he has vowed to correct these problems.
Unfortunately, his first pitch was down the middle of the plate, and the result was predictable as Garret Anderson cracked a homer to the ivy behind center field to put the Angels up 6-3.
"You have to be aggressive," McElroy said. "Other times [this season] I was trying to be too fine, but not tonight. I went right at him, and he went out and got it."
While Hargrove defended his pitcher, he acknowledged that McElroy didn't get the job done.
"I'm not trying to be pie in the sky," Hargrove said. "His job was to get Garret Anderson out, and he didn't do it."
Hargrove said he went with McElroy because the Angels had left-handed hitters coming up, he wanted to save B.J. Ryan for the later innings and fellow lefty Buddy Groom had worked two innings the night before.
McElroy, who makes $1.7 million, avoided being released last week when the Orioles claimed Mark Lewis off waivers, in part because of his guaranteed salary and in part because left-handers are a valued commodity.
The homer McElroy served up put a damper on a strong performance by Belle, who had been mired in a slump and hadn't homered in almost a month. He got the Orioles started with a blast to left field to begin the second inning.
In part because he's been pressing and in part because he hasn't seen many good pitches, Belle was only 7-for-41 in the 12 previous games. And after hitting two home runs the first week of the season, Belle hadn't gone deep since April 7.
For the first time in three starts since being recalled from Class AAA Rochester, Johnson couldn't handle the lead and gave up back-to-back solo homers in the third.
A solo blast by B.J. Surhoff tied the game for the Orioles in the fourth, and Belle put them ahead 3-2 by singling and eventually scoring on a sacrifice fly by Cal Ripken.
A walk and double to begin the fifth gave the Angels runners at second and third with none out but Johnson got the next two outs only to allow Troy Glaus to score on a wild pitch to tie the game at 3-3.
In the sixth, Johnson gave up a leadoff homer to Mo Vaughn his 14th at Camden Yards and after Tim Salmon followed with a single, Johnson was done.
The Orioles got two back in the bottom of the sixth when Jeff Conine hit a bases-loaded single to score Surhoff and Belle. But after reloading the bases with one out, Mike Bordick, for one of the rare times this season, failed to deliver in the clutch and fouled out. Brady Anderson grounded to second to end the threat.
The Orioles got single base-runners in each of the final three innings but couldn't get any of them past second. The game ended with Delino DeShields on second and Belle on deck when Surhoff hit a weak fly ball off Angels closer Troy Percival, who had blown a save a night earlier, to center field.

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