- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 15, 2000


BALTIMORE With heavy mist and fog cast against the dark Baltimore sky, Camden Yards resembled a scene a low-budget horror movie.

On cue, the Baltimore Orioles played their part in this horror show setting last night, jumping to a five-run lead, then falling behind by four runs then rallying to tie the game in the eighth before winning in the ninth, 11-10, on Delino DeShields' clutch single before 39,231.

The win improved the Orioles' winning streak to four games while the struggling Rangers (30-33) lost their seventh straight.

Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said watching his team blow such a large lead was "frustrating" but "it was very satisfying to be up five, down four and then come back and win the thing."

No horror movie is complete without a hero who is almost too good to be true. For the Orioles, that role is played by Cal Ripken, who had sparked their game-tying rally in the eighth and began the winning one in the ninth with a single off reliever Tim Crabtree before giving way to pinch-runner Brady Anderson. Anderson advanced to second when Charles Johnson walked and scored on DeShields' hit.

"I don't think we should ever be surprised at what Cal does," said Hargrove.

Beginning the eighth, the Orioles trailed 10-6 and had only managed two hits over the past five innings off Rangers starter Kenny Rogers. But on cue, white knight Ripken led off with a single, and two walks followed to load the bases with one out. Rich Amaral's single scored two, and one out later, B.J. Surhoff continued his recent hot run with another single that tied the game.

"We got a lot of clutch hits to get us back in it," said Surhoff who is 21-for-67 the past 18 games with seven home runs after an extended slump. "Richie Amaral's hit was key. Cal, Delino, Charles Johnson had a good at-bat to get a walk. A lot of people contributed."

Early in the game, it appeared no such heroics would be needed. Albert Belle hit a grand slam to put the Orioles up 4-0 before Rogers got his first out. Belle's 11th homer of the season was also his 12th career grand slam and the Orioles' first on the season.

An inning later Surhoff drove in Mark Lewis to make it 5-0 but then the show turned scary for Orioles fans.

Pat Rapp had been cruising along until the fourth, when his old nemesis, walks, resurfaced and cost him dearly, as he walked three batters and they all scored. Ex-Oriole David Segui struck the first decisive blow with a three-run homer with none out, then Rapp walked two around a double to load the bases with one out.

By then Orioles manager Mike Hargrove had seen enough and replaced him with Jason Johnson, the Orioles' fifth starter who was sentenced to a few days in the Orioles' bullpen because he is going 10 days between starts.

Johnson had grumbled about his temporary demotion but when he entered last night he did little to show the move wasn't justified. With one out and the bases loaded and the Orioles still clinging to a two-run lead, Johnson got Luis Alicea to hit a hard grounder to first base for what should have been the second out. But Will Clark failed to play the ball cleanly and catcher Johnson didn't help matters any by forgetting to cover first and the tag-team gaffe allowed Alicea to reach safely and the Rangers to cut the lead to 5-4.

The mistake proved more costly when Rusty Greer hit a fly ball to center that was a sacrifice fly tying the game rather than the third out. Instead of being out of the inning, Johnson was forced to pitch to Ivan Rodriguez, and he punished the Orioles for their mistake by slapping a double that scored two. By the time the inning finally ended, the Rangers had sent 12 batters to the plate and turned a five-run deficit into a 7-5 lead, marking the Orioles' worst inning of the season.

Lost among the Orioles offensive marquee names was the supporting performance of reliever Chuck McElroy, who stopped the bleeding by pitching perfect fifth and sixth innings to set the stage for the Orioles rally.

"That's my job, to come in there and give us a chance to win," said McElroy. "We kept battling and never gave up, and when you do that, good things will happen."

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