- The Washington Times - Friday, June 9, 2000


NEW YORK It was only appropriate that the Baltimore Orioles' trip from hell ended this way.

The Orioles' latest road stand lasted 12 days, took them to three cities in two countries, required six plane rides and saw them being booted out of their Manhattan hotel. On the field, things were even worse. They split four games with Tampa Bay, the worst team in baseball, and got swept by low-budget Montreal.

Thursday night was the final indignity as they blew a four-run lead and three-run lead to lose the rubber match of their series with the New York Mets 8-7 in 10 innings. The Orioles (24-33) finished their trip 3-7 and limp home to face the equally inept Philadelphia Phillies Friday at Camden Yards.

Thurday night's game was originally scheduled for Tuesday night but was rained out. Rather than having a doubleheader Wednesday, it was rescheduled for Thursday night in part because the Mets didn't want to lose an extra gate. But after costing both teams an off day, the Shea Stadium crowd of 9,540 hardly seemed worth it.

By extending the trip an extra day, combined with a severe hotel shortage in the New York area, the Orioles were forced to fly home after Wednesday night's loss, then fly back to New York Thursday afternoon.

Despite the less than ideal circumstances, the Orioles got off to a good start but couldn't overcome yet another poor performance by the shell-shocked bullpen.

Thursday night's victim was Jose Mercedes, who came on to pitch the 10th inning and served up a solo one-out homer to Kurt Abbott that mercifully ended the Orioles' odyssey. It was the 13th loss of the season for the bullpen, which has already blown 14 saves after squandering 25 a year ago.

Mike Trombley looked like the scapegoat when he came in to pitch the eighth and gave up a leadoff homer to Jay Payton to make it 7-6.

But the Orioles briefly redeemed Trombley in the ninth after Mike Bordick hit a one-out single off John Franco and Delino DeShields walked.

Ex-Orioles reliever Armando Benitez, who was traded before last season, entered and walked Albert Belle to load the bases. Then pinch-hitter Will Clark, who had only five RBI this season, hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game.

The Mets' took advantage of more Oriole bad luck to get even in the fourth. With two outs, Mike Piazza lined a shot off Johnson. After another single, Todd Zeile launched a three-run homer that made it 4-3.

"Jason was rocking along, and all of a sudden he had the ball hit off him, and it seemed the deeper he got into that inning, the more he lost his focus," said Orioles manager Mike Hargrove.

Johnson tired in the sixth inning and remained winless in eight starts. With the Orioles leading 6-3, Johnson walked Robin Ventura to open the inning. Zeile followed with a single, and Jay Payton doubled to make it 6-4, Mets.

After a sacrifice fly by Abbott and a flyout by pinch-hitter Benny Agbayani, rookie Jason Tyner lined a single to right off Buddy Groom to tie the game.

Cal Ripken's got things started for the Orioles with a second-inning solo home run. It was Ripken's team-leading 12th of the season, his second in as many nights and fourth of the road trip. He's on pace to hit 34, which would match his career best in his second MVP season of 1991.

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