- The Washington Times - Monday, June 18, 2001


PHILADELPHIA His bullpen pushed to the brink of exhaustion after a taxing week of baseball, Baltimore Orioles manager Mike Hargrove needed a gargantuan effort from somebody, anybody on his pitching staff yesterday afternoon.

He got two.

Starter Jose Mercedes offered up seven gutsy innings on a warm day at Veterans Stadium, and Buddy Groom gave Hargrove two innings of relief despite pitching four of the last five days. Those two performances, along with four Baltimore home runs, allowed the Orioles to emerge with a 10-7 win over the Philadelphia Phillies, salvaging one victory in what was an otherwise troubling weekend.

"I saw the results the first two nights we played these guys," said Mercedes, who threw a season-high 129 pitches after watching the last two Baltimore starters knocked out in less than five innings. "Today I knew I had to step in, to help the bullpen and to help myself."

That the Orioles found salvation in the form of Mercedes (2-8) was surprising in itself; the right-hander was coming off his shortest start of the season, lasting 2 2/3 innings against the New York Mets.

But thanks in part to a change in his windup he brought his hands up to his chest, not all the way over his head as he usually does during a deliberate motion Mercedes came through with his best all-around outing of the year. In his seven innings, the Phillies managed only three runs, all courtesy of No. 8 hitter Marlon Anderson, who homered in the second and singled in a run in the sixth.

Mercedes made it through the seventh inning unscathed, but with the Orioles holding a seemingly comfortable 9-3 lead at the time, Hargrove turned to Mike Trombley, one of three relievers he deemed available to pitch yesterday.

"We would have loved to take him one more [inning], but he was out of gas," Hargrove said. "But for seven innings, he gave us the effort that we needed."

Baltimore built its six-run lead in fairly dramatic fashion for this team through the long ball. Jeff Conine hit a two-run homer in the first, Brady Anderson followed with a three-run shot in the second and David Segui launched a solo blast to center in the third, all off Amaury Telemaco. A two-run double by Chris Richard in the fifth and a solo home run by Jay Gibbons in the eighth padded the lead and put Mercedes well in line to earn his second victory.

But just as they did Friday and Saturday nights, the Phillies hit themselves back into the game against the Orioles bullpen. Philadelphia opened the bottom of the eighth with three straight singles off Trombley, enough to bring Hargrove back out of the dugout and Groom out of the pen.

Groom got Anderson to hit a sharp grounder to first, but Segui who holds baseball's all-time best fielding percentage by a first baseman was screened by a baserunner, bobbled the ball, then threw wide to first. Segui was charged with two errors on the play, which allowed another Phillies run to score.

Pinch-hitter Turner Ward then laced a two-run single up the middle, and suddenly Baltimore's six-run lead was down to two.

An insurance run off Philadelphia closer Jose Mesa in the top of the ninth gave the Orioles a three-run cushion, and Groom responded by retiring the last five batters he faced. Thus concluded what Groom deemed the most taxing week of his career, one in which he was called upon four times in five days for a total of 4 2/3 innings.

"I didn't expect it, but when I'm out there I want to stay out there like that," said Groom, who once pitched five straight days in Oakland, though most of the appearances were for one or two batters. "Any time you can go two innings like that, you feel like you're saving somebody for the next day. That's what we're trying to do down there, pick each other up and try to keep as many guys out of the game as possible."

Hargrove's pitching staff knew what it was up against, and the manager didn't find it necessary to make a specific point to talk to his hurlers before the game.

"You don't have to tell these guys that. They know," he said. "I had two relievers whose arms were hanging tell me they could throw. They knew everybody else was hanging, but they could pick up the slack. I appreciate the effort, I appreciate the comment and I appreciate the intention."

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide