Orioles' 14th Loss Makes History in Baseball Frustration
By Richard Justice
He had lost the ball. The Baltimore Orioles were about to lose another game.
Mark it down. At a few minutes after 9 p.m. CST, the winless and hapless Orioles were beaten, 8-6, by the Milwaukee Brewers. Only 7,284 showed up on a cold, wet night at County Stadium, but the ones who did saw a bit of history.
They saw the Orioles become the first team in the 120-odd years of major league baseball to start a season 0-14. They saw the Orioles erase a record that had stood for 84 years, since the 1904 Washington Senators lost their first 13 decisions. The Detroit Tigers tied it 16 years later, and until Tuesday, no other team had come close.
"Someday someone will look up the record and have a good laugh," Orioles catcher Terry Kennedy said. "It'll be funny then, but it's not funny now. This is what the 1988 Baltimore Orioles are going to be remembered for, and there's nothing we can do about it."
The Orioles had lost most of their first 13 games because they didn't hit, then, as the bats came around this week, the pitching died. Starter Mike Boddicker (0-4) was tagged for seven hits and seven runs in 4 2/3 innings and became the first four-game loser in the majors.
He was followed by three relievers, and by the time the Brewers -- who started 13-0 in 1987 but are just 6-7 now -- were finished, they'd collected 15 hits, including home runs from Glenn Braggs and Robin Yount.
One of their 15 hits shouldn't even have been a hit. It was Rob Deer's towering pop fly in the fifth inning when the Orioles led, 5-4. When Ripken lost it in the twilight, it fell for a single. Had it been caught, Boddicker could have gotten out of the inning with the one-run lead.
But he ended up not finishing the inning, and the Brewers ended up scoring four times for an 8-5 lead.
Those mistakes and shaky relief by Mark Williamson spoiled a night when the Orioles broke loose for a season-high six runs and 12 hits. They got three hits from leadoff man Jeff Stone, who entered the game with two the entire season. They got Larry Sheets' second homer of the season, and strung together five hits, a season high, against starter Bill Wegman (1-2) in a three-run third inning.
"I just told 'em to get their rest and come back ready for a day game tomorrow," Orioles Manager Frank Robinson (0-8) said. "We're putting some runs on the board and now we've got a chance to win. They're not embarrassed. I'm not embarrassed."
He's asked about a franchise that won more games than any other in the big leagues 1957 through 1987.
"That has nothing to do with it," he said. "This is 1988. No one likes to lose 14 in a row, and our players know we're not doing the things we have to do to win. We might lose 15, 16 or 20 in a row, but before this is over, we're going to play some good baseball."
His day had begun with a cheer-up, "hang in there" phone call from comedian Bill Cosby. He also met individually with Stone and Jim Traber, who was unhappy about not playing. He then met with his entire team and told them "to keep going, keep working."
He said he and General Manager Roland Hemond had discussed several player moves, but decided that with 13 new ones on the roster, "the best thing might be to give everyone a chance to get to know each other."
In fact, Hemond said he was backing out of trade talks "because the players have enough on their minds without reading that stuff right now."
Boddicker was victimized by the dropped ball, but he spun most of his own trouble and lost his ninth straight decision, a club record. He hasn't won since beating Oakland Sept. 4, and dug himself a quick 3-0 hole tonight. He hit Greg Brock with a pitch to open the second inning, and Deer singled. He then hung a pitch for Braggs, who slammed it over the left field fence.
But the Orioles came right back for a 3-3 tie in the third. It took their biggest inning of the season, those five hits, to get it, and they left two runners on.
Stone started the rally with the first of three singles, and Bill Ripken singled.
Eddie Murray, switched to the third spot in the batting order, singled to right to score Stone. Ex-No. 3 hitter Cal Ripken flied to center, but Lynn and Sheets got RBI singles for a 3-3 tie.
The Orioles gained the lead an inning later. Kennedy singled, Stone doubled and Bill Ripken sent Deer to the wall in left for his sacrifice fly. They made it 5-3 on Sheets' home run in the fifth.
Boddicker almost didn't get out of the fourth, and he didn't finish the fifth. Yount led off the inning with a homer that made it 5-4, and with one out, Brock singled. Deer lifted a pop fly into shallow left-center. Cal Ripken never picked up the ball, center fielder Joe Orsulak was playing too deep and second baseman Bill Ripken couldn't get to it.
"He saw it when it came off the bat, but after he went back and got under it, he couldn't pick it up again," Robinson said. "He couldn't pick it up in the twilight."
It fell in for a single, and after Boddicker got Braggs on a fly to left, he walked little Ernest Riles to load the bases. He then gave up the big hit, a two-run single by Jim Gantner, who had come to the plate with no RBI and in a five-for-34 slump. It was 6-5, Brewers.
Robinson went to his bullpen, but Williamson allowed Dale Sveum an RBI single. In the sixth, he allowed another run on an RBI single by Brock. Mark Thurmond and Tom Niedenfuer finished up.
The Orioles try to avoid No. 15 Thursday afternoon, and send out veteran Scott McGregor, who hasn't won since May 16, 1986.
"I had a good luck charm today," Niedenfuer said, "but then it stopped raining."
Reliever Don Aase agreed to go to Class AAA Rochester for a rehabilitation assignment. Although Aase says he's ready to pitch, General Manager Roland Hemond said the club can give Aase a chance to throw to live hitters and see how quickly his surgically repaired shoulder allows him to bounce back. Aase could have declined the assignment.
© Copyright 1988 The Washington Post Company