Good hitting teams -- and the Baltimore Orioles are certainly that -- often can pull themselves out of a hole. But when poor pitching digs it too deep, even three home runs can leave a team underground.
If Gary Roenicke were to hit two home runs in a game, including his fifth career grand slam, and the Orioles were to score eight times, they normally would win. Not this year. Not tonight.
A crowd of 32,705 at Memorial Stadium watched the Orioles get far behind, come way back, and finally lose, 10-8, to the Chicago White Sox.
"We get a couple of good games, and then we get one of these," Orioles Manager Earl Weaver said. "When you get eight runs, you ought to win. I can't put my finger on it, no matter how hard I try. Dennis (Martinez) had four days rest and 86 miles per hour was his best fast ball when you know he can throw 89 or 90. But what the other guy (Britt Burns) did was amazing, getting down and coming back. I could count on one hand the times I've seen that."
Oriole pitching has been spotty and inconsistent at best, and tonight it was Martinez' turn not to last past the fourth inning, as has happened 22 times to Orioles pitchers this season. It got so bad that, with the White Sox leading, 9-0, in the fourth inning, Weaver had third baseman Wayne Gross warming up in the bullpen and said later he would have used him if the Orioles hadn't started a comeback. Gross, while with Oakland in 1983, threw 2 1/3 innings of relief against Minnesota.
The only relief for the Orioles fans was a valiant comeback led by Roenicke, who had one hit in his last 23 at bats when he stepped up in the fourth with Eddie Murray aboard. He hit his seventh homer of the year into the left field seats. Mike Young hit the next pitch from Burns (9-6) into the right field seats to cut the lead to 9-3.
Roenicke made it a game again in the fifth when his grand slam cleared the bases after clearing the fence to make it 9-8. But it was not enough.
"It's 9-4, it's still a game and we're starting to fight back," Roenicke said. "I'm just trying to hit the ball hard at that point. He threw a fast ball and I hit it pretty good. But you have to give (Burns) credit. He had a 3.13 ERA coming in. We got eight runs off of him, but he finished it off. He was throwing as hard in the last inning as he was in the first."
While Burns went the distance, four Orioles went to the hill. The last two -- Tippy Martinez and Sammy Stewart -- had success, but by then the damage was done.
"We have just not gotten the pitching," Roenicke said. "I hate to start pointing fingers, but we haven't had good starting pitching, and we have to have that."
Dennis Martinez (7-6) retired the White Sox in order in the first but then began to unravel. Greg Walker singled to lead off the second. Oscar Gamble and Mark Ryal walked to load the bases. Tim Hulett, the No. 8 hitter, singled to left to score two runs.
The White Sox were bad last year and have been hot and cold this year. One of the few constants on the team has been Harold Baines, and tonight he drove in four runs. In the third, he hit his eighth home run of the season, with Scott Fletcher on first to make it 4-0.
Chicago made it 9-0 in the fourth, knocking out Dennis Martinez and bringing, first, Phil Huffman, then Tippy Martinez out of the bullpen.
The Orioles' comeback started immediately. Roenicke hit his first homer followed by Young's -- which was his eighth of the year and second in as many nights -- to make it 9-3 in the fourth. Then Cal Ripken's RBI single and Roenicke's grand slam cut it to 9-8 in the fifth.
The Orioles were hot, but Burns shut the door and picked up an insurance run in the seventh inning when Luis Salazar doubled home Marc Hill.