This time, it was Scott McGregor. On other nights, it has been Mi ke Boddicker, Storm Davis or some other Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher who has gotten hit early and hard. McGregor (9-10) left the mound tonight after throwing only 17 pitches, marking the 27th time this season an Orioles starter has not lasted four innings.
Baltimore fell behind, 5-0, in the first inning and, although it went on to hit four home runs, never got back into the game, losing, 8-5, to the Cleveland Indians, who have the worst record in the American League (37-73).
"Each and every day I come to the park thinking today's our day to throw a shutout," Manager Earl Weaver said before the game. No Orioles pitcher has a shutout since Boddicker pitched one in Boston June 30, and the staff has had only three all year.
McGregor got in trouble immediately, breaking one of baseball's cardinal rules by walking the leadoff batter, Joe Carter, on five pitches. Carter stole second unchallenged and scored when Brett Butler hit a single just over the head of second baseman Rich Dauer.
Julio Franco singled, extending his hitting streak to 13 games, and McGregor walked Andre Thornton on four pitches to load the bases. Pat Tabler, who is six for six with the bases loaded this season -- and 21 for 33, with 54 RBI, in such situations the past three years -- singled up the middle, scoring Butler and Franco, and Weaver walked to the mound.
In 17 pitches, McGregor's ERA had ballooned to 5.00, giving the Orioles three pitchers with ERAs over five (Davis, 5.39, and Dennis Martinez, 5.14, are the others) on a staff whose ERA is 4.51, the highest at this point in a season in Orioles history.
The pitching woes have been the biggest mystery for this team. The staff includes three former 20-game winners (McGregor, Boddicker and Mike Flanagan), but it is the failure of the pitchers that has this team in fifth place in the AL East. The Orioles are second in the league in runs scored, but 12th in ERA.
"I've been saying we've been throwing well but most of the time the result is we give up five or six or seven runs," Weaver said. "Throwing well? We've got to throw weller. I used to say good. Then it would be gooder. Whatever."
It appeared at first that reliever Ken Dixon would fare no better than McGregor in the first inning as he walked Brook Jacoby, the first batter he faced. But the Orioles turned a double play on Tony Bernazard's grounder, although Tabler scored on the play to make it 4-0.
Carmen Castillo singled in the fifth run of the inning before Chris Bando flied out to center.
In the Baltimore first, leadoff batter Floyd Rayford popped out foul. Lee Lacy walked, but was out when Cal Ripken grounded into a double play to end the inning.
Dixon struck out Carter to open the second inning, then walked Butler and Franco. With Tippy Martinez warming in the bullpen, Dixon struck out Thornton, but gave up his fourth base on balls in nine batters, walking Tabler to load the bases.
Dixon got out of the inning when Jacoby grounded to shortstop Ripken for a fielder's choice.
The Orioles got a run back when Eddie Murray led off the second inning with his 21st home run, making it 5-1.
The Orioles made it 5-2 in the fourth, with Murray again scoring the run. Curt Wardle (3-4) gave up a leadoff walk to Murray, who went to third on Fred Lynn's double to the right field corner. Mike Young drove in the run with a sacrifice fly to left field.
Jacoby hit his 13th home run to make it 6-2 in the fifth. Lacy made it 6-3 in the bottom of the inning when he hit a home run, his seventh, to right center.
Cleveland got two runs in the ninth before the Orioles got back-to-back, pinch-hit home runs from Wayne Gross and Larry Sheets in the bottom of the inning.