Byline: Mark Zuckerman
ARLINGTON, Texas - Stuck in their worst funk of the season and heading into a brutal portion of the schedule that will test both their physical and mental endurance, the Baltimore Orioles are finding ways to torture themselves seemingly every day.
Last night, they may have sunk to a new low.
In a game that spanned the complete gamut of highs and lows, the Orioles broke out to an early four-run lead and watched it wither away in the stifling Texas heat. They rallied to regain control behind Cal Ripken's bat and then gave it all away on a botched defensive play, something that has become so prevalent in recent days.
The end result was a thoroughly disappointing 8-7 loss to the Texas Rangers before 35,517 at the Ballpark in Arlington, the kind of loss that will make tonight's doubleheader - part of the makeup for last week's train derailment in Baltimore - all the more painful to contemplate.
"We gave the game away," manager Mike Hargrove said. "Essentially, that's what happened."
The Orioles led 7-6 in the bottom of the eighth when the last-place Rangers stormed back thanks to Mike Kinkade's two-out error in left field.
Relievers B.J. Ryan and Mike Trombley retired the first two batters in the inning before Ruben Sierra singled up the middle to keep Texas' hopes alive. Gabe Kapler then hit a deep fly ball to left field that Kinkade - inserted in place of Jay Gibbons that inning - misplayed and watched glance off the tip of his glove. The two-base error allowed Sierra to score the tying run and kept the inning alive for pinch-hitter Randy Velarde. Velarde crushed a 2-0 pitch from Trombley (2-3) inside third base for another double, giving the Rangers the lead for good.
"I saw him reach up to catch the ball and then looked away," Hargrove said of the Kinkade play. "The next thing I knew, everyone was still running."
Baltimore threatened in the bottom of the ninth, loading the bases with two outs against closer Jeff Zimmerman, but pinch-hitter Brady Anderson struck out to end the game.
After squandering their early lead, the Orioles - who have lost 15 of their last 18 games - came back in the top of the eighth when Ripken battled through an 11-pitch at-bat against left-hander Mike Venafro (3-2) to single through the left-side hole and bring home the tying run. Tony Batista then gave Baltimore the lead with a sacrifice fly to left.
It didn't last long, though. The Rangers' eighth-inning heroics spoiled what was turning into a sorely needed victory for the Orioles, who now face the daunting prospect of a twi-night doubleheader with two pitchers making their first starts of …