Orioles can fully count on Olson again

September 14, 1990|By Ken Rosenthal | Ken Rosenthal,Evening Sun Staff

TORONTO — C TORONTO -- Orioles pitching coach Al Jackson roared with laughter as he showed his pitching chart to reliever Gregg Olson. "Twenty-seven pitches!" Jackson cried. "Look at all those balls!"

Olson, in joyous spirits himself, couldn't help but partake in thfun. "Come on, Al," he said, pointing to this breaking ball and that as evidence that yes, he really was in command.

Wacky days are here again.

It was just like old times after the Orioles' 5-3 victory oveToronto last night, with Jackson and Olson trading barbs just as they did when the closer was reeling off save after save.

The mood turned considerably more somber after Olson sat ounine days with a sore right elbow, but it's now time for the Orioles to issue an official statement regarding his condition:

Welcome back, Otter.

Olson pitched 1 1/3 eventful innings to earn his 31st save, movinwithin three of the club record set by Don Aase in 1986. He wasn't the only story on a night Jose Mesa beat his former club, but he was back where he belongs, at center stage.

The SkyDome, of course, is as good a place as any for thOrioles to stage the Revenge of the Nerds, and they made sure the Blue Jays remained four games behind Boston, a 9-6 loser to Chicago.

Maybe Olson was just taunting his nemesis, Dwight Evans.

"I just want him to make it a little easier on himself," manageFrank Robinson said, clenching his teeth. Alas, Olson treats 3-2 counts the way Donald Trump treats creditors, winking each step of the way.

Last night, he gave up an RBI single to pinch hitter RancMulliniks upon entering the game in the eighth, then struck out pinch hitter John Olerud looking at a 3-2 curveball to end the inning.

He opened the ninth by striking out Junior Felix the exact samway, then gave up a single to Mookie Wilson on yet another 3-2 curve. The game finally ended when Tony Fernandez grounded into a double play.

Twenty-seven pitches?

All in a night's work.

"I've always been that way," Olson said, smiling. "Frank expectit. Al expects it. I think the team expects it. When you throw a lot of curveballs, you're going to throw a lot of balls. That's just the way it is."

By all accounts, his control problems were not related tlingering arm trouble. Robinson said, "There's always concern," but Jackson said, "That's just him -- he can be off a month and he'll still use a lot of pitches."

It was Olson's fourth appearance since his layoff, and easily himost trying. He earned a save against California last Sunday, but in less threatening circumstances. He also blew a save against Detroit Tuesday, giving up a two-run double to his first hitter, Alan Trammell.

Except for the deep counts -- Olson projected to 182 pitcheover nine innings -- his performance last night was satisfying in every way. Only Robinson expressed reservations about his elbow. Asked if Olson was OK, he said, "I hope so. That's the only thing I have to go by."

Well, not the only thing. Both Wilson and Felix fouled off severafastballs, an indication Olson is again throwing hard. True, he didn't unleash his big breaking ball, but that was because he kept falling behind. The strikeouts came off his other curve, the short, hard one.

Olson needn't have worried -- the Blue Jays are 1-60 in gamethey trail after eight innings -- but this one had all the makings of a classic Orioles collapse. The 5-0 lead they took in the sixth inning merely set the handicap. The Jays, true to form, died in the stretch.

Still, who would have thought the Orioles could have knockeout Dave Stieb, against whom they had a combined .165 average? They had reached double figures in hits only six times their previous 35 games, and scored only three times in their previous 31 innings.

Stieb (18-6, 2.93) is trying for his first 20-win season, and he hapitched 17 scoreless innings in his previous two starts, including a no-hitter against Cleveland. Incredibly, he wound up allowing a season-high 10 hits. He lasted just 5 2/3 innings, his shortest outing since June 30 against Oakland.

Cal Ripken hit a leadoff double to start the five-run fifth. MickeTettleton drove him home with a single for only his second RBI in the last 24 games. David Segui hit his second double in two nights to score two more runs. Steve Finley delivered a two-out single for the other two.

The losing pitchers the past two nights, Jack Morris and Stiebhave combined for 360 career victories. The winning pitchers, Ben McDonald and Mesa, have combined for nine. Don't look now, but the Orioles have now won five of their last seven games.

Mesa (1-2, 5.04) continued his unlikely bid for a 1991 starting jobbut the Blue Jays spoiled his shutout with two runs in the seventh. Their run in the eighth was unearned after a throwing error by second baseman Bill Ripken, who was trying to complete what would have been an inning-ending double play.

Robinson used three relievers to get to Olson, the tensiomounting with each pitch. Yet, despite a crowd of 49,875 and the race with Boston, the SkyDome atmosphere was considerably less charged than it was for the Orioles' September visit last year, the one that decided the AL East title.

Olson threw a wild pitch the first night of that series, enablinthe Blue Jays to tie the score in the eighth inning of a game they won in 11. They clinched the division the next day, and the Orioles haven't been the same since. Olson, though, said the experience is behind him now.

"No memories," he said. "It's not something you can dwell on, wild pitch. I don't know if you think of stadiums that way. You think of hitters that way, and you think of Fenway that way. Other than that, I have no problems with stadiums. Just hitters and Fenway."

His humor was missed, and so was his heater.

Welcome back, Otter.

Wacky days are here again.

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