Johnson, Davis pace Orioles to first win, 3-0 Anderson on base 4 times, scores twice

April 13, 1991|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Texas -- There is an old saying, something about having to crawl before you can walk, that would put the Baltimore Orioles' offensive performance last night into better perspective.

The Orioles didn't exactly snap out of their season-opening batting slump, but they did everything else right on the way to a 3-0 victory over the Texas Rangers at Arlington Stadium.

They took pitches. They forced the action on the base paths. They manufactured runs where there were no hits. And they did something they had not done since they were in Florida more than a week ago. They won.

First baseman Glenn Davis drove in two runs, and leadoff hitter Brady Anderson drove the Rangers crazy, all in support of a four-hit performance by Dave Johnson and the Orioles bullpen that kept the struggling Rangers 0-for-1991.

There was some thunder when the Orioles were at the plate, but it was real. The evening was electric, but it had nothing to do with the game. Lightning crackled in the sky throughout the evening, but the rain that was predicted for game time never materialized.

It was perfect Dave Johnson weather. A strong wind blew in from all fields, helping keep several well-hit balls in the park.

"I know it saved me at least twice," said Johnson, who pitched 6 1/3 innings and gave up all four Rangers hits. "At the time, I had a lead, so I was fortunate that even if they hurt me, they would not have put us behind or anything. In that situation, I was afforded the luxury of letting them hit the ball."

Johnson's performance proved again that spring training numbers aren't worth the stat sheet they are printed on. He struggled to an 0-3 record and a 5.46 ERA in exhibition play but brought it all together when it counted.

"Some guys never have good springs," pitching coach Al Jackson said. "I don't dwell on it. The important thing to me now is, 'Did he win?' "

He did, but he needed some late-inning help from the bullpen. Paul Kilgus took over with two on and one out in the eighth and retired the only batter he faced. Mark Williamson followed him to the mound and carried the shutout through the eighth before Gregg Olson came on to record his first save of the year.

The Orioles still have not unveiled the explosive attack that was supposed to take the pressure off the pitching staff, but at least it was efficient enough to give Johnson something to work with. He may not be the club's No. 1 starter, but he is the rotation's No. 1 stopper, winning after an Orioles loss for the 10th consecutive time, dating back to the beginning of last season.

Manager Frank Robinson, who was criticized for going with eight right-handed hitters against Chicago White Sox right-hander Jack McDowell on Opening Day, inserted Anderson and Joe Orsulak into the lineup last night to provide better left-handed balance against Rangers right-hander Bobby Witt.

The results were immediate, even though the Orioles did not get their first hit until the fourth inning. Anderson walked in each of his first three plate appearances, bunted for a hit, laid down a sacrifice bunt, stole a base and scored two runs in his 1991 debut in the leadoff spot.

He had not made a very good account of himself in his spring audition for the leadoff role, needing to rally in the closing week of the exhibition season to raise his average to .226. But when it counted, he was all over the base paths.

"Brady was trying to adapt to a new hitting philosophy this spring," Robinson said. "He was trying to do some new things. As long as he kept working on what we asked him to, I wasn't worried about the results. But this is the real test."

Witt was considered only 50-50 to start the game after suffering a slight back spasm Thursday, and his performance in the first three innings left room to wonder whether he should have taken the mound.

He walked each of the first three batters he faced to help the Orioles out of their 17-inning scoreless streak, but found the strike zone in time to get out of the first inning down by only one run. Davis grounded into a force play to drive in Anderson, but Sam Horn and Craig Worthington struck out to end the threat.

The third inning began like the first. Anderson drew another leadoff walk and ended up at third when Witt bounced a pickoff throw down the right-field line. Randy Milligan followed with a long sacrifice fly to right to give the Orioles their second run without the benefit of a hit.

Witt walked six in the first four innings. He finally gave up his first hits of the game when Chris Hoiles and Bill Ripken delivered back-to-back singles with two outs in the fourth.

The Orioles kept chipping away at their season-opening offensive slump. Cal Ripken opened the fifth with a single, and Davis lined a solid double up the alley in right center to drive in his third run of the season. He has more RBI than hits (2), but the Orioles don't pay him $3.275 million for his batting average.

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