Johnson wins 10th after loss Wind gets an assist in Orioles' 1st victory

April 14, 1991|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Texas -- It was perfect Dave Johnson weather The wind was blowing in from all fields. The ball was not going anywhere.

Johnson didn't mind. He's getting used to this kind of thing. Pitch well and there's always some extenuating circumstance. Pitch poorly and you weren't that good to begin with.

So it was Friday night, when Johnson gave up four hits over 6 1/3 innings on the way to a 3-0 victory over the Texas Rangers at Arlington Stadium, but a wind-aided victory is still a victory -- the first by the Baltimore Orioles this year.

"I hope I pitch 35 times under conditions like that," he joked, "although I don't think I would win them all. Just 33 or 34 of them."

He'll need a little more help from the new-look Orioles lineup, which managed only five hits and is batting a combined .138 after three games. First baseman Glenn Davis drove in two runs and leadoff hitter Brady Anderson drove the Rangers crazy, but it'll take more than that to live up to all the advance billing.

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 gametime never materialized. There was just the wind, a lot of it.

"I know it saved me at least twice," said Johnson. "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.

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).

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 finally 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 Olson came on to record his first save of the year.

Manager Frank Robinson, who had been 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 basepaths.

"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 on Thursday, and his performance in the first three innings left room to wonder if he should have taken the mound.

He walked 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 (two), but the Orioles don't pay him $3.275 million for his batting average.

"I just don't have the feel that I want right now," Davis said, "but as long as you're doing things like that, you know that the bat is going to come around. I'm not concerned about average. If I help the club, that's enough for me. Maybe it wasn't pretty, but those two runs were important."

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