Orioles flat with men on base, lose, 7-3 Brewers survive 12 hits

Johnson fizzles in 4th

April 18, 1991|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Correspondent

MILWAUKEE -- It is a new Baltimore Orioles lineup, but it was the same old story.

So many chances. So little timely hitting.

Milwaukee Brewers starter Jaime Navarro allowed 14 baserunners in 6 1/3 innings last night, but he was the winning pitcher in a 7-3 victory over the Orioles before 8,053 at Milwaukee County Stadium.

The Orioles had 12 hits -- equaling their high for the young season -- and got production from almost every slot in the lineup. But they left five runners at third base and had just one run-scoring hit in 11 at-bats with runners in scoring position.

Right fielder Dwight Evans was the exception, driving in all three runs with two hits and a sacrifice fly. Every other starter except Mike Devereaux hit safely, and yet the evening was an exercise in offensive futility for the new and improved Orioles lineup.

"You're going to have games like we had tonight," manager Frank Robinson said. "I don't care what lineup you put out there. Up until tonight, we weren't hitting that much, but we were getting the timely hits. We put guys all over the place tonight and didn't get any."

This is not the same Orioles team that ranked a close second in the American League in runners left on base last year, but last night's 10 LOB left room for comparison.

The Orioles have been stingy with their hits this year, but they had been making the most of them until last night, a night when it would have taken a big offensive effort to overcome a rocky pitching performance by starter Dave Johnson.

Johnson gave up a run in the first, but he seemed to be settling into a groove when his game suddenly unraveled in the fourth. He had retired eight straight batters and had two outs when the Brewers staged a four-run rally that featured a walk and four straight base hits.

Left fielder Darryl Hamilton drew the two-out walk and Jim Gantner followed with a single up the middle to put runners at first and third. B.J. Surhoff and Bill Spiers followed with back-to-back RBI singles to bring the Brewers back from a one-run deficit and Paul Molitor fought back from an 0-2 count to drive a two-run double into the left-field corner.

"He [Johnson] was all right until the fourth," Robinson said. "The tough thing was, with two outs he pitched Hamilton like he was a .390 hitter. You have to go right after that guy."

Johnson said he let his displeasure with a couple of close ball/strike calls affect him during Hamilton's pivotal at-bat. He fell behind, 2-0, on the count, then unsuccessfully appealed a check-swing on a high fastball. There was a brief exchange of words with plate umpire Ted Hendry. Then ball four. The inning just got away from him after that.

"I just got ticked off at myself and ended up walking the guy," he said. "Then after I walked him, I thought I made some good pitches. They hit three ground balls through the hole. They just hit them where we weren't. It's just disappointing, because I thought I had good enough stuff to win the ballgame."

Sheffield delivered the final blow, opening the fifth with a long home run to left that drove Johnson out of the game.

So Johnson won one and he lost one. Before the game, he was elected the Orioles alternate player representative, replacing the released Brian Holton. During the game, he was knocked around for six runs and eight hits in just four-plus innings. Things just have a way of evening out.

He gave up as many hits in the fourth inning as he surrendered in 6 1/3 innings against the Texas Rangers on Friday night. The loss evened his career record against the Brewers at 3-3.

Navarro, who is 4-0 lifetime against the Orioles, gave up 11 hits and three walks before leaving the game with a run in and two runners on in the seventh inning. He also got into trouble in the sixth, when he gave up a leadoff single to Sam Horn and a one-out single to Chris Hoiles that put runners at first and third, but Bill Ripken bounced into a double play to end the inning.

Ripken has been struggling at the plate (and he is not alone) but Robinson chose not to go to a pinch hitter, even though he had left-handed hitter Joe Orsulak on the bench and utility player Juan Bell available to replace Ripken at second.

"I wanted him to hit in that situation," Robinson said. "It just didn't work out this time."

Perhaps it was too late for such subtleties anyway. The Orioles were down by four and things would get worse before they got better. Reliever Paul Kilgus handed a leadoff walk to Gantner in the sixth and Randy Milligan dropped his first fly ball in left to bring home another run.

It was Milligan's first error of the year, and it probably won't be the last, but the Orioles chose to sacrifice some defense to keep his bat in the lineup. The offensive payoff is still to come, since Milligan is batting only .174 through the first seven games.

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