CHICAGO -- If this keeps up the White Sox are going to flunk out of the Walt Hriniak hitting school.
And the Orioles are going to drop through the bottom of the American League's Eastern Division standings.
After a two-hour rain delay here last night, the White Sox came out with their long ball boots on, clubbing three home runs en route to a 10-4 win that wasn't that close. It was the third straight loss for the Orioles, who looked ugly enough to drop into last place, which they did.
In the last two nights the White Sox have scored 18 runs while hitting four home runs, a contrast to their normal style. Hriniak, the Chicago hitting coach, is not a long ball disciple, but there is growing evidence that not even his methods will keep the ball in the new Comiskey Park.
"I'm finding out that the ball carries in this new park," said Chicago manager Jeff Torborg. "It makes me wonder what will happen when it gets warm."
Orioles manager Frank Robinson doesn't think it will take that long to find out. "This is going to be a hitter's park," he said shortly after the final out was mercifully recorded. "There are going to be a lot of home runs hit here."
Not that the prevailing breezes had anything to do with last night's result.
"It was an old-fashioned butt kicking," said righthander Dave Johnson, who took the brunt of the attack, the loss, and saw an unusual winning streak come to an end.
Dating back to the start of last year, Johnson was 10-0 in games he pitched following a loss (12-2 overall in his career). But last night the only thing that could have saved him was the rain, but it too came to an end.
Johnson said the delay had no effect on him physically, but admitted that the difference before and after was like winning ZTC and losing.
"I had a good sinker in the first inning and got three ground balls," he said. "After that, it was ugly," said Johnson. "I had no clue. Physically I felt great, but the sinker didn't do anything, and I kept getting behind the hitters. That's not how I pitch -- but when I do, I usually get hit around."
And make no mistake about it, Johnson did get hit around. Big time. Leaving the only question why was he still around to give up a bases-loaded double to Frank Thomas to make the score 7-1?
He had already given up two-run homers to Thomas and Robin Ventura and it appeared as though the game would only highlight the Orioles' shortage in the bullpen with a nine-man staff.
"That had nothing to do with it," said Robinson, who had to use Gregg Olson in the eighth inning just to make sure he knew how to get to the pitching mound.
These definitely are not good times for the Orioles, who do not have a hot pitcher -- and only a couple of hitters swinging with authority. Compounding the situation, Glenn Davis was held out of last night's game, leading to speculation that the tightness in his hamstring muscle might be more serious that originally believed.
Robinson, however, quickly discounted that notion. "It was a precautionary move," he said, citing the wet grounds.
Davis, whom Robinson met with before the game to explain his move, admitted his leg is still bothered "by sudden starts and stops," but is nothing of a major nature.
The truth of the matter is, judging by the way balls have flown over the fence the last two nights, Davis' leg probably hurt more having to sit and watch everybody else take shots at the inviting targets.
With five losses in their last six games, the Orioles find themselves in an uncomfortable position. They say that it's easier to take a 10-4 loss than a 2-1 margin, but that's a tough sell on the Orioles right now.
"I don't know that I've ever said that," said Robinson. "The only difference between getting beat like that and losing by one run is that you don't go to bed thinking about it. But that doesn't make it any easier to take."
And when you're supposed to be a contender and get off to a 4-8 start that only compounds the situation. Right now everything is a struggle for the Orioles.
They don't have a stopper and they're operating with a sporadic offense.
It's not a good combination, but Robinson still says he isn't worried. "We're going to come out of it," he repeated. "I just don't want it to get too deep."
At the moment, whatever it is the Orioles are in -- it isn't shallow.