Winning Orioles don't hit before or during game

Ken Rosenthal

May 02, 1991|By Ken Rosenthal

"Hitting: No."

That's what the clubhouse chalkboard said when the Orioles arrived at Memorial Stadium. Such is the way equipment manager Jimmy Tyler relates that batting practice is canceled.

"I've been doing it for 10 years," he said, shrugging.

Little did Tyler know how well the Orioles would respond to the edict from manager Frank Robinson. "I literally meant it," Robinson howled after last night's 2-1 victory over Seattle. "They took me at my word."

It was only fitting that the victory that could turn the Orioles' season around came on a night they dropped into last place in the American League with a .226 team batting average.

"Hitting: No."

For 5 2/3 innings, the Orioles faithfully obliged. But then they made lefthander Randy Johnson pay. A walk. A sacrifice. A walk. A walk. A walk. And finally, the rocket that broke up Johnson's no-hitter.

It came off the bat of that feared No. 5 hitter, Bob (.208) Melvin. It bounced leisurely away from home plate. It forced Seattle third baseman Edgar Martinez to rush his throw, a submarine toss that went off-line.

Safe!

"I got all of that one," Melvin proclaimed.

The hit -- Melvin's fourth of the season -- gave the Orioles their 2-1 cushion. At that moment they had hit only one ball out of the infield. Their hardest-hit ball was by Leo Gomez. It resulted in a 4-6-3 double play.

"With a monster attack like that," Robinson said, "Johnson had no chance."

Who needs batting practice?

Who needs Glenn Davis?

The Orioles finished with three hits -- Craig Worthington singled to right off Johnson leading off the seventh, and the unstoppable Melvin singled to left off reliever Bill Swift in the eighth.

All this, on just another baseball May Day, with Rickey Henderson setting the all-time stolen-base record, Milwaukee and Chicago playing 19 innings and Nolan Ryan throwing his seventh career no-hitter.

No doubt the Orioles would have rocked Ryan. "We'd have got him," Robinson said. "We wouldn't have gotten any hits, but we'd have scratched out a run. We'd have beat him."

Robinson had reason to be jovial after the Orioles won for only the fourth time in their last 13 games. Tonight they'll flex their newfound offensive muscle in Rochester, then take their smoking lumber out west.

"We just brought out the heavy artillery and opened up on them," hitting instructor Tom McCraw explained. "Those were our howitzers. Desert Storm."

That would make McCraw the Orioles' version of Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, only he never specified which side his hitters tried to emulate, the United States or Iraq.

But back to baseball.

L With apologies to the '27 Yankees, this is Shoplifters' Row.

"You feel like you stole something tonight," Robinson said.

Six of the nine players in last night's lineup sported averages of .211 or below. Melvin hit fifth for only the third time since joining the club in 1989. He entered the game batting .143 with one RBI.

"I had to do all the hitting tonight, carry the team," the beleaguered catcher joked with a sigh. "I'm probably locked into that hole now for the rest of the year."

Relax, Bob, relax: Maybe the club's luck is finally changing. True, everyone thought that after Sunday's 5-4 comeback victory over Milwaukee. But that was nothing compared to this.

"It was a game we had no business winning, and we did," said Robinson, who canceled batting practice with the idea of giving his club a mental break.

People want to fire this guy?

The Orioles' first two hitters, Mike Devereaux and Randy Milligan, were a combined 0-for-6 with five strikeouts and two walks. Yet Devereaux qualified as an offensive hero, scoring the winning run on Melvin's infield hit.

Moments before, Dwight Evans "drove" in the first run with a two-out bases-loaded walk. The crowd of 19,918 rose as one, cheering every pitch. Ball four was so close, Evans said it "sunk at the last second."

Phew!

The funny thing is, the Orioles won a game in similar fashion last Sept. 18, defeating Boston 4-1 after getting no-hit by Tom Bolton for 6 1/3 innings. Of course, their rally that night consisted of hits, not walks.

They had another no-hit scare in Detroit last July 24, but Devereaux and Brady Anderson hit back-to-back homers leading off the eighth to spoil Jeff Robinson's bid.

Club officials were so impressed, they traded for Robinson. The 6-foot-10 Johnson probably isn't available, but who would want the loser? On the verge of making history, he lost to Shoplifters' Row.

Hence, the conclusion:

Hitting: No.

Kidding: No.

Winning: Yes.

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