Clutch hitting is nightmarish, but Oates can sleep

July 07, 1992|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Staff Writer

They were numbers that would give most managers ` nightmares: 17 runners stranded Saturday and seven Sunday, 4-for-32 with runners in scoring position in two losses to the Minnesota Twins. But as he watched his team during batting practice before last night's game against the Chicago White Sox, Johnny Oates seemed without a worry.

"I went to sleep at 7:30 Saturday night and I went to sleep early [Sunday]," Oates said. "Those games are over."

Those games are over, but missed opportunities continued last night for the Orioles, who stranded 21 runners before Mike Devereaux came through with a bases-loaded single in the 14th inning to score Leo Gomez for the 4-3 win.

It was a big victory for the Orioles, whose poor clutch hitting contributed to the two, one-run losses in Minnesota. And it was a big win for Oates, who probably would have had a difficulty sleeping had the Orioles lost.

"Davey Lopes told Brady [Anderson] in the last inning if we don't score, than I'm quitting," Oates said after the 4-hour, 38-minute marathon. When asked what he would have done, Oates said: "I would have quit, too."

The 21 runners stranded last night tied a team record, set on Aug. 25, 1968 in an 18-inning game against the Boston Red Sox.

Before the game, Oates would not place blame on his hitters (Cal Ripken, Jr. was 0-for-6 Saturday and 0-4 Sunday, Glenn Davis was 0-for-6 on Saturday and Sam Horn was 0-for-4 on Sunday), crediting Minnesota's pitching for limiting the Orioles to three runs in the two games.

"We played against pretty good pitching, and we played a good team," Oates said. "There's a difference between getting beat and giving games away. We got beat. And I can sleep when we get beat."

The hitting problems continued last night. Ripken was 0-for-5, Horn 0-for-6 and Devereaux was 1-for-8 until his game-winning hit. Twice the Orioles ended an inning with the bases loaded, including the 10th when, with no outs, they didn't score.

Hitting has not been a problem with the Orioles this season. The Orioles have reached the halfway point of the season with the highest batting average in club history (.268 -- the previous high was .266 in 1986 and 1969). That may be why no one was making trips to the video room to analyze swings.

"You go through streaks like that," Oates said. "There have been two [consecutive] games this year where we didn't get them on base. At least we got them on in Minnesota. That's only half the job. Now we have to find a way to get them in."

When Anderson singled to left in the fourth, scoring Mark McLemore and giving the Orioles a 3-2 lead, it ended an 0-for-19 drought with runners in scoring position.

"We swung at pitches [in Minnesota] that we didn't want to swing at," Orioles hitting coach Greg Biagini said before the game. "When you have runners in scoring position, the hitter's not in the hot seat, the pitcher is. The pitcher is the person who has to come through."

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