O's, not Oates, show staying power

August 12, 1992|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

TORONTO -- There was a lot for Johnny Oates to talk about last night, most of which was overshadowed by something he had just as soon forget.

Oates is never going to bump his former manager Earl Weaver down a notch on any umpire's top 10 hit list, so when he gets thrown out of a game, it's an event, not just a happening.

In the seventh inning of the Orioles' very big 3-0 win over the Toronto Blue Jays last night, Oates was ejected by plate umpire Drew Coble. Afterward he insisted that the only significant thing about his departure was the fact that shortstop Cal Ripken didn't go with him.

"I've got to go before he does," Oates said of his All-Star shortstop, who had been called out on a pitch he believed well below the strike zone.

But there were many other subjects Oates preferred to discuss. Here's a partial list:

* Three pitchers combined to shut out the division leaders.

* Alan Mills again pitched five superlative innings in his new job as a starter.

* Todd Frohwirth followed with three solid innings before Gregg Olson recorded his 27th save, despite allowing singles to the first two hitters he faced.

* Joe Orsulak got four hits to raise his average to .318.

* Bill Ripken delivered a big hit when the Orioles were on the verge of wasting another bases-loaded opportunity.

* The Orioles rebounded from an ugly loss to record what might be their biggest win of the season thus far.

Even Oates, as cautious as he has been from the first day of spring training, was willing to admit last night's win carried special significance.

"That was a bigger game for us than the one last night," said Oates. "That's always the case when you lose the first game."

He didn't add the words "of a big series" to that comment, but it wasn't necessary.

And, for the first time, Oates swayed from his low-keyed approach to the Orioles' position in the division race. "Realistically, at the start of spring training, we hoped to be in the position we're in," he said. "But now that we've won 64 games, I think we can look back and see that we've let a couple get away -- and we believe we could've been better than we are.

"We like our chances now," said Oates. "Any time you see four arms like we have pitching in this series [Mike Mussina, Mills, Ben McDonald and Arthur Rhodes] -- that's exciting."

For Mills, and maybe for the Orioles, last night's game came down to one batter -- Dave Winfield in the fifth inning. After retiring the first two hitters, Mills gave up a single to Roberto Alomar and a walk to Joe Carter.

That prompted a visit from Oates. "He was still throwing firm, but that was going to be his last hitter, no matter what," said the manager.

"I just wanted to make sure he was OK and had the proper concentration to get him [Winfield] out. He was very positive in his remarks to me. He said he felt good. He said he wasn't tired."

That was all Oates wanted to hear, although Mills' next pitch couldn't have done much to bolster his confidence. With Alomar and Carter running on the pitch, Mills bounced the ball past catcher Mark Parent. The only reason a run didn't score was because the ball deflected into the Toronto dugout.

The rule on such a play allows only one base regardless of the position of the runners when the ball leaves the playing field. Winfield grounded out on the next pitch and Mills (8-2) had completed the work necessary to claim his first win as a starting pitcher in the major leagues.

"We had him on a 100-pitch limit, and he was at 95 when I went out there," said Oates. "We had him on an 80-pitch limit his first time out, and hopefully he'll be able to go 110-120 the next time."

The Orioles had done all of their scoring in the previous inning, using textbook station-to-station baseball against Jack Morris (14-5). They used three singles, two walks and a sacrifice fly and didn't advance any runner more than one base at a time.

"Jack always seems to give us a little rope, then he pulls it back," said Oates. "This time, fortunately, Billy got a big hit, we got a bases-loaded walk [to Parent] and a sacrifice fly [from Brady Anderson]."

Those were the things Oates wanted to talk about last night. Unfortunately for him, he had a short walk-on role that commanded more attention than he would have liked.

Summer surge

Last night, Joe Orsulak went 4-for-4 and continued his tear since the All-Star break. In that period, he has raised his average from .290 to .318, going 33-for-85 for a .388 average. A look at how he has done game-by-game:

Date ... ... ... Opponent ... ... ... ... Hits-AB

July 16 .. .. .. Texas .. ... ... ... ... 0-1

July 17 .. .. .. Texas .. ... ... ... ... 2-5

July 18 .. .. .. Texas .. ... ... ... ... 1-3

July 19 .. .. .. Texas .. ... ... ... ... 2-4

July 20 .. .. .. Chicago .. .. .. ... ... 2-5

July 21 .. .. .. Chicago .. .. .. ... ... 1-5

July 22 .. .. .. Chicago .. .. .. ... ... 2-3

July 23 .. .. .. Texas .. ... ... ... ... 3-4

July 24 .. .. .. Texas .. ... ... ... ... 3-4

July 25 .. .. .. Texas .. ... ... ... ... 1-4

July 26 .. .. .. Texas .. ... ... ... ... 2-4

July 28 .. .. .. New York ... ... ... ... 0-4

July 29 .. .. .. New York ... ... ... ... 1-3

July 30 .. .. .. New York ... ... ... ... 1-3

July 31 .. .. .. Bos. (game 1) .. ... ... 1-3

Aug. 1 ... .. .. Boston ... ... .. .. ... 1-4

Aug. 2 ... .. .. Boston ... ... .. .. ... 1-2

Aug. 3 ... .. .. Detroit .. ... .. .. ... 1-3

Aug. 4 ... .. .. Detroit .. ... .. .. ... 0-2

Aug. 5 ... .. .. Detroit .. ... .. .. ... 1-3

Aug. 7 ... .. .. Cleveland ... .. ... ... 2-5

Aug. 8 ... .. .. Cleveland ... .. ... ... 0-3

Aug. 10 .. .. .. Toronto .. .. .. ... ... 1-4

Aug. 11 .. .. .. Toronto .. .. .. ... ... 4-4

... ... .. .. .. Totals ... .. .. ... ... 33-85

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