Birds locate trouble with walks in 13th

September 08, 1992|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer

The three most important factors in any successful business are location, location and location, as the old axiom goes.

Location also is pretty important in baseball, and all of a sudden, the Orioles, off a 6-2 loss to the New York Yankees in 13 innings at Oriole Park last night, are considering location on a number of fronts.

With Toronto's 5-4, 12-inning loss to Kansas City last night, the Orioles remain in second place, 1 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays in the American League East, so that location is secure.

But, given the sluggishness of the offense, which has produced just five runs or more twice in the last 10 games, the location of some hitters in the batting order may be in jeopardy as early as tonight.

Manager Johnny Oates said after last night's game that there "will be something different" in the Orioles' batting order tonight, marking the second lineup change in two weeks.

Oates later called a possible lineup shift "no big deal," but did grant that it was time to make some moves.

"A couple of guys have been playing every day. We'll give them a blow," said Oates. "It's no punishment. We're just trying to get some hot bats in there."

Oates wouldn't be specific, but said Cal Ripken might not be batting in the fifth slot he has occupied since Aug. 21, when he was moved down from his customary third slot.

Ripken has not hit a home run in 68 consecutive games, but has hit the ball well in the last few days, including last night's 2-for-4 performance, and might be a candidate to move into the fourth slot.

If that happens, the likely casualty would be designated hitter Glenn Davis, who went 0-for-5 last night, and got just one ball out of the infield.

The beneficiary of that move would seem to be Sam Horn, who has not played since the same Oakland game in which Ripken was moved down in the order.

Also, catcher Chris Hoiles, who has hit three of the Orioles' last four homers and four of their last nine, might be a candidate to move up into the middle of the order, which has been unproductive of late.

Luckily for the Orioles, their pitching has been solid, though starter Ben McDonald and reliever Alan Mills alternately got the best and worst of location last night.

McDonald, who worked 8 1/3 innings last night, was effective, giving up six hits, one walk and one earned run during his stay.

And even though he was visited by his nemesis, the home run, a seventh-inning shot by Yankees catcher Mike Stanley, McDonald was sharp, matching New York starter Melido Perez, who gave up only bases-empty homers to Hoiles and Leo Gomez.

"Ben's slider is starting to come more and more every time out," said Oates. "[Last night] was exciting to watch him pitch. He was in command the whole game."

Hoiles said, "I thought they both threw a great ballgame. They mixed their pitches, got ahead and threw strikes. When they needed a big out, they got it."

Mills, who has been mostly brilliant this year, didn't have it -- meaning location -- when he needed it.

He walked four batters -- two intentionally -- in three innings, but none more painful than the bases-loaded free pass to shortstop Andy Stankiewicz in the 13th that brought in the winning run.

Mills quickly got behind 3-1 in the count to Stankiewicz, then delivered what appeared to be a perfect fastball that crossed the plate belt-high.

That is, it looked perfect to everyone but home-plate umpire Ken Kaiser, who waved Stankiewicz to first and Danny Tartabull home.

Bernie Williams tripled to right-center one batter later, so Stankiewicz's walk seemed a bit moot, but Mills clearly seemed flustered by the call.

Neither Mills nor Oates nor Hoiles would directly criticize Kaiser, but the pitcher and catcher made it clear by what they didn't say and how they didn't say it that Mills' offering had the right location.

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