Orioles in bad spot after weak that was

MIKE LITTWIN

September 14, 1992|By MIKE LITTWIN

The future Hall of Fame shortstop walked into the Orioles clubhouse from the shower after the game yesterday, saying, "Ouch, ouch."

And the funny thing is, he wasn't looking at the standings.

Or, even more painful, the stat sheet. It's the stat sheet from hell.

If he had been looking, Cal Ripken, not quite indestructible, his ankle possibly still sore, might have noticed he'd just finished the week hitting 3-for-21 -- not an unusual week for him this season, by the way.

Randy Milligan was 3-for-19. He watched the game from the bench yesterday.

Of course, neither could match Mike Devereaux, who carried the team through much of August. He was 3-for-26 last week. His shoulders didn't look quite so broad.

Ouch?

Well, Brady Anderson came off his sickbed Wednesday to finish the week 3-for-20. He struck out three times yesterday, prompting Johnny Oates to point out: "Brady swung a good bat today. It just wasn't anywhere near the pitches."

It was the week that might have been.

It was the week that wasn't.

It was the week, in all likelihood, the Orioles will look back on and say that was when the division race got away.

You want numbers? I've got numbers. But I should warn you, they're not for the squeamish. This is Brian DePalma territory, except with fewer laughs.

The Orioles lost five of six in the week, getting swept by the second-division Yankees and then losing two of three to the Brewers, including the 3-1 loss yesterday.

The Orioles, in losing five of six, hit .208.

While hitting .208 and losing five of six, the Orioles scored a combined 12 runs -- one in the final 20 innings.

More numbers -- the important ones: The Orioles are five back with 20 games to go. If Toronto plays just .500 ball the rest of the way, the Orioles must win 15 of 20 to tie.

It's possible.

You can cite your favorite Yogi-ism. I'll cite Milligan instead.

"We have a chance to come back," the Moose said, and then paused. It was a long pause. "But we've made it pretty difficult for ourselves."

It's possible. There was a stretch, from April 17 to May 9, where the Orioles won 16 of 21. In 1987, the Blue Jays lost a 3 1/2 -game lead with seven to play, losing their last six games of the season.

"We have time," said Devereaux. "But we don't have much time '' to waste."

Not after wasting this week. The Orioles were coming off a spectacular road trip, having won seven of nine. They were 1 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays. The Orioles were home, where the usual full house would be in force. The very beatable Yankees were there for the taking, as a prelude to the big weekend series with Milwaukee. Then they lost the opener in 13, and you know the rest.

"That's reality," Rick Sutcliffe said. "That's what happened. We can't change it. There's no point in looking back. You have to stay just as convinced that we're still going to win this thing and go out and play like it.

"But we've pretty much got ourselves into a position that, when Toronto comes to town [a week from tomorrow], we have to win all three."

A lot of things have to happen. And Oates admits he isn't sure how to get them done. After yesterday's game, he said he had no idea whom he'd put in the lineup.

He has shaken and mixed, and nothing comes out right. There were a few times yesterday when it looked as if Oates might have called on a pinch hitter. He said he didn't see anyone on the bench to use. On the bench that day were Milligan, Joe Orsulak, Glenn Davis and Leo Gomez.

The guys on the field struck out 12 times against a rookie pitcher who is 8-1 and tearing up the league. The Orioles never had a chance.

The slump is no mystery, not on a team with so little margin for error. When Anderson and Devereaux don't produce, the Orioles don't score. Anderson says he's still a little run-down from his bout with the flu. Devereaux may be a little tired, although, as he points out, everyone is a little tired this time of year.

Usually, when a team wins a division title, someone unexpected steps up. On the Orioles, even the expected ones aren't stepping up.

Is it over? No, it's foolish to say that. Writing a team off is a silly exercise. A week ago, they were great. This week, they've been terrible. Next week, they could be great again.

The Orioles' problem is, to have a chance, they have to be great the rest of the way. And even that probably wouldn't be enough.

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