Orioles hit a wall, but Oates isn't yet ready to jump off

September 14, 1992|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer

It was just a coincidence that Pat Williams, the general manager of the NBA's Orlando Magic, was in town yesterday to give an inspirational talk to the Orioles, but his timing couldn't have been better.

If ever a team needed inspiration, it's the Orioles, who may not be at the end of the American League East pennant chase yet, but are starting to be able to see the end approach very quickly.

And now, with the Toronto Blue Jays threatening to pull away, the Orioles must fend off the Milwaukee Brewers, who are closing in on the second-place perch the Birds have held for most of the season.

Panic time, perhaps?

"You can't be frustrated, depressed, upset, demoralized. You have to stay positive," manager Johnny Oates said. "Throwing ++ up your hands and giving up is the easy way out. You have to work through these things."

The facts are these: With yesterday's 3-1 loss to the Brewers at Camden Yards, the Orioles dropped 4 1/2 games in the AL East race during the first six games of this homestand, to move them five games behind the Blue Jays, their largest deficit since July 23.

Meanwhile, the Brewers, who took two of three from the Orioles this weekend, and have four games with Baltimore in County Stadium next weekend, have climbed back on the periphery of the race, six games behind Toronto, but just one game in back of the Orioles.

"It's funny how things go in this game," said center fielder Mike Devereaux. "We could turn it around tomorrow. You don't want )) to get too high on yourself at any point and you don't want to get too low."

Things could hardly get any lower than they have for the Orioles, who have dropped six of their last seven since winning seven straight on the West Coast.

And it doesn't take Mike Hammer to spot the culprit in this slump. Simply put, the Orioles have stopped hitting.

The batting problems that heretofore have plagued just the middle of the lineup have spread throughout the entire batting order, and couldn't have come at a worse possible time.

"When we came out of spring training, the one thing I thought we could do is score runs," said Oates.

Right now, that's the one thing the Orioles aren't doing.

Overall, they are hitting just .209 (50-for-240) in their last seven games, and have scored just 14 runs. Their eighth-inning run yesterday broke an 18-inning scoreless string.

In the Milwaukee series, the Orioles hit .204 and managed to string together more than one hit in just three of the 26 innings they faced the Brewers.

Nowhere is the problem more acute than at the top of the order, where Brady Anderson, Randy Milligan, David Segui -- who started at first base for Milligan yesterday -- and Devereaux went a combined 3-for-34 with two walks for an abysmal .088 average and a .139 on-base percentage.

"Things haven't gone well for us in any aspect of the game. It's a team thing," said Devereaux.

To get something -- heck, anything -- going, Oates inserted Segui, Tim Hulett and Jeff Tackett into the starting lineup yesterday, and the latter two responded.

Tackett doubled to center in the third and Hulett singled and tripled, eventually scoring the Orioles' only run in the eighth.

was just trying to see if we can find someone who's hot and can drive in runs," said Oates. "We got four hits and three came from guys who haven't been starting."

Milwaukee starter Cal Eldred, who won his seventh straight start, might have had a little something to do with yesterday's lack of offensive output.

Eldred struck out 12, with only Bill Ripken eluding one. Eldred allowed only eight balls out of the infield all day.

"We haven't been swinging the bat well lately, but the kid we saw today was as good as we've seen in some time," Oates said. "We didn't have too many good swings against him let alone hit the ball hard."

The loss wasted a decent pitching performance by Ben McDonald (12-11), who has allowed just three earned runs in his last 20 2/3 innings over his last three starts, but has yesterday's loss and two no-decisions to show for it.

"He continues to work hard and he's given us some good games in a row," said Oates. "He's working on changing his delivery and keeping runners close. It makes our guys realize they can do more than just stand on the mound and pitch."

Trouble is, the hitters these days are just standing in the batter's box and either swinging or looking, but not getting anything accomplished.

And with 20 games to go, and five games to make up, the Orioles are in need of more than Pat Williams can offer in a motivational speech.

"There's time," said Devereaux. "We just can't waste too much of that time, though."

Orioles-Brewers scoring Brewers second: Bichette struck out. Vaughn singled to left center. Seitzer singled to center, Vaughn to second. Nilsson doubled to right, Vaughn scored, Seitzer to third. Fletcher grounded out to second baseman B.Ripken, Seitzer scored, Nilsson to third. Listach struck out. 2 runs, 3 hits, 0 errors, 1

left on. Brewers 2, Orioles 0.

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