The idea of giving Rick Sutcliffe extra starts down the stretch seemed to be a pretty good one at the time for a couple of reasons.
Sutcliffe is the only Orioles starter to have done that in a pennant race and, with a little luck, he might have been able to reach 20 wins.
But now the numbers, and perhaps the calendar, suggest that the grand experiment of working Sutcliffe on just three days' rest, as opposed to the normal four, may go by the wayside, along with the Orioles' flagging pennant hopes.
After last night's 4-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, manager Johnny Oates would not commenton whether he will restore Sutcliffe to his usual four days off between starts.
Sutcliffe left the game in the fourth inning with back spasms, but his immense pride probably was wounded long before his back began to hurt.
Sutcliffe said the long rain delay contributed more to his performance than the three days between last night's start and his previous start Friday in Milwaukee. He said he had warmed up three times during the rain delay, and after the last warmup, he said his lower back started to tighten and the pain began to spread.
"I had to be honest. I wasn't helping the ballclub," Sutcliffe said. "Three days isn't a factor, but 2 1/2 hours is more of a factor. But that's part of the game. There's nothing you could do about it."
In four starts this season on three days' rest, the right-hander has worked just 17 2/3 innings, giving up 23 runs, 28 hits and four home runs for an ERA of 11.72. Overall, he is now 16-14 with a 4.37 ERA.
The Blue Jays touched Sutcliffe for four runs, three of them on long home runs to right field by Devon White and John Olerud.
Before last night's game, Oates said Sutcliffe's last start, his worst outing of the year, wasn't a fair measure of the experiment.
Sutcliffe was roughed up Friday night by the Brewers for seven runs and eight hits in just 2 2/3 innings.
Oates said he detected that Sutcliffe, who threw just 67 pitches that night, was aiming the ball, attempting to get the ball into spots where catcher Chris Hoiles might have a better chance to throw out the speedy Milwaukee runners.
"He was trying to slow down their running game by speeding up his delivery and sometimes he was throwing to a particular location to help Chris," said Oates. "That's not his style. He tried to take care of the whole ballgame himself."
That approach didn't work, and with the Orioles now on the periphery of the American League East pennant race, Sutcliffe may now be able to get a bit more rest.
Rick Sutcliffe on three days' rest
Date.. .Opponent . .Dec. ..IP..H ....ER ...BB ...SO .HR
5/26. at Seattle ...Win... 6.1..12...6... .0.. .1.. .1
vs. Texas ...Loss.. .5.1...5.. 6.. ..3.. .5.. .0
9/18. at Milwaukee Loss.. .2.2.. 8.. 7.. ..1.. .1.. .1
9/22. vs. Toronto ..Loss.. 3.1.. 3.. 4.. ..3.. .3.. .2