Despite 5-3 win, Sutcliffe still searching for answers

April 12, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

SEATTLE -- Right-hander Rick Sutcliffe still is trying to figure it out. He took a beating on Opening Day and needed all the help he could get to get by the Seattle Mariners Saturday night.

"I don't know what's missing," said Sutcliffe, who walked seven on the way to a 5-3 victory in the second game of the three-game series at the Kingdome. "It was missing Opening Day and tonight, Bos [pitching coach Dick Bosman] didn't like my intensity."

Sutcliffe struggled through the early innings, and so did his teammates, but the Orioles finally broke a string of 17 scoreless innings with a five-run sixth to come from behind and score their first victory of 1993.

The struggling offense also broke a string of 31 fruitless at-bats with runners in scoring position when shortstop Cal Ripken singled to load the bases in the sixth. The Orioles went on to reel off four straight clutch hits and spoil the major-league debut of Mariners starter John Cummings.

That took a load off for everybody -- especially Sutcliffe, who looked a lot lighter on his feet over his final three innings. He gave up three runs on four hits over eight innings before Gregg Olson came on to pitch a scoreless ninth for his first save.

"Sut was out of the ballgame three times," said manager Johnny Oates. "[Alan] Mills and [Jim] Poole pitched three innings down in the bullpen."

Sutcliffe gave up a two-run home run to Tino Martinez in the first, then spent the next four innings trying to find the strike zone. Perhaps he was being too careful after allowing his fourth home run.

"You give up four home runs in your first seven innings, I think anybody would be affected by it," Sutcliffe said. "My thought processes have not been really good. Hopefully, this game woke me up."

Nobody had to wake up Ripken, whose four-hit performance raised his batting average to .500. He hit safely in each of the Orioles' first four games, and was the only member of the starting lineup immune from the club's struggles with men in scoring position.

The Orioles entered the sixth inning Saturday night 2-for-36 in clutch at-bats, but Ripken had come up only three times in those situations and had delivered twice. He had an RBI groundout and an RBI single in the first game of the season.

His single broke the 0-for-31 string, but it was a run-scoring single by Glenn Davis that got the Orioles on the scoreboard for the first time. Harold Baines followed with a game-tying, two-run double and Tim Hulett doubled home two more runs with the sixth straight hit in the inning. When the drought finally ended, Oates had to wonder how much of it was the result of the pressure that seemed to build all week.

"You think about it," he said. "If this is July and you go 0-for-12 or you lose four games in a row, it's no big deal. But when it's the beginning of the season, it plays on your mind. You start to think that maybe you won't get a hit all season or you won't win a game all year."

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