McLemore hunch hits the mark Oriole lives up to past stats to back Sutcliffe, 4-1

April 17, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

It was more than a hunch. Mark McLemore had almost no major-league experience in the outfield, but he had an impressive track record against California Angels right-hander John Farrell.

So manager Johnny Oates started him in right field last night and looked like a genius when McLemore delivered a two-run double carry the Orioles to a 4-1 victory before the 62nd straight sellout crowd at Camden Yards.

McLemore had not faced Farrell in more than two years, but the numbers were hard to dismiss. In seven previous at-bats against him -- all of them when McLemore was a Angel -- he had five hits.

"That's not a hunch; that's playing the stats," Oates said. "He's had some success against Farrell and he had three good at-bats against him tonight."

Farrell has been out the past two seasons with elbow problems, but he still looked the same to McLemore, who went 2-for-3 against him last night, including the line drive to right-center that broke a 1-1 tie in the sixth inning and propelled Rick Sutcliffe to his second straight victory.

Shortstop Cal Ripken topped off the evening with his first home run of the year as the Orioles won their second in a row and climbed out of the American League East cellar.

McLemore was more than happy to help. He doesn't start often, so it was nice to be able to give his struggling team a boost.

"It's great," he said. "I hope it helps the other guys. It might lift them up a little bit. When you get out there, you're pumped up and you want to help pump everybody else up, too. Of course, it helped that Sutt went out and pitched a great game."

Sutcliffe pitched 7 1/3 innings and gave up a run on seven hits before leaving to a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 45,820. Setup men Todd Frohwirth and Alan Mills helped him out of a jam in the eighth and Gregg Olson finished up with a scoreless ninth to earn his third save in four attempts.

Perhaps Sutcliffe was right. He said on Wednesday it would be nice to get home, and the club proved him right with its first victory of the year at Oriole Park. The Orioles still are three games under .500 (3-6), but the back-to-back victories had to go a long way toward restoring some confidence in the clubhouse.

"We have a shot now, with this homestand," Sutcliffe said. "We're home now and we can get back to .500. As bad as we've been, we're lucky to be at that point."

The Orioles had to be happy to get home after a discouraging six-game road trip that included series losses in Seattle and Texas, but the club came back to find itself with a little less firepower for the Angels series.

Designated hitter Harold Baines was out of the lineup last night ++ and probably won't be back for several days because of persistent soreness in his left knee. He received a cortisone shot yesterday, so, at best, he doesn't figure to return before Tuesday's series opener against the Chicago White Sox.

Oates adjusted his lineup accordingly. He moved Glenn Davis into the cleanup spot -- where Baines normally hits against right-handers -- and moved Chris Hoiles up to fifth in the order. Chito Martinez took over as DH and batted sixth.

The most unusual lineup change had nothing to do with the injury to Baines. McLemore made his first major-league start in right field, but Oates said he would have been out there regardless because of his past success against Farrell.

For a while, it looked as if past success was the only kind the Orioles were going to have against Farrell, who came back from a pair of elbow operations to win a place in the Angels starting rotation.

He was coming off a disappointing Angels debut in which he gave up four runs on seven hits in a 4 1/3 -inning appearance against the Detroit Tigers, but was far more effective last night. He retired six of the first seven batters he faced and gave up three hits through five innings.

The shutout remained alive until the sixth, when a walk to Ripken and back-to-back singles by Davis and Hoiles got the Orioles even. Oates' statistical analysis paid off one out later, when McLemore delivered the two-run double for his second hit of the game. It may have been two years since he had faced Farrell, but he hadn't forgotten what to look for.

"I know what he does with me," McLemore said. "He's pretty close to the same. He's throwing as well as he did before. I played with him a little in Cleveland and I'm really happy for him. I'm glad he's back."

Sutcliffe waited patiently for the offense to open up. He had gotten off to his strongest start of the season, giving up one hit through three innings, but had to fight his way through the fourth and fifth to get in position to win.

The Angels put him on the defensive in the fourth, when Chad Curtis led off with a single and rookie J. T. Snow lined a double up the alley in left-center. Sutcliffe righted himself, but he had to work out of a bases-loaded situation to do it. He also had to work out of trouble in the fifth before settling down to pitch a perfect sixth and a hitless seventh.

Farrell left after the three-run sixth. He pitched well, but he didn't have enough margin for error. His six-hit performance was not good enough to earn him his first victory since 1990, but it was good enough to indicate that his two years of hard work had paid off.

Sutcliffe has bounced back from a horrible start on Opening Day to win his next two games, but he hasn't forgotten how it all began. It is as if he feels he must do penance for the three home runs he gave up in the Orioles' opening loss.

"It seemed like everything we did in spring training went right," Sutcliffe said. "I fully expected it to go that way during the season, but we hit a serious snag. I think it was on Opening Day -- in the third or fourth inning -- whenever I started hurting those people in left field.

"That's my foundation out there. I should have given them gloves instead of T-shirts."

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