Orioles still in race . . . with Rockies

KEN ROSENTHAL

April 26, 1993|By KEN ROSENTHAL

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The race is on:

Florida, 7-11.

Colorado, 6-11.

Orioles, 5-11.

Two expansion teams, one contraction team.

Look at the bright side:

All tied up in the loss column.

No need to panic, but the Detroit Tigers have scored almost as many runs in three games (57) as the Orioles have all season (58).

Twice, the Tigers have scored 20.

The Orioles' highest four-game total is 19.

Yesterday was typical. A 3-2 loss to the Kansas City Royals. Another afternoon of futility, with the Snore-ioles going 1-for-8 with runners on third base.

Four times, they advanced runners to third with one out. They scored once on their own -- with an RBI triple by Cal Ripken -- and once on an error by Royals third baseman Keith Miller.

It's last September all over again.

Actually, it's worse.

"For me, it's a whole lot more frustrating," manager Johnny Oates said. "We got beat a lot last September. I don't think we've been beat but a couple of times this year. We weren't beat today."

No, they again beat themselves. Oates has started keeping notes on the number of mistakes the Orioles make each game, both physical and mental.

Yesterday, he counted 10.

Mistakes, like the high throw made by first baseman David Segui to catcher Chris Hoiles in the first inning. Hoiles dropped the ball for an error, and the Royals had their first run.

Such plays wouldn't be so damaging, if only the Orioles were hitting. Last September, they scored four or fewer runs in 21 straight games. This season, they're averaging 3.6 runs per game, lowest in the American League.

Harold Baines, the big offensive addition, struck out twice yesterday with a runner on third and one out. The 3-4-5 hitters -- Cal Ripken, Baines and Glenn Davis -- have combined for one home run and 17 RBI in 171 at-bats.

One home run.

That ties Florida's Alex Arias.

Seventeen RBI.

Let's see, the Tigers have three players with approximately that many -- Travis Fryman (18), Cecil Fielder (16) and Mickey Tettleton (16). The Blue Jays have two -- Joe Carter (19) and John Olerud (16).

Dave Winfield also has 16 RBI.

Think he could have helped in right field?

No team can win this way. Brady Anderson has been the only consistent threat. Mike Devereaux finally is coming around, and Cal Ripken has a seven-game hitting streak. But Baines is in a 6-for-31 slump, and Davis is batting .193.

It's just like last season -- if the 3-4-5 hitters don't produce, the Orioles are doomed. Ripken, Baines, Davis, Chris Hoiles and Leo Gomez are all below-average runners. This is not a team that can manufacture runs.

Oates has yet to juggle his lineup, but he'd be wise to reconsider now that Devereaux is coming off back-to-back three-hit games. Why not drop Devereaux to the No. 3 spot? "It's a possibility," Oates said. "But I'm going to sleep on it."

The Orioles don't have an ideal No. 2 hitter, but Oates could always try Mark McLemore, who has emerged not only as the team's best right fielder, but its best second baseman as well.

True, McLemore has struck out eight times in 30 at-bats.

But what's there to lose?

Ripken can hit fourth, Baines fifth and Davis sixth. Or Baines can hit fourth and Ripken fifth. Frankly, Oates is at wit's end. He can shuffle the lineup all he wants, but it won't help if his best hitters continue to falter.

It has been nearly two weeks since Oates asked, "Who is going to lead us?" He still doesn't have an answer. The Orioles are so passive, they were flat on Opening Day. Their game face is a blank stare.

No question, they've been unlucky -- Anderson lined into a double play yesterday, and Segui had a possible double go foul down the left-field line. But a good team makes its breaks. This one waits, and hopes, and then sighs when nothing happens.

"It's evident," Oates said, "that we've got a lot of work to do."

A few hits, and they'll snap out of it. A few hits, and they'll look like contenders again. As it stands, they've lost five one-run games. The pitching staff is fifth in the AL with a 4.24 ERA. That should be good enough.

Oh, it's a race, all right.

Who pitches today for Florida and Colorado?

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