Orioles hit revival has short run as K.C. prevails, 3-2

April 26, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The turnaround didn't take. The Orioles appeared to be breaking out of an early-season offensive slump in the first two games of the weekend series against the Kansas City Royals, but they did nothing yesterday to endanger their standing as the lowest scoring team in the American League.

Royals right-hander Kevin Appier pitched a strong 7 1/3 innings and reliever Jeff Montgomery did the rest to carry Kansas City to a 3-2 victory at Royals Stadium, but the Orioles have reached the point where the other team's pitching is not the issue.

"He [Appier] pitched well," manager Johnny Oates said, "but I don't think it's a matter of pitching. It's a lack of execution."

If the setup had been better, Oates could have pulled out the famous quote by football coach John McKay, who was asked during a prolonged losing streak how he felt about his team's execution.

"I'm all for it," he said.

The Orioles had one hit in eight at-bats with someone on third base.They continue to make the least of their opportunities, a fact that is reflected in their league-low scoring average of 3.6 runs. It is enough to make a manager run screaming into the night, as Oates nearly did after he was asked whether he planned to juggle his lineup for tonight's game against the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park.

"What more can I do?" he asked. "Juggle who? Do what? That doesn't do any good. Mike Devereaux had three hits. Early in the season, we had people on base and he wasn't hitting. Now, he's hitting well and there's nobody out there. If he was hitting like this two weeks ago, we might have won five more games."

They might have won this one, but for a defensive lapse that led to three runs in the first inning. Orioles starter Ben McDonald might have worked out of a first-and-third, no-out jam if there had been a clean exchange between first baseman David Segui and catcher Chris Hoiles on a possible tag play at the plate.

Royals outfielder Brian McRae broke for the plate on a bouncer to first and probably would have been out if Segui had made a perfect throw, but Hoiles had to reach up for the ball and did not come down with it. He took the error on the play and also took a tremendous hit from McRae at the plate, but no one was hurt.

McDonald went on to give up run-scoring hits to Felix Jose and Brent Mayne, then held the Royals scoreless until he turned the game over to reliever Jim Poole. Poole got him out of a two-on, no-out jam in the sixth and went on to pitch three innings of one-hit relief. Their combined performance would have been good enough to win under normal circumstances, but the Orioles still are waiting for some semblance of normalcy to set in.

"The bottom line is, we're scoring the fewest runs in baseball," Oates said. "You can't do that unless you're the Dodgers and you've got [Don] Drysdale and [Sandy] Koufax to send out there. Right now, everything we touch turns to manure."

Just to keep the record straight, the Orioles are scoring the fewest runs in the American League and Oates really did use the word manure. His club has scored 58 runs in their first 16 games. The Milwaukee Brewers also have scored 58 runs so far, but have a higher scoring average by virtue of playing fewer games.

There were a couple of offensive highlights, however. Devereaux and Cal Ripken had back-to-back triples in the first inning for a team that had managed only two triples in the first 15 games. Devereaux went on to double and single, and he was on deck when Brady Anderson hit into a double play to end the game.

Devereaux now has two consecutive three-hit games, which account for a third of his 18 hits this season. He was struggling badly with runners on base earlier this month, but the Orioles could not get him to the plate with the game on the line in the ninth. That's just the way things have been going.

"It's definitely a source of frustration," he said, "but you really have to forget about that and go out tomorrow and hope for something better. You've got to try and see the light and not get too depressed.

"It's kind of baffling. Things just aren't working together right now. When we hit well, we're not pitching and when we pitch well, we're not hitting."

McDonald fell to 1-2 with the loss, but he continues to chip away at his ERA, which dropped from 5.28 to 4.43. He did not pitch poorly yesterday. He just threw too many pitches in the early innings to stay around.

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