Oates finds no answers in 9-4 loss Sutcliffe fails to hold lead, yields 8 runs in 4 2/3 innings

April 28, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- Johnny Oates has tried every psychological device known to managerial strategy, but the sad saga of the Orioles remains the same.

The 10-minute temper tantrum in Texas didn't work. The two-hour team meeting on Monday night didn't either, if the club's performance in last night's 9-4 loss to the Chicago White Sox was any indication.

Right-hander Rick Sutcliffe was staked to an early three-run lead, but he wilted under a shower of base hits that didn't subside until the Orioles were safely on a bus to the airport. They return home tonight to face the Minnesota Twins, another struggling club hoping to get well the way the White Sox did.

What will Oates try next? Maybe nothing.

"I'm doing everything I know how to do," Oates said. "We've had nice meetings. We've had rough meetings. We've patted them on the back. We've talked about fundamentals. We've talked about base running and situational hitting. We've given motivational talks. We've given chew-out talks. . . . And we've got big-league players covering on a stolen base with a 3-2 count and two outs. Those are the kinds of things that are killing us, and we do two or three of them every game."

Chicago right-hander Jack McDowell survived a shaky start to give up four runs in 7 2/3 innings and become the first five-game winner in the American League. But he couldn't have done it without the biggest performance of the year by the once-slumping White Sox offensive lineup.

First baseman Frank Thomas reached base in all five of his plate appearances and drove in four runs with two singles and a double. Center fielder Lance Johnson had four hits and scored two runs. Leadoff hitter Joey Cora had three hits and scored three times.

In all, the White Sox had 18 hits, the most the club has had in a game since last Sept. 19. Sutcliffe allowed 12.

Sutcliffe wanted to lead the Orioles out of their slump. He may be the one player on the club with the on-field presence to take charge, but he was not overpowering enough.

"I'd have to say that considering everything, that was probably one of the toughest losses of my career," Sutcliffe said. "I get so stubborn sometimes and I keep throwing my fastball. Early in my career, that's how I got out of trouble, but I don't have the ability to do that anymore. I have to use all my pitches."

The evening started out promisingly enough. The Orioles scored three times in the second inning on five hits and a couple of misplays by the White Sox, who have experienced some of the same problems that have hurt the Orioles during the first three weeks of the season.

Harold Baines led off the second with a line drive over the head of Bo Jackson in left, but had to settle for a long single. Tim Hulett followed one out later with a base hit to right that sent Baines to third, and moved up when right fielder Ellis Burks let the ball get by him for an error.

The Orioles took the lead when right fielder Mark McLemore lined a single to right to score both runners and further solidify his place in the lineup. He has been one of the steadiest players on the club in his dual role as utility infielder and part-time outfielder. McLemore moved up on a wild pitch and went to third on an infield hit by Chris Hoiles before Harold Reynolds made it 3-0 with the fourth consecutive hit off McDowell.

McDowell leads the league with five victories, but he hasn't done it the easy way. He entered the game with a 4.07 ERA, which

represented more runs than the White Sox had averaged during their first 18 games of 1993 (3.8 runs). The three runs in the second inning ran his ERA up to 4.97 before he settled down and shut out the Orioles the next five innings.

Sutcliffe got through the first two innings without giving up a run, but he was shaky from the start. He walked three straight with two outs in the first inning before getting Burks on a popup to end the inning. The second inning was uneventful, but the White Sox batted around to score four times in the third and added two runs in each of the next two innings to break the game open.

The eight earned runs raised Sutcliffe's ERA from 3.45 to 5.13. He faced 30 batters in 4 2/3 innings and allowed 18 of them to reach base. The top four batters in the Chicago batting order reached base three times each against him. Thomas was on base four times in the first five innings, but one of his two walks was intentional.

Thomas came into the series batting .200 and had yet to hit his first home run of the season, but he had to be happy to see the Orioles arrive in town. He had hit 10 home runs against them during the past two years, and greeted Fernando Valenzuela with a three-run shot Monday night.

He addressed his anemic batting average yesterday, with a 3-for-3, four-RBI performance that might have been even better if Sutcliffe had not handled him with kid gloves in a couple of at-bats.

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