Roger, over: Orioles' streak ends at 10 Oates aims to maintain team's altitude, attitude

June 14, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

BOSTON -- The Orioles' longest winning streak in nearly six years ended yesterday, but there was room to wonder if it was just the beginning.

The club was supposed to compete for the American League East title, and now that no longer can be considered out of the question. Boston Red Sox right-hander Roger Clemens threw a body block in front of the 10-game streak with yesterday's 4-2 victory at Fenway Park, but the Orioles were busy looking to even better days ahead.

"It was disappointing, because you get used to winning," manager Johnny Oates said. "I just told the guys that it was a good run and let's go out tomorrow and start another one. We need to keep playing with the same intensity and excitement, score some runs and keep pitching and everything will be all right."

The turnaround took place in a hurry. The Orioles were at their low-water mark for the season -- nine games under .500 -- when they scored a 5-2 victory behind Fernando Valenzuela on June 2 at the Oakland Coliseum. Saturday's victory put them above .500 for the first time this year. They came up four short of a club record and one short of the longest winning streak in the majors this year, an 11-game run by the Los Angeles Dodgers in May.

It was a tremendous team effort. Eight pitchers recorded victories during the streak, which was the longest since the Orioles won 11 straight in 1987. Eight batters delivered a game-deciding RBI. Everything seemed to fall into place, and there was even room for hope yesterday when Brady Anderson lined a home run off the foul pole in right field to chip away at an early Red Sox lead.

No one thought it would last forever, but it lasted long enough to change the complexion of the season for the Orioles. If they can maintain their momentum through the rest of this 10-game road trip -- which continues with stops in Milwaukee and Cleveland -- they have a chance to put some pressure on the divisional front-runners by the All-Star break.

"You just keep plodding along and ride it as long as you can and try to get back to respectability," Oates said. "We can't let down now."

The downside for the Orioles was the way the first-place Detroit Tigers held their own in the past 12 days. The Orioles won 10 in a row and gained only 2 1/2 games on the division leaders. Still, they moved from 10 games back to 7 1/2 and gained significant ground on the second-place Toronto Blue Jays and third-place New York Yankees.

"I think we got ourselves back within striking distance," said pitcher Rick Sutcliffe. "We got lucky. Not many teams are going to win that many games in a row. It could have been a lot better, but Detroit has been hot.

"Now I think we've got to focus on winning some series. The way the schedule is set up, we can get back in this thing by winning two out of every three games."

The winning streak featured only one major offensive assault. The Orioles scored a 16-4 victory on Friday to run up their scoring average for the streak, but their success was the result of solid pitching and some very timely, if not abundant, hitting.

"The pitching has really come around," Sutcliffe said. "That's the one thing we need to continue. Good pitching takes a lot of pressure off the offense. Look at today's game, for instance. When we got behind 4-1, there weren't a lot of options offensively. We have to continue to give our manager and offense a chance."

The Orioles open a three-game series tonight against the Brewers at Milwaukee's County Stadium, hoping to put the strong pitching by Clemens behind them and begin anew. The past 12 days have featured one exciting moment after another, so the Orioles must guard against the possibility of a letdown.

"I can't worry about that," Oates said. "We need to come back with the same attitude tomorrow and go at them again."

STREAKIN' BIRDS

The longest single-season winning streaks in Orioles history:

Year .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Wins

1973 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 14

1978 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 13

1987 .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 11

1966, '74, '80, '82, '93 ... 10

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