Orioles' clouds turn into rain Two games today may close chase

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

The steady rain that drenched Camden Yards last night forced the postponement of the scheduled game between the Orioles and Detroit Tigers, but that did not alter the possibility that the Orioles will be mathematically eliminated from the American League East race today.

The first-place Toronto Blue Jays defeated the New York Yankees, 3-1, yesterday to reduce their magic number to two, so a victory by Toronto and a loss by the Orioles today would bring an official end to the chase for the division title.

Last night's game has been rescheduled as part of a doubleheader today, so the Orioles could eliminate themselves with a pair of losses even if the Blue Jays do not complete the three-game sweep of the Yankees.

Left-hander Arthur Rhodes will face Bill Gullickson in the first game at 12:35 p.m. and Fernando Valenzuela will take on Mike Moore in the second game.

The rainout did have a beneficial effect for the Orioles, however. It allowed them to take advantage of the Yankees' loss to take over second place by a percentage point. That might not seem very important, but the difference between second-place money and third-place money is significant to the players, coaches and trainers at the lower end of the Orioles' payroll.

There are other incentives to win as many games as possible during the final week of play. The Orioles stand at 82 victories, seven shy of last year's total.

Manager Johnny Oates would like to bring his team home with as close to 90 victories as is possible. He also would like his club to finish strong in the season-ending four-game series against the Blue Jays, if only to end the season on a positive note.

Still, if the Blue Jays break open the champagne today, the Orioles and Yankees figure to open a three-game series at Camden Yards tomorrow night with a new set of priorities.

Oates announced last night that veteran Rick Sutcliffe will make his second start since returning from knee surgery in tomorrow night's game. Rookies Kevin McGehee and Mike Oquist also could get a chance to start during the final week.

"It will be Rhodes, Valenzuela, Sutcliffe and [Ben] McDonald," Oates said. "After that, we'll let you know."

The club already has told right-hander Mike Mussina to sit out the rest of the season, and figures to tell reliever Gregg Olson the same thing now that there is no reason to take any risks with his tender elbow.

Center fielder Mike Devereaux might be the latest Orioles player to begin his off-season early. He aggravated his bruised right heel in Friday night's game and may not play again this season. Oates would only say that he was "very unlikely" to play in the doubleheader today.

"It feels worse than when I first got hurt," said Devereaux, who inflamed the heel with his leaping attempt to rob Travis Fryman of a home run in Friday night's 2-0 loss to the Detroit Tigers. "I don't know how long it will be, but I guess it will be longer than the first time."

Devereaux originally suffered the injury when he hit the first-base bag too hard Sunday in Milwaukee. He was scratched from the starting lineup the following night, but returned to play the next three games.

He probably would be playable in a matter of days if the games were meaningful, but that won't be necessary.

"It's really tough to call it a season," said Devereaux, who may have been replaced by youngsters this week even if healthy. "This is what I do for a living. If I can play, I want to."

No doubt, Devereaux would like the opportunity to improve on his offensive numbers during the final games.

His 14 home runs and 75 RBI are more than respectable considering the time he missed because of an early-season injury, but he still could get his RBI total into the 80s with a %J handful of big swings.

ORIOLES TODAY

3'

Site: Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Time: 12:35 p.m.

Tigers starters: Bill Gullickson (12-9, 5.32) and Mike Moore (13-9, 5.10)

Orioles starters: Arthur Rhodes (5-4, 5.88) and Fernando Valenzuela (7-10, 4.91)

TV: HTS

Radio: WBAL (1090 AM), WTOP (1500 AM)

Tickets: Scattered singles remain, not including 275 standing-room tickets that go on sale when the gates open.

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