Yanks run down runner-up hopes of Orioles, 9-1 Fourth place looms after 5th loss in row

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

The American League East race has been reduced to a showdown for second place, and even that is not going well for the slumping Orioles.

The New York Yankees could do nothing to stop the Toronto Blue Jays from clinching the division title last night, so they proceeded to solidify their hold on the runner-up spot with a 9-1 victory over the Orioles in the opener of a three-game series at Camden Yards.

Orioles manager Johnny Oates had hoped that the prospect of finishing second would provide some motivation. But even he had to concede after last night's game that the club might be letting down.

"I think there is a possibility of having a letdown," he said, "especially after battling so long to keep your head above water. From my perspective, it's been a very emotionally draining race. It seems like we've been hanging on from Day One."

The Orioles have lost five games in a row and 10 of their past 13 to fall 2 1/2 games out of second place with six left to play. The Detroit Tigers were rained out last night in Boston and moved within a half-game of the Orioles, so they now are in position to take over third place with the right combination tonight.

How far out of fourth place can the Orioles expect to be after hitting into nine double plays in the last two games? They are tired and banged up and frustrated, which is not exactly a winning combination.

Oates shares that frustration. But he defended the effort he has gotten from his team the past two weeks. He revealed last night that several key players have been playing through nagging injuries.

"[Mark] McLemore possibly should not be playing," he said. "He's got a bad wrist. Chris Hoiles is borderline with a bad back. They are out there giving it an effort anyway. [Harold] Baines' knee is barking a little bit. If we were five games ahead, they'd probably be feeling OK, but when you're struggling, it's magnified."

Right-hander Rick Sutcliffe wanted the chance to turn things around, but his second start since knee surgery did not go well. He pitched five innings and gave up five runs on seven hits to drop below .500 (9-10) for the first time since the first week of the season. Yankees starter Scott Kamieniecki pitched eight innings and gave up just a run on six hits to improve to 10-7.

Sutcliffe had lasted just 3 1/3 innings against the Cleveland Indians last week, so he wanted a chance to show that his newly repaired left knee could carry him deeper into the game.

He may have proven that, but he couldn't keep the Yankees from beating him up in the early innings. Danny Tartabull followed up a couple of ground-ball singles with a two-run double in the first inning to give his team the lead and Jim Leyritz hit a three-run home run in the third to open up a four-run advantage.

"Physically, I'm 100 percent," Sutcliffe said afterward. "Mentally, I don't even register. It's been so frustrating the last couple of months."

The third inning was a good example. Sutcliffe got the first two batters and then hit Tartabull with a pitch. Mike Stanley followed with a double and Leyritz drove his 13th homer deep to left field.

Sutcliffe settled down after that, but he wasn't going to earn a 1994 contract with one start. He would like to come back, but there is the distinct possibility that last night's game was his last as an Oriole.

"That's not my call," Sutcliffe said. "I just know there are a lot of things I've got to improve on, whether my next start is this week or next year."

Oates would not speculate on the makeup of next year's team. He would only say that he would like to see some of the young pitchers during the final week of play.

"No matter what Sut does, we have an idea of what he can do for us next spring," Oates said.

The offensive lineup didn't do much for Sutcliffe last night, blowing a couple of chances to get to Kamieniecki before going down quietly.

The Orioles got on the scoreboard in the second inning when Baines drove a ball into the seats behind right-center field for his 19th home run, but another base-running mishap cost the club a chance for a bigger inning.

Kamieniecki followed up the leadoff homer with a walk to Chris Hoiles before Mike Pagliarulo dropped a nubber down the first-base line. The Yankees pitcher fielded the ball and threw it right into Pagliarulo's back, but home-plate umpire Tim Welke ruled that the Orioles third baseman had stepped inside the chalk line and obstructed the throw.

The replay showed Pagliarulo inside the line, but the throw probably would have hit him anyway.

How bad are things going for the Orioles? In the third inning, Harold Reynolds let the bat slip out of his hands on a swing and hit on-deck hitter Brady Anderson. The bat also grazed HTS reporter Tom Davis, but neither had to leave the game.

The Orioles had other opportunities to get back in the game. They loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth, only to come up empty when David Segui struck out on a full-count pitch.

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