O's hitters may see more of left-right punch

INSIDE PITCH

April 09, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

Throughout the season, Jim Henneman of The Sun's sports staff will offer his inside pitch -- an analytical look at the turning point in a particular Orioles game, a trend affecting the team or an important aspect of a player's performance.

Texas Rangers manager Kevin Kennedy went by the book to do it with numbers last night. In the process, he may have revealed the only vulnerable aspect of the Orioles lineup.

As it turned out, the strategy was immaterial, as the Orioles were still able to mount a comeback -- but the Rangers had a counterattack left in their vast arsenal. It was in the seventh inning, when Kennedy made the second of four moves to his bullpen, that Kennedy attacked the Orioles with a left-right combination.

His opening move worked, though not to perfection, as left-hander Rick Honeycutt was maneuvered against the Orioles' three left-handed hitters -- Brady Anderson, Rafael Palmeiro and Harold Baines -- over a two-inning stretch. With that trio occupying three of the top four spots in the lineup, and right-handers, with the exception of switch-hitting Mark McLemore, in the fifth to ninth positions, opposing managers easily can match up their relievers late in the game.

Anderson (1-for-9) and Palmeiro (2-for-20) were hitting a combined .103 against Honeycutt. Anderson grounded out to end the seventh, and Palmeiro went out on a hard smash to first baseman Will Clark for the second out in the eighth, before Honeycutt's spell ended -- not totally unexpectedly.

Baines, a .304 lifetime hitter against Honeycutt (7-for-23) lined a two-out double that ignited a tying, three-run rally. But it was right-hander Jay Howell, facing all right-handed hitters, who was victimized.

The first half of Kennedy's strategy, neutralizing the left-handed hitters at the top of the lineup, worked to perfection. It was his second move, one inning before he could get to closer Tom Henke, that kept the Rangers from registering a routine win, rather than having to rally for two runs in the ninth inning for a 7-5 victory.

The moves Kennedy made last night are ones the Orioles can expect to see often this year. There are no glaring weaknesses in the lineup -- but the alignment of left and right-handed hitters presents the opportunity for power-against-power matchups late

in the game.

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