Deceptive speed helps Orioles steal a win

INSIDE PITCH

April 23, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

At no time this year will the Orioles give the statistical appearance of being a speed team. If they don't finish last in stolen bases in the American League, they will be close.

That, however, doesn't mean they won't be able to win some games with speed. Last night's 8-6 victory over the Seattle Marines can serve as Exhibit A.

What had all the appearances of being a routine play turned out to be worth four runs in the first inning. The Orioles can look at the play as a prime example as to how their speed can be a deceptive asset.

But Seattle manager Lou Piniella can be forgiven for blaming the entire mess on a mental mistake that turned into a physical miscue. Brady Anderson, who has attempted only one stolen base (successfully) in the first 15 games, led off with a single.

With Jeffrey Hammonds hitting second in place of the injured Mike Devereaux, Anderson was running on the pitch when the rookie outfielder hit a slow grounder to shortstop Rich Amaral. Defensing against the possibility of Hammonds hitting behind the runner on the hit-and-run, Amaral was designated to cover second base on the play, with second baseman Torey Lovullo holding his position.

Amaral fielded Hammonds' grounder easily while en route to second base, then made the mistake that led to four unearned runs. Although aware that Anderson was running on the play, Amaral initially tried to get the force play himself.

After three or four hasty steps toward second, Amaral realized the effort was a lost cause and turned his attention to the play at first base. But he evidently had underestimated Hammonds' speed and had to rush a throw that was high and pulled first baseman Tino Martinez above the bag long enough for Hammonds to beat the play.

After Rafael Palmeiro walked to load the bases, Cal Ripken bounced into a double-play, with one run scoring, Jack Voigt dropped a pop fly single into left-center field, Tim Hulett lined a single to right and left-hander Dave Fleming behind 4-0.

As the game evolved in rather sloppy fashion, those runs were the difference. Had Anderson not been running on the ground ball -- or if Hammonds didn't possess blinding speed, Fleming would've had a scoreless innning and quite possibly avoided the loss.

It's a victory the Orioles can chalk up to speed -- and a loss the Mariners can blame on failing to follow the ageless baseball adage that says "make sure you get one out before going for two."

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