Neither team executes well in cutoff game

INSIDE PITCH

April 24, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

In one-run games, little things mean a lot, as the Mariners and Orioles proved again yesterday.

Had the game been called "hit the cutoff man," neither team would've passed the test. The failure to execute one of baseball's most abused fundamentals cost the Mariners a run in the third inning, when they made two overthrows -- and may have been as costly to the Orioles in the eighth.

Cal Ripken drove in the game's first run with a sacrifice fly to medium center field, but Rafael Palmeiro crossing home plate wasn't the only important part of the play. Just as important was when Harold Baines, who is not noted for his running -- and later paid the price -- went to second base on the high throw toward home by Ken Griffey.

It appeared as though Griffey had at least a slim chance of a play on Palmeiro. However, his strong but erratic throw ended that possibility -- along with any chance of throwing out Baines at second.

That became vital moments later, when Chris Hoiles singled to left. With two outs, third base coach Jerry Narron gambled against the arm of left fielder Eric Anthony and won.

It was not the kind of hit that would've scored Baines routinely, and with less than two out, Narron wouldn't have taken the same chance. A good throw would've caught Baines easily, but this time the ball not only overshot the cutoff man, but was also extremely off line.

Baines scored on the play, then left the game with a pulled groin muscle, and again the runner (Hoiles) was allowed to move up a base. But the Mariners escaped further damage when Jack Voigt grounded out to end the inning.

Five innings later, rookie right fielder Jeffrey Hammonds was guilty of a similar misplay. Even though Torey Lovullo was running on the pitch when Griffey doubled off the right-field scoreboard, there was a chance for the Orioles to make a play at home -- at least until Hammonds uncorked a wild throw.

The ball wasn't in the same vicinity as second baseman Mark McLemore, who was positioned in short right field to make the relay throw. Whether the Orioles could've thrown out Lovullo can't be determined -- because they never really had the opportunity.

Missing the cutoff man is a common mistake, even though every team spends considerable time working on, and stressing, the maneuver. For the most part, it is a mistake of over-exuberance rather than a lack of fundamental knowledge.

But there is an anguished reminder every time a base runner glides into scoring position because of an errant throw.

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