Griffey gives late-inning test, but O's fail

INSIDE PITCH

May 01, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

In case you forgot, or weren't up to witness the late night homer horror show, Johnny Oates got a measure of vindication Friday night.

It wasn't exactly what he had planned.

What goes around in baseball often comes around in a hurry. In this instance it took just five days for a rerun of the Ken Griffey-Jay Buhner debate. The circumstances weren't identical, but the result was the same -- a notch in the loss column for the Orioles.

You may recall, before he left for Rochester, Brad Pennington threw a wild pitch that left a base open before delivering the pitch that would turn into a game-winning, three-run home run for Griffey. Pennington was in the game because the Seattle Mariners got three runners on base against Jamie Moyer.

With a 6-3 lead, Oates could have extended Moyer for one more hitter, but he brought in Pennington to face Griffey. One pitch later (a wild pitch that scored a run and cut the lead to 6-4), Oates could have put Griffey on base with the potential go-ahead run, a no-no in the managerial manual, and brought in Alan Mills to face Buhner.

A week ago today, Plan A turned into an 8-6 loss. Five days later, Plan B became a 5-4 loss when Griffey homered off Moyer to tie the score and Buhner homered against Mills to win it. That, of course, doesn't mean Plan B wouldn't have worked last week, or Plan A two nights ago, but you get the idea.

The only clear deduction you can make is this: It is dangerous to allow Griffey, or any other superstar, to swing against the same pitcher four times in a game. And it's likewise troublesome to have a reliever prone to allowing home runs work in the late innings.

There's no quarrel here with the moves Oates made in either instance. There was no more reason to remove Moyer Friday night than there was to leave him in a week ago. Sometimes you just have to try to get a hitter out in those situations. As good as Griffey is, he still fails more than 65 percent of the time.

Of more concern than strategic moves to the Orioles at the moment is solving the Mills mystery. There's no way to gauge a pitcher who has recorded almost twice as many strikeouts (12) and allowed almost as many home runs (five) as innings pitched (6 2/3 ).

Though he would prefer Mills in a setup role for closer Lee Smith, Oates may be forced to look for the answer in the fifth and sixth innings rather than the seventh and eighth.

The success of the Orioles' pitching staff will depend to a large degree on the effectiveness of the relievers.

And the bridge between the starters and Smith is currently in treacherous condition. Rearranging the bullpen roles may help provide the quick fix that is necessary.

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