Pitching deck deals Yankees better hand


May 20, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

Judging from the pitching matchups, the Orioles do not appear to be well armed for their three-game weekend series against the Yankees in New York.

Unlike the showdowns against the Toronto Blue Jays last week and the just-completed series against the Boston Red Sox, the Orioles will be dealing from the bottom of their rotation deck against the Yankees. Mike Mussina, who faces Jimmy Key on Sunday, is the only one of the top three starters who will face the division leaders.

That wasn't the case against the Blue Jays and Red Sox, who had to face Ben McDonald and Sid Fernandez in addition to Mussina. The Yankees will get left-handers Jamie Moyer, who is trying to recover last year's magic, and Arthur Rhodes, who is trying to fulfill his potential, instead of McDonald and Fernandez.

Call it the breaks of the rotation draw if you will, but the Yankees will be dealing their three aces -- Jim Abbott and Melido Perez in addition to Key. With the exception of Mussina-Key on the third day, the pairings take on the appearance of mismatches.

But, especially this early in the season, pitching matchups have to be judged by what they are -- the luck of the draw. When manager Johnny Oates was putting his pitching lineup together a month ago, the Blue Jays were the team against whom the Orioles needed to make an impression.

"And the Red Sox were the team that was in first place [before the Yankees went on a 10-game winning streak]," said Oates. "This isn't September, and you can't set up your rotation for every series."

In addition, what was left unsaid is more important than pitching matchups at this time of year. The time has come for the Orioles, and every other team, to move their No. 4 and 5 starters into the picture on a more regular basis.

The team that wins the American League East is most likely going to be the one that gets the best performances from its fourth and fifth starters. The Orioles are going to have to win games with Moyer and Rhodes, or Mike Oquist, or a pitcher to be traded for later, if they have any hope of winning their division.

And with a reinforced offense that has been on the blink of late, they also have to be able to step up and beat the best pitchers. Thanks in large measure to Mussina, they were able to do that against Roger Clemens earlier in the week.

But, for a team with division title aspirations, those wins can't come on only an occasional basis. There has to be a certain degree of regularity. And sometimes those wins have to come when the matchups don't appear favorable.

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