Using both Gomez, Sabo proves to be twice as nice

SIDELIGHT

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

NEW YORK -- All things considered, Orioles manager Johnny Oates is glad he didn't decide to play Chris Sabo at third base yesterday.

Not that the thought didn't cross his mind. Leo Gomez went into the game in a 1-for-15 funk, but the New York Yankees were pitching Jimmy Key, so there was an opening for a designated hitter because Harold Baines' numbers against the veteran left-hander were on the modest side.

Sabo, making his first appearance since May 6, ran himself into a triple in his first at-bat, scoring the first run of the game. But it was Gomez who drove him in, as he had a hand in all but one of the runs the Orioles scored in the 6-5 victory.

It was a double by Gomez that drove in Sabo in the second inning. He also had a pair of singles that drove in a run and led to another, before concluding his day with another double, this one positioning the final two runs in the 10th inning.

"I was swinging at my pitch instead of their pitch," said Gomez. "When you do that, you have a better chance of doing something good."

For most of the spring, Gomez had been on the trading block, but he has proven to be a valuable contributor while filling in for Sabo. He is now hitting .309, with two home runs and 12 RBIs in 68 at-bats. "Funny things happen in this game," said Gomez, alluding to his previous uncertain situation.

By all indications, Sabo is ready to return to the lineup -- he showed no signs of back trouble when he dived into third with his second-inning triple.

However, it isn't likely that Sabo will play tonight, when the Orioles open a three-game series in Milwaukee.

"It's pretty tough to take a guy out after he's gotten four hits," said Oates. "But Chris will probably DH Tuesday night against [left-hander] Teddy Higuera."

Yesterday turned out to be a good day for a couple of players usually restricted to reserve roles. Outfielder Jack Voigt had a couple of singles, neither of which would win a beauty pageant, and drove in the two runs that ultimately decided the game.

"I broke my bat on the first one," Voigt said of his fourth-inning looper that followed a single by Gomez and preceded a double by Brady Anderson. "But I don't think the other one cracked."

In his previous at-bat, Voigt had hit a drive to deep left-center field that was tracked by Daryl Boston. The distance of that drive may have opened up enough room for his game-winner to fall in.

"I was just looking for something hard," Voigt said. "I watched the way he [reliever Xavier Hernandez] worked the other hitters and, I don't know if he remembers or not, but I played against him in college.

"I know he's got a splitter [split-fingered fastball] and I didn't want to have to hit that pitch if I could help it. I got a pitch good enough to be 'fisted.' If it had been out over the plate and I'd hit it a little better, it probably would've been a line drive or long fly for an out."

So the Orioles probably won a game because Voigt didn't get a pitch he could hit hard. Just one that he could muscle far enough over the infield to drop in "no man's land."

After losing four straight, and seven of eight, the Orioles, and Voigt, had no difficulty accepting the results.

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