Amid flurry of hits, walk did in Oquist


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

He gave up two doubles, a home run and a pair of singles, but the ball wasn't even put in play during the at-bat Mike Oquist took home with him last night.

It produced, as you might have guessed, a walk, one of two the Orioles' young right-hander issued during a disastrous six-run third inning. In a game that produced 14 runs and 27 hits, the turning point may have been one of only five walks issued by both teams.

"The walk to [Kent] Hrbek didn't bother me, because I didn't want to give him a pitch to hit with a base open," said Oquist. "But the next one [to Shane Mack] killed me."

Oquist had breezed through the first two innings, facing the minimum of six hitters. There was little indication of what would follow, even after Scott Leius opened the third with a double that Jeffrey Hammonds couldn't catch up with in left-center field.

A duplicate drive by Matt Walbeck got beyond right fielder Chris Sabo for another double, setting up the unlikeliest plate appearance of Pat Meares' career. The Twins shortstop had gone 498 at-bats without hitting a home run -- and he promptly drilled one into the left-field seats. The fact that Meares added another homer off Mark Williamson in the eighth inning attests to the power of Camden Yards.

"The pitch to Meares wasn't a particularly good pitch, but it wasn't a real bad one, either," said Oquist. "It was a 3-and-2 slider that I was just trying to throw for a strike."

Even after the brief barrage of line drives, the Orioles trailed only 3-2. But the outburst apparently had an effect on Oquist's approach.

"You can't start picking just because a guy gets on base," was the message from pitching coach Dick Bosman. "That's a pretty good team and you can't keep going deep into the count against them."

Which is precisely what happened to Oquist, who went to a full count on Meares and paid for it. After a single by Chuck Knoblauch, he got a couple of quick outs on a sacrifice bunt and infield grounder.

Within an out of completing the inning and getting a chance to regroup, Oquist lost his control. He walked Hrbek semi-intentionally, but the base on balls to Mack -- which included several two-strike foul balls -- was decidedly unintentional.

An infield hit finished Oquist, who was charged with six runs after Leius greeted Williamson with a fly ball single to right that drove in two more runs. The early departure gave Oquist plenty of time to dwell on what happened.

"When I look back on it, the walk to Mack was the key," he said. "That's what did me in."

It was enough to turn Oquist's walk to the clubhouse into an unpleasant journey.

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