Rhodes on a roll for O's

August 07, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

MILWAUKEE -- Hard-throwing left-hander Arthur Rhodes, 24, has teased the Orioles with potential, but never quite like this.

Rhodes pitched his second consecutive shutout last night, throwing a five-hitter to defeat the Milwaukee Brewers, 5-0, before 29,077 at County Stadium.

Since Rhodes returned from Triple-A Rochester Aug. 1, the Orioles have four shutouts in six games after going 138 games without one.

Rhodes threw 147 pitches, walked five, struck out three, and escaped bases-loaded jams in the third and sixth innings.

Rhodes, who had one shutout in his first 49 starts, retired the final 10 Brewers he faced.

Orioles pitching coach Dick Bosman asked Rhodes how he felt in the dugout before the ninth inning and liked his response.

"I told him I wanted to finish it," Rhodes said.

Orioles manager Johnny Oates beamed at the response.

"We haven't heard that too often around here," Oates said.

The four shutouts in one week were the most by the Orioles since 1974, when they set an American League record with five consecutive shutouts (Mike Cuellar twice, Ross Grimsley, Dave McNally and Jim Palmer).

Rhodes set a personal record last night, extending his streak of shutout innings to 18. He pitched 17 consecutive innings two seasons ago.

Under the guidance of Rochester pitching coach Steve Luebber, Rhodes went 6-3 with a 2.75 ERA for the Red Wings.

More importantly, Rhodes changed his approach. He mixes pitches, whereas he used to change only his velocity. He threw hard, harder and hardest. His pitches were wild, wilder and wildest.

He showed wildness last night, but was able to throw strikes when it counted.

It doesn't take a Rhodes scholar to realize Arthur became a different pitcher on his last trip to Rochester.

"He's much more confident now," Oates said.

How can you tell?

"Body language out there on the mound," Oates said. "The way he acts in the dugout."

He's talking more, smiling more, relaxing more.

"This is the highest confidence level I've had because I'm out there doing a great job," Rhodes said. "I told you all after my last start I would do it again, and I did."

Rhodes triggered the Orioles' shutout streak with a seven-hitter against the Minnesota Twins. Mike Mussina pitched seven innings of a combined seven-hitter against the Twins, and Ben McDonald pitched a complete-game one-hitter against the Brewers on Friday night.

In his first start back in the major leagues, Rhodes defeated the Twins, 1-0, on the night Cal Ripken played in his 2,000th consecutive game, Aug. 1.

In his eight starts this season before that historic night, Rhodes had gone 1-5 with an 8.83 ERA.

Now, Oates is determined to pitch Rhodes every fifth day and let him finish what he starts provided he does not, "go out there and walk the park."

In his five starts made with four days' rest, Rhodes has an ERA of 2.97.

"This could be very big for him as far as knowing he belongs here," Oates said.

When Rhodes wasn't working his way out of jams last night, second baseman Mark McLemore was hurting the Brewers with his bat, his glove and his speed.

McLemore went 2-for-3, doubled, drove in three runs, stole his 20th base and made a huge defensive play to preserve Rhodes' shutout.

Rhodes repeatedly came up with the right pitch at the right time to get himself out of a jam and received a big boost from the Orioles' defense.

Milwaukee's cleanup hitter Greg Vaughn came to the plate with the bases loaded in the third inning when McLemore raced to Rhodes' rescue.

McLemore sprinted into right field foul territory and made a basket catch of Vaughn's pop-up and bounced a throw to catcher Chris Hoiles in time for Hoiles to place the tag on Jose Valentin, who attempted to tag up from third.

Four innings later, Rhodes benefited from another standout play when center fielder Mike Devereaux made a diving catch in left-center.

In the sixth, the Brewers loaded the bases when Rhodes walked Kevin Seitzer for the third time, got a one-out infield single by John Jaha and Dave Valle drew a two-out walk.

Rhodes got Matt Mieske to ground into an inning-ending force play at third base.

The Orioles learned when they got to the ballpark that they would not be facing Bill Wegman as they had thought. Instead, they faced Jamie Navarro, who learned of the start with a morning phone call.

Wegman flew to Cincinnati yesterday morning to be with his ill grandfather.

Navarro dug many holes for himself in his 5 2/3 innings, but the Orioles failed to take advantage. He gave up three earned runs on seven hits, two walks and one wild pitch.

The Orioles loaded the bases with no outs in the second on a Ripken single and consecutive walks to Harold Baines and Leo Gomez and scored two runs.

The first run scored on a Navarro wild pitch, the second on McLemore's sacrifice fly to center. Navarro retired Chris Hoiles for the first out and Devereaux for the third out, both on pop-ups, to limit the damage.

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