Forcing the action draws mixed results

INSIDE PITCH

August 17, 1995|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

In an effort to juice up an offense that has performed far below expectations, Orioles manager Phil Regan often has reverted to a style of baseball he prefers.

Regan often has let it be known that he likes to try and force the action. He encourages an aggressive style on the bases in an effort to manufacture runs.

It isn't something the Orioles have done particularly well, either this year or in the past. And each of the three games of the series with the Cleveland Indians provided an insight to both the positive and negative aspects of the strategy.

There were three situations, not quite identical, involving the same players, Bobby Bonilla and Cal Ripken, each time. In the first and third instances, potentially big innings were defused -- in the second, though, a modest rally eventually resulted in a half-dozen runs.

We'll never know how much the strategy affected either situation, but in retrospect (translation: hindsight) we can examine the results.

In the third inning of Monday night's game, the Orioles had a 4-0 lead and Cleveland right-hander Ken Hill was clearly in danger of making an early exit. Bonilla was on first with nobody out and Ripken was the hitter as the Orioles tried to apply a stranglehold on the game.

Bonilla was running on a 1-and-2 pitch that, unfortunately for the Orioles, stayed out of the strike zone. Bonilla was thrown out trying to steal. After lining a hit to left-center field, Ripken went for a double, but was out on a close play at second.

What might have happened had Bonilla not been running is left to the imagination -- but less than 24 hours later the stage was reset, under slightly different circumstances. After the first two hitters in the first inning had gone out quietly, the Orioles tied the game on a double by Rafael Palmeiro and a single by Bonilla.

This time the count was 2-and-1 when Bonilla took off from first base -- and this time, Ripken got a pitch to hit, again drilling a shot to left-center field. Bonilla scored on the play, which he might not have been able to do had he not been running, and Ripken made it to second base with a double.

The Orioles went on to score four more runs and, even though he had retired the first two , Charles Nagy never made it out of the first inning.

It wasn't until the sixth inning last night that the Orioles' duo staged their three-peat. With the score 3-3, Bonilla reached on an error and immediately tried to force the issue. But he was thrown out again, even though both the pitch and the throw to second were in the dirt. An ensuing walk to Ripken and infield hit by Harold Baines went for naught when Chris Hoiles' drive through the middle was turned into a double play by second baseman Carlos Baerga.

Same players, same tactics, similar but not identical circumstances, different results.

That's why they call it strategy -- sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

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