Orioles struggle to explain struggles Injuries are a factor, but 'it's the whole big picture,' Hoiles says

Sidelight

July 26, 1996|By Jason LaCanfora | Jason LaCanfora,SUN STAFF

Orioles players and coaches agree it is going to take a collective effort for the team to remain in contention for a playoff berth.

The Orioles have won just four of their past 16 games, staggering to the 100-game mark with a 50-50 record, despite their sparkling 11-2 start. It's a struggle for anyone associated with the team to pinpoint the reasons for its unexpected poor play.

"It's the whole big picture," said catcher Chris Hoiles. "It's not the pitchers, it's not the hitters, it's not the defense, but yet it's everything. It's all of the little things."

At times, the pitchers have been overpowering. At times, the bats have produced in unison. The clubhouse is loaded with established veterans and a couple of superstars.

Yet the Orioles have fallen horribly below expectations, putting a premium on their final 62 games.

"After 100 games, with my hand on the pulse here, we're all capable of doing a lot better," manager Davey Johnson said. "And we better do it. All of us."

Johnson sent this message to his players with a tirade after Wednesday night's 11-4 loss to the Twins, capping a three-game Minnesota sweep. Johnson said he is holding the entire team accountable and he wants to see improvement in every department.

"We ain't falling back and punting," Johnson said. "We're just going to keep grinding and see if we can't get something going. We're not the best hitting club. We're not a speed-oriented team. And we just haven't pitched well. You add all of that up and you see where we're at."

Injuries also have taken their toll.

Johnson said he was counting heavily on Armando Benitez, but the right-handed reliever has spent nearly the entire season on the disabled list. Roger McDowell, another right-hander, was used heavily in his absence, but now McDowell is on the DL, as is left-hander Arthur Rhodes, who was brilliant out of the bullpen with a 9-1 record and 3.53 ERA.

Second baseman Roberto Alomar has been hampered by a finger injury since the All-Star break and center fielder Brady Anderson has possible appendicitis. Most of the injuries have come lately, though, with the team already losing ground in the standings.

Hoiles said the problem is much deeper than injuries or slumps.

"It's throwing a strike when you need it. It's getting a bunt down to advance a runner. It's giving yourself up to score a run. An outfielder cutting a ball down. An infielder turning a double play. Everybody has to do his job. You can't nit-pick one little thing. It's a whole lot of little things."

Outfielder Mike Devereaux said he remains optimistic and believes his teammates feel the same way.

"Everybody's trying to keep a positive attitude," Devereaux said. "We've still got 60-some games left. It's been done before. It's not like it's impossible. We know what has to be done.

"We're confident in this team and we're not in a no-win situation. We know it's possible to put a run together."

Murray moving up

Eddie Murray tied Lou Gehrig on the all-time home run list with his 493rd Wednesday night:

1. Hank Aaron 755

2. Babe Ruth 714

3. Willie Mays 660

4. Frank Robinson 586

5. Harmon Killebrew 573

6. Reggie Jackson 563

7. Mike Schmidt 548

8. Mickey Mantle 536

9. Jimmie Foxx 534

10. Willie McCovey 521

(tie) Ted Williams 521

12. Ernie Banks 512

(tie) Eddie Mathews 512

14. Mel Ott 511

15. Lou Gehrig 493

(tie) Eddie Murray 493

Pub Date: 7/26/96

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