Orioles' roll ends with 11-1 rocking Hershiser, Indians make it look easy

August 03, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND -- The Orioles hammered Orel Hershiser in April, moving manager Davey Johnson to speak about what a tremendous pitcher Hershiser had been. In paying tribute, and without meaning any disrespect, Johnson talked of Hershiser's greatness in the past tense.

Hershiser is worthy of present tense now, and if he keeps on pitching as he has over the last two months, he could play a significant part in the Indians' future -- the playoffs and World Series.

Last night, Hershiser limited the Orioles to two hits in seven innings as Cleveland won in an 11-1 rampage. The Orioles have lost 10 straight at Jacobs Field, and have been outscored, 60-25, in those games.

The Orioles have played in this manner for more than three months now. They win a few games and you start wondering if they're for real, if they have one great burst of baseball in them. They came to Cleveland hot off a three-game sweep of Minnesota, hitting and pitching as well as they have all season.

But they got blasted last night in the first game of a four-game series. The Indians played Goliath to the Orioles' David, except the Orioles had no slingshot, no hitting, no defense, no pitching and no way to stop the running game of Cleveland, which stole three bases.

"We didn't do much in any aspect," said Orioles starter Scott Erickson, who was slammed for six runs in 4 1/3 innings. "The pitching was terrible -- mine, anyway -- and we

didn't score a whole lot."

Johnson was pitched forward in his chair, his elbows on his knees, when reporters walked into his office last night. "I hope you guys had a better night than I did," Johnson said.

Hershiser had the best night of all. The Orioles could not cope with the veteran right-hander, whose surgically reconstructed right shoulder seems to get better every year. Hershiser had a 5.65 ERA in April, 6.67 in May. But each year since his 1990 operation, he has regained more and more of the command that made him the best pitcher in baseball in 1988.

This year, he found his command in early June, and since then he's won seven of his last 10 decisions, allowing only one homer in his last 12 starts.

With Hershiser throwing a vicious sinking fastball, the Orioles did nothing but beat the ball into the ground. "I think what we did early was swing at pitches down and out of the strike zone," said Johnson.

The first nine Orioles hitters accumulated only one hit, that a single by Gregg Zaun, but Zaun was erased on a ground-ball double play. The Orioles didn't have a runner in scoring position until the fifth inning, when Bobby Bonilla singled, moved to second on a wild pitch and to third on a fly ball before scoring on a fly by Cal Ripken.

Hershiser has said publicly he can understand the logic of Indians general manager John Hart in trading Carlos Baerga and trying to improve the defense, and little wonder: Hershiser benefits directly from having Jose Vizcaino at second, rather than Baerga.

Erickson cracked in the third inning, giving up a two-out triple to Lofton -- right fielder Bonilla taking an awkward route on the ball before it fell -- and a ground single to Omar Vizquel.

Erickson then crumbled in the fourth, when Cleveland picked up four runs.

Back-to-back doubles by Manny Ramirez and Jeromy Burnitz set up the rally (the Orioles argued that Ramirez's double down the right-field line was foul, and replays showed they may have been right) and Lofton finished it with a two-run homer.

"I kind of lost my concentration a little," Erickson said,

Albert Belle led off the fifth by bashing a homer into the stands in right-center field, his 37th of the year and his seventh against the Orioles. Belle vs. the Birds in '96: 35 at-bats, seven homers, 15 RBI.

The Indians poured it on against relievers Arthur Rhodes and Keith Shepherd, scoring three more runs in the bottom of the sixth inning as the Orioles fumbled on defense: Zaun was charged with a passed ball, third baseman B. J. Surhoff committed an error, and Rafael Palmeiro and Rhodes got mixed up on who was supposed to cover first.

The trend continues -- the Orioles blitzed a sub-.500 team, the Minnesota Twins, before getting crunched by a good team.

The Orioles are 12-30 against teams over .500, meaning they're averaging about three wins a month against good clubs. Three wins a month against good teams -- that won't carry you through October.

Orioles today

Opponent: Cleveland Indians

Site: Jacobs Field, Cleveland

Time: 1: 05

TV/Radio: Ch. 45/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Rick Krivda (2-4, 5.01) vs. Indians' Chad Ogea

(5-2, 5.89)

Hits and misses

On the field: Eddie Murray played at Jacobs Field last night for the first time since the Indians traded him to the Orioles, and when he was introduced, fans stood, clapped and cheered. Murray gave a cursory wave and stepped into the box. But the fans kept cheering -- joined by Indians pitcher Orel Hershiser, who stood behind the mound and removed his glove to clap. Murray waved again, stepped in to hit -- and grounded out.

In the dugout: Orioles manager Davey Johnson said he wanted Arthur Rhodes available to pitch against the Indians, who have been shown to be vulnerable to left-handed pitching, and when Scott Erickson ran into trouble in the fourth inning, Rhodes got up and started throwing in the bullpen.

In the clubhouse: With Earl Weaver's induction into the Hall of Fame a couple of days away, Johnson was telling stories about Weaver before the game. One of Johnson's favorite was how Weaver would kneel down in the runway during critical situations and cover his eyes. "He'd say, 'I can't look. I'll jinx [the pitcher]. Tell me what the pitcher did.' "

Pub Date: 8/03/96

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