Orioles dealt poor hand in wild-card chase White Sox face easy 3 weeks, while O's finish rough trek

August 16, 1996|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

OAKLAND -- The Orioles arrived in the Bay Area facing another scheduling anomaly, a five-game series against the Oakland Athletics that could have a dramatic impact on their chances of reaching the playoffs this year as a wild-card team.

Five games in four days on the heels of a 13-game road trip and only a brief stop at home. Five games in four days for a team that should be wearing down about now. Five games in four days for a team that hopes to finish the season in a four-man rotation.

"Regardless of whether it's a good schedule or a bad schedule, everybody's got to do what they can do," said manager Davey Johnson, who was just happy for the Wednesday day game in Baltimore and the Thursday night game in Oakland. Too many times this year, the team has reached a road destination at 3 a.m. and had to play that evening.

This time, they got in at a reasonable hour and got situated for last night's series opener at Oakland Alameda County Stadium, but they are on the tail end of a 20-game run in which they will have played 18 games on the road.

Meanwhile, the White Sox -- who appear to be the Orioles' main competition for the wild card berth -- were embarking on a seemingly easy road trip, with an offday yesterday and three games against the slumping Milwaukee Brewers just a short bus ride away, then three against the Detroit.

The next three weeks, the White Sox do not play a single team with a .500 record. They have soft draw that includes home series against the Brewers and Tigers, seven games against the Toronto Blue Jays and a three-game set against the Boston Red Sox. That's going to make them tough to catch.

"I don't think you can look at it that way," said third baseman B.J. Surhoff. "You still have to win. It's just like lining up two teams on paper. One team might seem superior, but you've got to play.

"Nobody thought the Twins would come in and sweep us," Surhoff said, "and you'd think that Seattle would be doing well with all those games at home. Look what happened to them."

The Orioles have risen to the challenge. They came into last night's game against the A's with 11 victories in their previous 15 games, five of five against the struggling Brewers. In the end, every team plays essentially the same schedule, but the Orioles surge still left them 3 1/2 games behind the White Sox in the wild card race, and now the White Sox are in excellent position to keep him at bay until mid-September.

"I don't think about things like that because I've got no control over it," Johnson said. "I've got enough things to have anxiety about. I'm only concerned with these 25 players going here and doing what we are capable of."

The upcoming schedule isn't particularly harsh for the Orioles either, once they get out of Oakland. They face the three also-rans in the American League West -- the A's, California Angels and Seattle Mariners -- for a span of 19 games (including last night's), but they have not played particularly well at home (31-30) and Johnson is going to have to nurse his banged up pitching staff through this long weekend just to earn a fresh start Monday at Camden Yards.

Pub Date: 8/16/96

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