But they have to be a lot more confident about their chances after defeating Johnson for the second time this year Friday afternoon. Johnson has started against the Orioles three times, and they are 3-0 in those games. Johnson is 3-7 lifetime against them.
That's got to be heartening, unless you believe in the law of averages, which figure to be working in Johnson's favor the next time he faces the Orioles.
Texas Rangers manager Johnny Oates broke away from his club on Friday to attend the funeral of longtime Orioles announcer Rex Barney. The two had been friends for many years, so Oates took the train from New York and served as one of the pallbearers at the Friday morning service.
Nixon's the one
It may have seemed like a curious move when the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired center fielder Otis Nixon from the Blue Jays recently, but there is a method to the club's apparent madness. Nixon will move into center field and bat leadoff, even though Brett Butler was batting .305 with a .389 on-base percentage at the time of the deal.
The Dodgers feel that Nixon will be a bigger threat to make things happen after he gets on base. Butler has stolen just 14 bases this year. Nixon is a switch-hitter who ranked second in the AL with 47 stolen bases.
Butler was out of the lineup the first two games after Nixon arrived, but he has not complained about his reduced role.
"I've said it before: In this game, you check your egos at the door," Butler said. "The bottom line isn't I or me. It's the team. It's not the number on the back of the uniform that matters, it's the name on the front. We're here to win a world championship, and Otis can help us. It's all positive for the Dodgers."
Anderson looking west?
The Dodgers now have a 40-year-old center fielder (Butler) and a 38-year-old center fielder (Nixon), which can only lead to speculation that they will sign a younger one at the end of the season. The two top free agents at that position will be Kenny Lofton and Brady Anderson, and Lofton is thought to be headed to Arizona.
Anderson grew up in Southern California. He still hasn't signed an extension with the Orioles. Draw your own conclusions.
It was no accident that Japanese pitcher Hideki Irabu made his first major-league start against the free-swinging Detroit Tigers -- the better to get him a big strikeout total and vindicate owner George Steinbrenner's decision to give up two big-time prospects and pay him $12.8 million over 3 1/2 years.
It also was no accident that when Irabu finally came back from the minor leagues, he was matched up Wednesday against the light-hitting Kansas City Royals, who have the second-fewest home runs in the league. Irabu still gave one up to Chili Davis, but pitched well enough to earn his third victory in five major-league decisions.
Irabu hasn't exactly won over his teammates, many of whom still resent the large contract and preferential treatment he has received.
"We heard so much about the guy throwing 99 and we never saw it," Andy Pettitte said. "He was closer to 92, and most of the time, he was around 88 or 90. That's the thing I don't understand. But, hey, the guy's got a big contract, and it's obvious he's not going anywhere. He's here to stay, so we might as well help him as best we can."
Still close behind
Despite a little clubhouse dissension, the Yankees continue to push the Orioles in the American League East, and clearly helped themselves with the surprising deal that brought catcher/DH Mike Stanley back from Boston.
Stanley may not be Chili Davis or Jose Canseco, but he arrived back in New York hitting about .300 with 13 homers and 57 RBIs. He likely will platoon at DH with Darryl Strawberry, who is expected back soon from a knee injury.
The most surprising thing about the deal was that the Yankees made it with the rival Red Sox, who still are upset about getting fleeced in the Babe Ruth deal. The Yankees had to give up another big prospect -- pitcher Tony Armas -- but appear to be on their way to the playoffs again and want to be well-stocked.
Pub Date: 8/17/97