After erratic afternoon, Key is looking to locate explanation for control Pitcher is perplexed by his inability to keep ball down against Tigers

Sidelight

September 22, 1997|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Jimmy Key was four batters into his start yesterday when he said a thought crossed his mind.

"Wow, here we go."

Key didn't like where he, or the game, was headed.

ble to keep the ball down consistently or follow up on his dominant performance of five days earlier, Key lasted just 4 2/3 innings and absorbed an 11-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers at Camden Yards.

His location, and his luck, were equally bad. He didn't get away with any mistakes, and couldn't get out of the fifth inning, when a two-out double by Bubba Trammell ended Key's day after five runs and 105 pitches. He allowed seven hits and walked three.

"When he was in the windup, he was throwing the ball pretty good," said manager Davey Johnson. "When he got in the stretch, he seemed to get the ball up. The last two starts out, he had been really good. This looks like one in that stretch he had before the last two, when everything was up and he was missing.

"For him to have to throw 100-and-some pitches in less than five innings, something's wrong. Hopefully, he'll be all right the next start."

The Tigers opened the game with singles by Brian Hunter and Bobby Higginson and an RBI double by Travis Fryman. Tony Clark drove in the second run with a single to right, and Damon Easley's groundout put Detroit ahead, 3-0.

That began a streak of seven consecutive batters retired by Key, until a two-out walk to Clark. Key then got two strikes on Easley before serving up a home run to center field.

L "I made a terrible pitch," Key said. "It wasn't even close."

After that, neither was the game.

The Tigers loaded the bases after Easley's homer, but Key dodged further harm by striking out Deivi Cruz. Johnson was going to pull him, but wanted to squeeze something positive from the start. Beginning with Cruz, Key struck out five of the next six batters before Trammell's double, validating the manager's trust.

"He really was good in the fourth and the first part of the fifth until [Trammell] smoked the ball. So maybe he's got it worked out. I don't know," Johnson said.

Key wrote off the entire episode as "one of those days" and added his arm still feels good.

"I wasn't throwing that good in the first inning and they jumped on me and hit a couple balls that weren't hit that good but fell in," he said. "My control wasn't there from the start. It seemed like the even innings I threw OK. The first and third, I didn't throw good at all. Give those guys credit."

Key ended a nine-start winless streak at Camden Yards Tuesday, limiting Cleveland to two unearned runs in 7 2/3 innings and improving his record to 16-9.

"I wasn't as sharp as I was the other day, but today wasn't a total bad day," he said. "They got me deep in the count, but I really don't feel terrible about the outing. I made a lot of good pitches today. Some I didn't make good and they hit them."

Asked what he wants to achieve in his final regular-season start, scheduled for Friday in Milwaukee, Key said, "I just want to feel good about locating my pitches on a consistent basis. Whether they create outs or not, sometimes you can't control that. But if you feel good about what you're throwing and where you're throwing it, you go into the next start after that on a positive note.

"I'm going to use my next start to get myself ready for Seattle or Cleveland, whatever happens. Try to get my pitches in locations I want to get them in."

Hits and misses

On the field: Detroit's Damion Easley hit two home runs in a game for the second time in his career, the other coming Aug. 5, 1994 against the Chicago White Sox. He also set a career high with six RBIs.

In the dugout: There weren't many players left in their original positions by the eighth inning. Manager Davey Johnson inserted Danny Clyburn in left field, Tony Tarasco in center and Dave Dellucci in right. He put Jeff Reboulet at third base and Melvin Rosario behind the plate, and moved Jerome Walton to first base.

In the clubhouse: Johnson was asked if he would like to see the club re-sign closer Randy Myers. "I'm not going to start talking about players and who they ought to re-sign and stuff, but anytime a guy's got 43 saves and is leading the league in Rolaids [Relief Man Award], draw your own conclusions. I would hope he'd want to come back here."

Pub Date: 9/22/97

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