Wins drown out silence coming from O's bats Foes' pitching credited

SIDELIGHT

last 3-run inning June 30

July 12, 1998|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Orioles manager Ray Miller has been waiting for what seems '' like an eternity for his pitching to straighten out. For a game to still be there for the taking in the late innings. Or better yet, to enjoy the view from in front, even if there's little room to do so.

Miller has gotten those wishes, his club having played in six consecutive one-run games, winning the past three. Opponents no longer are running circles around the Orioles, the starting and finishing points being home plate. But as a problem lessens, a challenge rears up.

Though the effect has been softened by the staff's resurgence, the Orioles wonder when their next big inning will come. They've scored 43 runs in their past 15 games, and haven't pushed across more than two runs in an inning in their past 76 innings.

They scored three off Florida's Brian Meadows in the first inning June 30 at Camden Yards. It's been slimmer pickings since then.

But as long as the club is winning -- and yesterday's 2-1 victory was its third in a row -- it's deemed more of a quirk than a concern.

"Our approach is going to change. We're going to be more aggressive and try to create more things," first baseman Rafael Palmeiro said.

"The three-run homer is going to be there, also. There's going to be times when that's going to happen. But I think we're going to show in the second half that we're going to bunt more, hit-and-run, keep guys moving. That's going to be part of our game."

Just as Miller wanted since spring training, and often has found impossible to do with speed lacking.

"We pressed the issue today pretty good," Miller said. "It didn't pay off, but we had a big hit-and-run to go first and third. We had a sacrifice bunt. That's what I talked about in spring training. You can apply pressure when you have a one- or two-run lead."

Miller added that he still views the Orioles as a power team. "All it needs to do is loosen up a little more. Keep winning one-run games. A win's a win. The more games you win, the more people relax. You don't put so much pressure on yourself all the time. The worst thing for a home run team is when you're three runs down and have one man on. You're thinking, one swing and we're back in this game."

Miller places much of the blame for the understated offense on the difficulty of hitting against pitchers like the New York Yankees' Andy Pettitte, Orlando Hernandez and David Cone, and Boston's Bret Saberhagen, Pedro Martinez and Tim Wakefield -- the last six opposing starters.

L "We haven't exactly been facing mediocre pitching," he said.

XTC Yesterday, the Orioles spent 6 2/3 innings chasing Wakefield's knuckler. They stranded 10 runners, never able to bust the game wide open but again proving capable of hanging on tightly.

"Everybody says we could have driven in more runs, but it's no easier hitting a knuckleball with men on base than when there's nobody on," Miller said. "I think the offense will be there. If we keep playing good baseball, that takes the pressure off everybody."

So does being one run ahead instead of a few behind.

"Before, the game was always tied or we were down, trying to find a way to score," said Joe Carter, who homered yesterday. "With the lead, the ball is in our court. If we can keep it that way, fine. You go out there and try to get some good pitching and some timely hitting. We'll take a 3-2 or 2-1 ballgame, as long as we're on the winning end."

Pub Date: 7/12/98

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