O's let early chances walk on by

Colon struggles to find plate, as do O's in 1st, 2nd

April 04, 2000|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

The Orioles didn't lose their 2000 opener in the first two innings, but they wasted several chances to break it open then.

Five of the nine runners the Orioles left on base in their 4-1 loss to the Indians yesterday were stranded in the first two innings. Cleveland starter Bartolo Colon left his control back in 1999, but the Orioles were unable to deliver the blow that would have given Mike Mussina a bigger lead to work with and enlivened manager Mike Hargrove's debut.

"We had some chances early, but Colon made enough good pitches to get out of the jams he was in," B. J. Surhoff said. "If you get the one big hit, it's different. If I'm able to get a hit, it's a lot different game. He got a big out when he needed to, and minimized the damage."

Surhoff struck out with the bases loaded to end the second inning, when the Orioles got their only run on a Cal Ripken leadoff double and a single to left by Brady Anderson. Charles Johnson's double-play ball benefited Colon in between.

The first inning ended on a Harold Baines strikeout, after Surhoff and Albert Belle had drawn two-out walks.

Colon walked five batters in the first two innings, as he couldn't get loosened up on a balmy 78-degree afternoon. He lasted just five innings, but got the win.

"At some point, he was going to give it up," Surhoff said of Colon, who threw 40 pitches in the first two innings. "When you walk a lot of guys, you live on the edge. When you walk guys, you get a chance to get the next guy, though, and he [Colon] has good enough stuff that you still have to get some hits."

The Orioles were the ones left falling off the edge, and Will Clark said that Colon's control problems made it difficult on the hitters.

"You get a guy out there who's throwing, 97, 98, 100 miles an hour in the first couple of innings," Clark said. "He's all over the place, he can't find the strike zone, and it makes your job a little tougher. He doesn't know where it's going, much less you.

"Listen, that's part of baseball. If a pitcher makes his pitches and gets out of an inning, sometimes you tip your hat to him. We had the breaks; we just didn't take advantage of them."

Despite Colon's staying power, Anderson said the Orioles weren't discouraged by their early lack of production.

"He's a very rare pitcher. He can still throw 98, 100 miles an hour as the game grows, so we never considered him vulnerable," said Anderson.

The Orioles were 12th out of the American League's 14 teams in runners left on base last season, and "situational hitting" had been a point of emphasis in their first spring training under Hargrove.

"It's a given for everybody," Clark said. "When you get runners on base, you want to advance them. That's the way baseball works."

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