Some always bring `A' game when facing O's

Baseball: Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and Manny Ramirez are among those who have feasted on the Orioles in their careers.

June 14, 2005|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,SUN STAFF

Probably not a day goes by in the spring and summer months that it's not uttered in a Baltimore bar or living room, in the stands or the broadcast booth at Camden Yards.

An opposing pitcher sets the Orioles down in order or an opposing batter smashes a double to the gap and someone, somewhere declares it to whoever will listen: "Man, that guy just kills the Orioles."

You'll likely hear it tonight, when the ultimate Orioles-killing pitcher takes the mound. This time it'll be true.

No pitcher with more than 20 decisions against the Orioles has a better winning percentage in the modern franchise's history than Houston left-hander Andy Pettitte.

In the nine seasons he pitched for the New York Yankees, Pettitte faced the Orioles 28 times. He was an amazing 20-4 with a 3.64 ERA in 168 innings. Only one active pitcher has more wins against the Orioles than Pettitte. That's his teammate, Roger Clemens, who mercifully won't pitch in the Astros' three-game series at Camden Yards.

Clemens is 22-12 with a 3.44 ERA in 49 Orioles games (322 innings). His winning percentage, .647, is second all time.

"They played on such good teams and we were struggling, too. They beat up on us pretty good, especially in '01 and '02," said Orioles first baseman Jay Gibbons. "Plus, they're pretty darn good pitchers."

The only other active pitcher as rough on the Orioles is left-hander Jamie Moyer, who has bedazzled his former club with an assortment of junk for years. Moyer (15-3, 3.06 ERA in 26 games) matches Pettitte's .833 winning percentage, but has had more no-decisions in two fewer starts.

If Pettitte is the current Orioles killer, who is the champ of yesteryear? Bullpen coach and de facto team historian Elrod Hendricks takes a great guess: Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter, who won 224 games for the Kansas City/Oakland A's and the Yankees.

"Hunter had his great years against us," Hendricks said. "It seemed like he had a knack of finding a way to beat us. But he beat everyone else, too."

Hunter is second on the all-time Orioles-beating list with 26 wins. He also has the most losses (24) and decisions (50). But the all-time wins leader is another Hall of Famer, Yankees left-hander Whitey Ford, who was 30-16 against the Orioles.

Only one of the wins leaders, active or all time, finished in the top five for ERA against the Orioles (140-inning minimum), Detroit Tigers left-hander Mickey Lolich. Current Yankees pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre leads with a 2.33 ERA. Only former Kansas City Royals left-hander Larry Gura (13-8, 2.53 ERA) finished in the top five in ERA and winning percentage.

Now, to the plate. Who is the biggest Orioles killer with the bat? Here are three popular names: Frank Thomas, Manny Ramirez and Ken Griffey Jr.

Thomas, the White Sox slugger, is tops on the active list of homers with 35, and he's tied for second all time with Jose Canseco and Kent Hrbek. Thomas also was second among active players in RBIs with 106, before being passed Sunday by another classic thorn in the Orioles' side: Griffey Jr. With two homers and three RBIs in the three-game series in Cincinnati, Griffey padded his totals to a .315 batting average, 30 homers and 107 RBIs - not bad for a guy who until last weekend hadn't played against the Orioles this millennium.

The Yankees' Alex Rodriguez is second among active players with 34 homers, and probably will take over the lead, given the 19 times he plays the Orioles each season.

Considering the schedule, the Orioles-bashing RBI crown should eventually be owned by Boston's Ramirez. He leads active hitters with 117 RBIs, good for fifth all time. He's also hit .323 with 26 homers in 147 games against the Orioles.

Until he steps it up, however, the official title of Ultimate Orioles Killer among hitters must stay with another Red Sox outfielder. Jim Rice may not make the Hall of Fame, but Orioles pitchers did their part in trying to get him to Cooperstown. In 176 games, the Red Sox slugger batted .324 with 38 homers and 136 RBIs. He's tops in homers and shares the RBI title with former Boston teammate Dwight Evans.

The best pure hitter against the Orioles' all time (minimum 150 plate appearances) is also one of the best ever: Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki. He's hitting .393 in 163 plate appearances, and that includes a 4-for-11 skid last month at Camden Yards in which he actually went hitless in a game.

Not all Orioles killers are household names, though.

Boston's Marty Barrett, (.363 batting average), Chicago's Lamar Johnson (.349) and journeyman catcher Don "Sluggo" Slaught (.347) are the other top average hitters.

And the best slugger per at-bat against the Orioles isn't Rice or Rodriguez or even the much-maligned Albert Belle, who hit 32 homers - one for every 10.88 at-bats against Orioles pitching - before signing with the Orioles.

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