Orioles Lose Opener to Brewers, 12-0
By Richard Justice
Or let a man score from second on an infield hit, allow a steal of home or send out four pitchers, who gave up 16 hits, threw two wild pitches, walked five batters and hit two others.
This was a game they were supposed to play in July in the Kingdome with 3,400 watching, not on the most important day of the regular season. Yet, after a couple of seasons in which the Orioles have proved they're bad at a lot of things, they showed this afternoon that they were equally bad at timing, losing to the Milwaukee Brewers on opening day, 12-0.
"Sometimes you have games like that," Orioles Manager Cal Ripken Sr. said bravely. "You don't like to see it on opening day, especially in front of your fans, but it's a funny game. The positive thing is that we're going to show up Wednesday and the score will be 0-0. We're a lot better than we showed today. I guarantee you that."
General Manager Roland Hemond spoke from a near-identical script when he said: "We'll bounce back. Every team has games like this."
The problem for the 1988 Orioles is that a lot of people won't believe that. This franchise lost 42 of its last 56 games in 1986, went 67-95 in 1987 and equaled a club record by losing 19 games this spring.
Incredibly, these Orioles have lost 73 of their last 93 games against the American League East, a slump that has reached epic and historic proportions. Where will this incredible spin cycle end?
This opening day was important, too, because it was the first under the new front office. The day after last season ended, owner Edward Bennett Williams began what would eventually be an executive-level housecleaning, and today's 24-man roster included only 11 players from the 1987 opener.
The Orioles swear that they're not only different, but better. They might be, but about two hours after Gov. William Donald Schaefer threw out the ceremonial first pitch, the new Orioles looked a lot like the bumbling old Orioles.
Not that it would have mattered. The Orioles were less than perfect, but Milwaukee ace Teddy Higuera came close, scattering three hits and a walk in seven innings.
With a batting order that includes five left-handed hitters, the Orioles can expect some long days against other left-handers, and with the American League's best going today they never had a chance.
"We didn't play well, but it was magnified by Higuera's pitching," center fielder Fred Lynn said. "He's one of the best left-handers in the league, and he showed you why."
He might have been unbeatable under any circumstances, but when the Brewers scored two runs in the fourth and two in the fifth his day was easy. Every Milwaukee starter had at least one hit, but leadoff man Paul Molitor was the biggest problem, getting on base three times with a bunt single and two walks. He stole three bases, including home, and scored two runs.
Shortstop Dale Sveum hit a two-run home run off rookie reliever Oswald Peraza as the Brewers led by 4-0 after five, 6-0 after seven and 12-0 after eight.
Higuera's only close moment came in the fourth when Cal Ripken Jr. (three strikeouts) led off with a single to right and Eddie Murray sent Rob Deer to the left-field wall to catch his towering fly. Otherwise, nothing.
"That's some of the best stuff I've ever seen him have," Sveum said. "He was really on."
Meanwhile, Baltimore starter Mike Boddicker was hit hard and often, allowing nine hits and four runs in 5 1/3 innings. He fell behind, 2-0, in the fourth when B.J. Surhoff got a leadoff single, Greg Brock was hit by a pitch and Deer doubled in Surhoff. Ernest Riles then singled home Deer, only his third hit in 25 at-bats against Boddicker.
In the fifth, the Orioles fell completely apart. Sveum led off with a single to right and Molitor followed by rolling a bunt single down the third-base line. Robin Yount bunted the runners to second and third, and Surhoff scored Sveum with a fly to left. Molitor went to third on the play, and Boddicker walked Greg Brock intentionally to set up a double play.
Instead, he set up the steal of home. As Brock took off for second, Molitor delayed a moment at third. Then, when Orioles catcher Terry Kennedy fired to second, Molitor sprinted home, beating second baseman Bill Ripken's throw.
Boddicker was gone an inning later, and Peraza's major league debut became a long one (1 2/3 innings, three hits, three earned runs, two walks). In the seventh Molitor walked, stole two bases and scored on a wild pitch. Kennedy misplayed Surhoff's bunt, and Surhoff ended up scoring all the way from second on Glenn Braggs' infield single to Murray.
In the eighth, the Brewers sent 11 men to the plate and scored six times, getting Sveum's homer and RBI hits by Brock, Deer and Riles.
"I just didn't have a breaking ball," Boddicker said. "There's no excuse for it. It's the first game, and there'll be others. If you look back on it, the Orioles have gotten the heck kicked out of them by Milwaukee a few other times on opening day. We're a pretty good team. Don't give up on us yet. I still think we're going to have a winnng club, but we just haven't gotten everything together yet."
Orioles Notes: Today's loss ties the record for the most lopsided opening day shutouts in American League history. There have been two other 12-0 games, both in 1970 (California over Milwaukee and Minnesota over Chicago) . . . The previous biggest regular season crowd at Memorial Stadium was on opening day 1986 (52,292) . . . This was the first time the Orioles have ever been shut out in a home opener. They were shut out once on the road on opening day. That was April 13, 1954, in Detroit.
© Copyright 1988 The Washington Post Company