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The 1988 Streak
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  •   In the Chill of the Night, Orioles Get Colder

    By Richard Justice
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Saturday, April 16, 1988; Page D1

    The 1988 Streak:
    Game 10
    BALTIMORE, APRIL 15 -- Onward and downward they spin. Scott McGregor pitched his best game in almost a year, Larry Sheets broke out of a long slump and the Baltimore Orioles not only got their third lead of the season but held it for five innings.

    But in a season when the Orioles have found a lot of different ways to lose, they discovered the toughest of all, dropping a 3-2 heartbreaker to the Cleveland Indians tonight before an announced crowd of 13,215 at Memorial Stadium.

    The actual attendance appeared to be about 1,500 for a 40-degree night and a game that was delayed 76 minutes by a cold, driving rainstorm. By the time the last pitch was thrown early Saturday morning, the faithful few had seen the Orioles fall to 0-10 in a season that is almost drained of hope before it begins.

    Even a pregame pep talk by Orioles owner Edward Bennett Williams didn't help. The Orioles now have tied the 1968 Chicago White Sox for the third-worst start of all-time. One has to go back 68 years -- to the 1920 Tigers and the 1904 Senators -- to find a team that was worse at the beginning of a season. Both were 0-13.

    "We're at least in the game," said new manager Frank Robinson, whose record dropped to 0-4. "They are tough losses, but we're at least getting close. It just takes a hit here and there to break open and win some of those games."

    Sheets' first homer of the season had given the Orioles a 2-1 lead in the second inning, and McGregor, making his longest appearance since May 6, 1987, made it stand up until the eighth.

    When it slipped away, it slipped quickly. Joe Carter drilled a one-out fastball over the right field wall for a 2-2 tie in the eighth, and Ron Kittle followed with a ground-rule double down the left field line.

    Reliever Doug Sisk was brought in to face Brook Jacoby, and Jacoby lined a single to center to score Kittle with the game-winning run.

    "I did the same damn thing last weekend," Sisk said. "Those two good games we've got from our starting pitchers, and something has happened both times to lose it. I'm so mad. McGregor pitches so well and I give up the run that is charged to him. He gets the loss and a batter later I get a double-play grounder. It's one thing to keep us in the game, but it's got to be more than that."

    Those three Cleveland runs were enough as the Orioles continued to struggle offensively. Cleveland's Rich Yett beat the Orioles for the second time in a week, allowing two runs in seven innings. Joe Orsulak, Fred Lynn and Sheets had two hits apiece, and Bill Ripken singled for all of the Orioles' offensive.

    Although they continue to hit in the .180s, no Oriole is struggling worse than shortstop Cal Ripken. He was hitless in four at-bats tonight to drop his average to .057. Worse, he's now hitless in his last 21 at-bats, the third-longest hitless drought of his career.

    That slump is an extension of the one that plagued him the last four months of last season. Over his last 136 games, Ripken has batted just .219 with 16 homers and 65 RBI, puzzling numbers for a player with a .283 career batting average.

    His slump might not look so bad if the guy behind him were hitting. However, Eddie Murray is just five for 38 for a .132 average. Between the Orioles' two best hitters, they're seven for 70 (.100) with one home run and two RBI.

    "Yes, I'm concerned," Robinson said. "I don't know if they're pressing or what, but if the three and four guys {in the order} don't hit, we're not going to win many games. Sheets and Lynn are both starting to swing the bat pretty well, and when Eddie and Cal come around, we'll get going."

    McGregor entered the game having not won since last May 16, having not beaten the Indians since 1983 and having not won at Memorial Stadium since Sept. 7, 1986. But in proving that, at 34, he can still pitch, he did everything except win.

    Cory Snyder's 11th homer in 25 games against the Orioles gave Cleveland a 1-0 lead in the second inning. In the bottom of the second inning, Lynn led off with a single to left, and when Yett left a fastball over the middle of the plate, Sheets pumped it over the wall in right-center for a 2-1 Baltimore lead.

    McGregor almost made it stand up. Jay Bell led off the third with a single and stole second. He later went to third on Pat Tabler's fly out, but stayed there when Carter took a McGregor curveball for a third strike.

    An inning later, McGregor was back in the soup. Snyder drew a two-out walk, and Carmen Castillo singled to right. McGregor got out of that trouble, too, by getting Bell on a fielder's choice infield grounder.

    He settled down after that, although Jacoby got a one-out single in the sixth inning. McGregor responded to that by striking out Snyder on a high fastball and getting out Castillo on a grounder to short.

    He retired the side in order in the seventh, but made a mistake to Carter in the eighth.

    "I just put one in Carter's wheelhouse," McGregor said. "You don't want to pitch him down there, and he wrapped it around the foul pole. It's tough right now, but it's going to be okay. I didn't feel good early, but settled into a nice groove, the best I've been in in a long while. We're getting there. Now, we've got to keep it going."

    Orioles Notes:

    Outfielder Jim Dwyer (sore elbow) was placed on the disabled list this morning, and Jim Traber was called back up from Rochester. Traber had been sent out Tuesday to make room for Tito Landrum, but was still at his home in Columbia when the latest move was made . . . When the Indians swept a four-game series from the Orioles last weekend, they became only the second team to have a winning record against Baltimore. Their overall record is 294-291, and the Red Sox (302-277) are the only other team . . . Left fielder Jeff Stone continued to struggle, going hitless in three at-bats to lower his average to .032 (one for 31).

    © Copyright 1988 The Washington Post Company

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