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  •   Saberhagen Makes Short Work of Orioles

    By Richard Justice
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Monday, April 25, 1988; Page C1

    The 1988 Streak:
    Game 18
    KANSAS CITY, MO., APRIL 24 -- Another short day at the ballpark. Kansas City's Bret Saberhagen needed just under 2 1/2 hours to hand the Baltimore Orioles their 18th consecutive loss, this latest one, 3-1, before 25,526 at Royals Stadium.

    And people will remember. They're the 12th team in modern major league history to string together 18 defeats, the first since the 1975 Detroit Tigers and the first to do it at the beginning of a season.

    This loss resembled most of their other 17 in that the bats remained silent and the defense made a key mistake. It was different because it marked the end of Manager Frank Robinson's patience.

    When he was installed two weeks ago, he said he wouldn't make snap judgments, that he wanted to see his players up close before deciding to make changes. Today, having watched his 12th straight loss since taking over for Cal Ripken Sr., he decided.

    "Something has to be done," he said. "We can't just keep going out there like this. We'll need some help. You might see some new faces here Tuesday."

    Robinson and General Manager Roland Hemond huddled on the plane flight to Minneapolis tonight and will talk again before a Monday afternoon workout in the Metrodome. Both declined to get into specifics, but it's clear that two or three moves will be made.

    One will be to recall Rochester right-hander Jay Tibbs (3-0, 0.40 ERA in Class AAA), and veteran left-handed reliever Bill Scherrer (four saves) probably will be headed back to the major leagues as well. Young left-handers Eric Bell and Jeff Ballard have pitched well, but Robinson appears to be leaning toward the older players.

    Scherrer probably will replace rookie Oswald Peraza (7.07), who struggled in a brief outing today, then complained of a sore shoulder. The other move will be more difficult, but it appears that veteran left-hander Scott McGregor (0-3, 8.56 ERA) is in jeopardy.

    The problem could be money. McGregor has $1.975 million remaining on his contract, and the Orioles never have had to bite a bullet so large. But McGregor has lost 14 of his last 17 decisons, and patience is wearing thin.

    "What I'm looking for is consistency," Robinson said. "I'm not looking for one good start, then three or four bad ones. If they give me three or four good ones out of five, that's what I'm looking for."

    Robinson also is desperate for offensive help. His team has been held to one or zero runs in 10 of its 18 games and is hitting .198. With Rick Schu on the disabled list, Robinson probably would like another third baseman, and although Craig Worthington remains the organization's best prospect, he probably won't be called up.

    "We're going to be very careful with him this year," Robinson said. "I don't think they'd let me have him at this point."

    Another possibility is to bring up Pete Stanicek and put him at second base. Bill Ripken would then move to third, at least until Schu returns.

    A move involving Stanicek might put Jim Traber's position in jeopardy, although there are about a dozen players Robinson isn't happy with. If the Orioles make a move involving an outfielder, it would be Keith Hughes, who is hitting .311 at Rochester.

    "We're just going to sit down and decide if we have better people than this in the organization," Robinson said. "If we do, get them up here."

    It's unlikely any of their Rochester moves could have helped them today because Saberhagen (2-2) was at his Cy Young best, allowing six hits and a run. The Orioles got only two runners into scoring position until Cal Ripken Jr. broke up the shutout with a ninth-inning home run.

    Ripken finished with three of the Orioles' six hits and, since the worst start of his career, has nine hits in his last 18 at-bats -- raising his batting average from .047 to .177.

    Saberhagen was good enough to waste a good performance by left-hander Mark Thurmond (0-4), who allowed three runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings. But his line looked worse than his performance, and Robinson said, "He pitched very well. I can't ask for more than that. When our pitchers hold the opposition to less than four runs, we ought to win."

    The game was scoreless for four innings, but in the fifth, Kurt Stillwell hit a 2-0 fastball into the left field seats for a 1-0 lead. An inning later, George Brett got a one-out single and scored when Danny Tartabull golfed a pitch around his knees out of the park.

    The Orioles have now been outscored, 114-34, in their 18 games and are averaging a chilling 1.9 runs per start. Even making a few changes won't help because so many players are struggling -- Eddie Murray (.183), Terry Kennedy (.188), Cal Ripken (.177), Bill Ripken (.183) and Jeff Stone (.143).

    "You just keep going out and trying to create something," Cal Ripken said. "Baseball is a funny game, and a lot of different things can happen. But whether you lose 3-2 or 13-1, it's still a loss."

    After the game, the Royals said all the right things. They complimented the Orioles for hanging tough. They said they were a victim of bad luck. Mostly, they said, thank goodness they're gone.

    "When you play the Orioles, you have to play harder than you've ever played in your life," Tartabull said. "You don't want to be the first to lose to them."

    A few feet away, Brett said essentially the same thing, adding with a smile: "The question is whether the president is going to call them when they win.

    © Copyright 1988 The Washington Post Company

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