Nightmare's Over as Orioles Wake, 9-0
By Richard Justice
They did it with a 9-0 romp over the Chicago White Sox before 14,059 fans at Comiskey Park and did it with some unexpected heroes. So ends the longest losing streak in American League history and one that misses the major league record by two games.
"We have pride, and this has been tough," reliever Dave Schmidt said. "To lose and lose like this has hurt. We handled it pretty well, getting the same question day after day. We know we're not this bad, and to lose like this is incredible. We couldn't relax until it was over, and we didn't until it was over tonight."
Mark Williamson (1-0) made only his sixth start in seven pro seasons and allowed three singles in six innings. Schmidt provided one-hit relief for his first save, again against the team that released him after the 1986 season.
Manager Frank Robinson had said the Orioles wouldn't win until the big guns started firing. Tonight, they did. Shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. continued a big road trip with four hits and three runs, and first baseman Eddie Murray got the Orioles started with a two-run first-inning home run off Jack McDowell (1-2).
The Orioles also got a big contribution from their newest leadoff hitter. Rookie Pete Stanicek arrived from Rochester this afternoon, and in his first major league game of the season got two hits, scored two runs and stole a base to help the Orioles to easily their biggest offensive day of the season.
So, after waiting almost a month for a victory, the end was not dramatic. The Orioles led, 2-0, after an inning, 3-0 after five and 7-0 after seven. When Harold Baines finished the game with a soft infield bouncer, the Orioles shook hands and retreated quietly to their clubhouse where three cases of celebration champagne went mostly untouched.
"It's a good feeling," Robinson said quietly. "We know the significance of it. That's the main thing. We knew we'd win sometime, but we didn't think it would take 22 games. Now that we've gotten it out of the way, they can show what kind of club they have."
For a few horrifying moments tonight, it appeared they wouldn't even get to enjoy their first victory. In the middle of a four-run seventh-inning rally, the Orioles' largest of the season, White Sox reliever John Davis hit second baseman Bill Ripken on the helmet.
With his brother Cal leaning over him, Bill lay motionless for several minutes before he was taken from the field on a stretcher. But inside the clubhouse he was conscious and alert, Precautionary X-rays taken at the stadium showed he had a mild concussion but no serious injury.
For the sixth time in the 10 games of this trip, the Orioles scored first. But this time they made it stand up.
With two outs in the top of the first, Cal Ripken beat out a dribbler. Murray and McDowell then dueled to a full-count before McDowell challenged Murray with a belt-high fastball.
His mistake. Murray turned it around, sending it into the right-field seats, 390 feet from home plate. It was at Comiskey Park last season that he became the first player to hit home runs from both sides of the plate in each of back-to-back games, and this home run was his ninth in his last 13 games at Comiskey.
They made it 3-0 in the fifth when Stanicek's speed got them another run. He led off the inning with a single and stole second. Right fielder Ivan Calderon dived to catch Bill Ripken's liner in the fifth, but Stanicek tagged up and went to third. He came home on McDowell's wild pitch.
It went to 4-0 in the seventh when Joe Orsulak drew a leadoff walk, and Stanicek sliced a hit-and-run double down the left-field line. Orsulak came home for the fourth run, and White Sox Manager Jim Fregosi brought in Davis.
After Davis hit Bill Ripken and the game was resumed, Tito Landrum was sent in to pinch run.
Cal Ripken hit a possible double-play grounder to third baseman Kenny Williams, who made his ninth error of the season. Stanicek scored for a 5-0 lead, and Landrum later came home on Larry Sheets' grounder, and Murray scored on Terry Kennedy's fly ball.
With a 7-0 lead, the Orioles had enough to hold on, especially with Williamson in control (no White Sox batter reached second until the ninth).
"I'm glad it's over," Williamson said. "We've been trying hard every game, but today we got a few breaks. I thought about this game all last night. Everyone had asked me about the pressure, but I didn't really fell any. What was the pressure?
"The worst we could do is lose one more. I'm relieved, but we have to keep it in perspective. It's not like we just won the seventh game of the World Series. Maybe we won't be so much of a household name now."
Robinson was without both reliever Tom Niedenfuer and outfielder Keith Hughes tonight. Niedenfuer has a sore back and could be out several days. Robinson said he would put him on the disabled list if the reports on Don Aase at Rochester were better.
After 10 days on a rehabilitation assignment at Class AAA Rochester, the Orioles still don't think Aase's fastball has regained its consistency. Worse, they are wondering if he's ever again going to have a 92-mph fastball, or if part of his rehabilitation might be trying to live with an 86-mph pitch.
Hughes is day-to-day. He was called up from Rochester this week, jammed his shoulder Thursday and can't throw. He was to start tonight, but instead Robinson had to use his sixth left fielder and seventh leadoff hitter. That man was Stanicek, who was brought up from Rochester today when outfielder Jeff Stone was put on the disabled list with a dislocated finger . . .
Stanicek has played fewer than 10 games in left field in his pro career, but after watching Jim Traber, Wade Rowdon and Stone in the position Robinson might not have believed the risk was incredibly high.
© Copyright 1988 The Washington Post Company