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    O's Fire Ripken After Sixth Loss

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  •   Orioles' Bumbling May Cost Ripken

    By Richard Justice
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Tuesday, April 12, 1988; Page E1

    The 1988 Streak:
    Game 6
    CLEVELAND, APRIL 11 -- The Baltimore Orioles closed the noose a little tighter around their manager's neck tonight by bumbling and fumbling away another game, this one, 7-2, to the Cleveland Indians.

    A crowd of only 5,816 showed up on a windy, 36-degree night to see the Indians win for the sixth time in seven games and the winless Orioles lose their sixth straight. The loss equals the Orioles' worst start in history -- the 1955 team also having started 0-6 on its way to a 97-loss season.

    It's extremely unlikely that Orioles Manager Cal Ripken Sr. will be around for 97 losses, and it's probable he won't finish out the week unless things improve quickly and dramatically. Orioles owner Edward Bennett Williams didn't return phone calls today and other club officials were declining public comment on the subject of Ripken's job security.

    But a highly placed club source said of Williams: "He's not going to wait long. If you wait much longer, you've wasted the season, and he doesn't want that."

    The source also said he doesn't know if Ripken's firing has been discussed. However, noting last season's 95 losses, this spring's 9-19 record and an 0-6 start, the official added: "What do you think?"

    Orioles General Manager Roland Hemond was in Washington today for a meeting with Williams that had been scheduled for several days. It was called to continue negotiations with the city of Miami about improvements in the spring training facility, but it's likely the subject of Ripken's job security came up.

    The Orioles brought their 0-6 record back to Baltimore late tonight and are scheduled to begin a six-game homestand Tuesday night against the Kansas City Royals.

    If Ripken is fired, the new manager probably would be Frank Robinson, who is a special assistant to Williams and Hemond. Robinson declined to comment on the matter or speculate on how interested he'd be in the job, but several people who know him say he'll manage the Orioles if Williams asks.

    Ripken's problems aren't simply that the Orioles are losing, but that they're sloppy about it. Tonight, two runners were thrown out on the bases, and one of the outs -- a pickoff of Cal Ripken Jr. in the sixth -- killed a potential rally.

    They also fouled up another double-steal situation, which gave the Indians an additional run in the sixth inning.

    Despite the Orioles' horrendous hitting slump, Ripken refused to change his lineup tonight, inserting five left-handed hitters in the lineup against 23-year-old Greg Swindell, a left-hander with a 91-mph fastball who finished with a complete-game eight-hitter.

    Ripken did lift leadoff man Jeff Stone (one for 22) for a pinch hitter in the eighth inning, but reacted angrily when asked about the lineup. He essentially said he was playing the five left-handers -- Fred Lynn, Stone, Larry Sheets, Terry Kennedy and Joe Orsulak -- because he still had confidence in them.

    That strategy worked somewhat because Sheets had two hits and Lynn, Kennedy and Orsulak all had hits, but it was not enough for a team that has been outscored, 43-7, in six games.

    The Indians collected nine hits in all, including four by center fielder Mel Hall and a two-run double by Cory Snyder.

    Orioles starter Mike Morgan (0-2) lost his second straight start and was hit hard, allowing eight hits and seven runs in 6 2/3 innings. The defeat drops his career record to 33-64, but this one was more than winnable.

    Besides the mistakes, there were a lot of little things that went against the Orioles. The hit that broke the game open was a two-run triple by Pat Tabler, and it came on a towering fly to right, just out of Orsulak's reach.

    "I made the pitch I wanted," Morgan said, "and Tabler hit a fly to right. I'm sure Joe gave 110 percent. He just didn't get it. But I sure don't feel I pitched like seven runs tonight. It should be 3-2 into the eighth."

    The lone bright spot for the Orioles was Rick Schu's two-run home run. It came in the fifth inning and brought them briefly into a 2-2 tie. A year after the Orioles were third in the majors in homers (211), they became the last team to hit one this season.

    Morgan made one bad pitch the first five innings, but that one came in the fourth and ended up costing him two runs. Brook Jacoby singled to left with one out, and Hall singled off Morgan's glove. Jacoby went to third, then Morgan got a fastball in on Snyder, who doubled down the left field line for two runs.

    But the Indians didn't make it hold up. Sheets led off the top of the fifth inning with a single to left, and Schu hit an 0-1 curveball into the left field seats for a 2-2 tie.

    It didn't last. Morgan got the first two outs in the sixth inning, but Hall doubled to left to start a two-run rally. Snyder walked to put two runners on, and Dave Clark singled up the middle for a 3-2 lead.

    Snyder went to third on the single, and that's when the Orioles made another mistake. With Jay Bell batting, Clark took off for second.

    Orioles catcher Terry Kennedy came out from behind the plate, and, without ever looking Snyder back to third, threw to second base. Snyder took off for home, and, by the time Clark was caught in a rundown, Snyder had scored.

    "I talked to Terry about that," Ripken Sr. said. "But that was only one run."

    The worst part is that this is the second time this season the Orioles have fouled up such a play, and another reason a change may be brewing.

    The Indians made it 7-2 in the seventh, the runs scoring after two were out. That's five straight games the Orioles have allowed big innings with two outs. Tabler's two-run triple that bounced near Orsulak and Hall's RBI single were the big hits of the inning.

    Meanwhile, Swindell set the Orioles down efficiently, retiring 10 of the last 11 hitters he faced.

    "The wind was blowing in," Ripken Sr. said, "and we just picked a bad night to hit some balls good. Freddy hit one that might have been out yesterday, and Billy {Ripken} hit one that might have been out. But that's the way it's going. They're going good, and we're not. We swung the bats better tonight, but we didn't get enough out of it."

    Orioles Notes:

    Ripken Sr. is to appear before a Baltimore County judge at 9 Tuesday morning regarding his winter arrest on charges of driving while intoxicated.

    © Copyright 1988 The Washington Post Company

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