As plans now stand, the Baltimore Orioles will use a four-man pitching rotation and start Scott McGregor, Mike Boddicker, Mike Flanagan and Storm Davis, in that order, against the Chicago White Sox in the American League playoffs starting Wednesday, Oct. 5 in Baltimore.
The White Sox have announced they plan to start LaMarr Hoyt, Floyd Bannister, Richard Dotson and Britt Burns, in that order. Thus, the Orioles expect to march left-right-left-right-left, should the series go five games, while Chicago figures to do exactly the opposite: right-left-right-left-right.
Since the Orioles have a better record against right-handed pitching, while the White Sox have a significantly better mark against southpaws, this might mean that the first, third and fifth will suit both teams' offenses while games two and four may work on their offensive weaknesses.
In any case, each playoff game now figures to match strength against strength and weakness against weakness. That is, if any of these eight can be considered to have weaknesses. Aside from Burns (10-10), the other seven have winning percentages above .600.
Hoyt, Bannister and Dotson are 38-5 since the All-Star break, while the Orioles' quartet is 58-22 this season, with a winning percentage of .725. As the statistics now stand, the Orioles will have the starter with the lower earned run average in all games.
"There are still a lot of different ways we could work it. We can't tip our hand," Orioles General Manager Hank Peters said yesterday. "But it's also no big secret. It looks like McGregor, Boddicker, Flanagan and Davis starting the next four games."
If the Orioles stay with this plan, it will be unconventional, to say the least.
They have moved McGregor ahead in their rotation, using their most-used pitcher (250 innings) on three days rest last Friday and scheduling him to work Tuesday and Saturday of this week, again after three days off. He would have another three off before this first playoff game.
Until this season, McGregor always had been part of a four-man rotation, but, throughout his career, tended to become arm weary. This season, in a five-man rotation, he has had his best season. To pitch him three times in a row on three days rest before entering the playoffs--even if he throws few pitches--will raise some eyebrows.
McGregor is a natural for a decisive fifth game since he has a 14-1 road record this year. Boddicker, who has mystified the White Sox in two starts, is a logical choice for the second game because his ERA at home is 1.72.
Boddicker will get a week's rest between starts following his 150-pitch, blister-plagued shutout of Detroit last Wednesday. However, he would pitch in the playoffs on only three days rest, something he has never done in the major leagues.
Flanagan has a veteran's composure to pitch the opener in Comiskey Park, the third game, although he has had an awful year against the White Sox. Two of his three losses are to them and his 10-week knee injury was incurred against them.
Peters, referring to the perception that Chicago's "big three" is unbeatable, said, "We've got a few pretty good arms, too.
"Both teams may be facing better pitching and hitting than they've seen all year.
"We certainly have experience. And experience translates into confidence. We're not a cocky club, but, after all the injuries and adversity we've overcome all year, and after the strong way we've finished (27-7), I think you could say that we are a very confident team."