After his team lost its third straight game to the Detroit Tigers, Baltimore Manager Joe Altobelli said he would make a few moves in an effort to get the Orioles out of the puzzling lethargy they have shown since clinching the American League East championship last week.
Following tonight's 9-4 defeat, in which the Orioles fell behind by five runs in the first inning and looked out of sync in every department, Altobelli said he would call a team meeting before Friday's doubleheader with the New York Yankees. "There hasn't been a reason after 96 wins," he said. "Tomorrow, there's a reason."
Some of the reasons: four errors, including two on one play by outfielder Mike Young; weak hitting against winner Milt Wilcox (11-10), who had a shutout until the ninth; ineffectual pitching, and a general feeling the Orioles called in this one from the Twilight Zone.
"Maybe it's a letdown," said shortshop Cal Ripken, whose first-inning single gave him 206 hits for the season, breaking Al Bumbry's Oriole record. "But sometimes that's an excuse. It's certainly no fun losing like this."
Starters Scott McGregor and Mike Boddicker had gotten clobbered the first two games of this series; tonight it was Mike Flanagan (12-4), who struggled throughout seven innings, allowing a season-high 12 hits. Reliever Tim Stoddard, whose problems have been season-long, gave up three runs in the ninth, including reserve Rick Leach's mammoth two-run homer to center that rendered meaningless the Orioles' four-run rally in the bottom of the inning.
Altobelli also hinted that outfielder Gary Roenicke, who replaced Todd Cruz at third base in the ninth inning tonight, may play more at that spot. Cruz, already sinking at the plate (.200 average before tonight), committed a hideous error on a grounder by Alan Trammell in the first. Instead of converting it into a rally-killing double play, Cruz let the ball go by; Flanagan contributed to his own problems with the bases loaded when he opted to go to second base on a bouncer to the mound instead of trying for the home-to-first double play, then got only the force when his throw forced Ripken to lunge for the ball, and the Tigers ultimately capitalized with Enos Cabell's pop-fly, three-run homer just inside the foul pole in right.
"This final week (before the playoffs that start here Wednesday) is supposed to be almost like the second spring training before the big season," Altobelli said. "Well, we played like it's spring training."