TORONTO, SEPT. 15 -- A day after the longest consecutive-innings streak in history ended, Cal Ripken Jr. was back in the Baltimore Orioles' lineup tonight for his streak that still remains -- 909 straight games, the sixth-longest of all time.
But Ripken's string of 8,243 innings ended in the eighth inning of the Orioles' 18-3 loss Monday night, the first time he'd been out of a game since June 4, 1982.
"I'm breaking your consecutive-innings streak," Cal Ripken Sr. told his son in the top of the eighth inning Monday night. The son protested only mildly, asking, "Are you sure that's the right thing?"
So Ripken Jr. sat in the dugout as Ron Washington played shortstop in the last of the eighth inning. Long after everyone else had departed Exhibition Stadium, the two Ripkens talked again because, as the dad said, "I felt I owed him an explanation as to why I decided to do it. I wanted him to know it wasn't a spur-of-the-moment thing. I'd been thinking about it for a couple of weeks, and there were reasons for it."
Today, as Ripken Sr. again explained his reasoning, Ripken Jr. accepted questions about it with his usual mixture of humor and patience.
"I didn't sit out to do what no one else had never done," Ripken Jr. said. "I played because my name was in the lineup every day. I take a great deal of pride in the fact that I'm always available. If the decision hadn't been made for me, I wouldn't have come out. But I don't feel there's any big weight off my shoulders today because I didn't feel there was a weight on my shoulders."
Ripken Sr. emphasized that the consecutive-games streak would continue, but that he thought he was doing his son a favor by breaking the innings streak.
"It was just becoming a distraction," Ripken Sr. said. "That's the way I feel. We were going to approach 9,000 innings, then 10,000 innings, and every place we go people are going to ask about it. He's got enough to take care of without always having to answer questions about it. If we went to New York and it was approaching 10,000 innings, he wouldn't even have time to put on his uniform."
He emphasized he didn't do it because of a hitting slump that has seen Ripken Jr.'s batting average slip to .251. Although he has 24 homers and 89 RBI, he has hit only .224 in the last 109 games and had been dropped to the fifth spot in the batting order three of the last four games.
"He's not having a bad year, but his batting average isn't where he'd like it to be," Ripken Sr. said. "One problem is that he has hit some balls hard and not gotten hits. When that happens, people start saying, 'Are your hands in the same place?' Then someone else will come up and say, 'Has your stride changed?' You start thinking about those things, and all of a sudden your hands have moved and your stride has changed."
He also said -- and his son agreed -- he didn't end the streak because of mental or physical fatigue.
"During the season, I play," Ripken Jr. said. "I prepare to play every day, and if I'm in a hitting slump, it's not because I'm tired. Obviously, I don't like to look up and see I'm hitting .250. It's September, and time is running out. Right now, I'm just trying to get a comfortable feeling in the batting box. When you're going good, the batter's box can have mine holes in it and you'll still feel comfortable. I'm not to that point."