Robinson takes control of situation, wasting neither minutes nor pitches


When Jeff Robinson left last night's game with one out in the eighth inning he had thrown 102 pitches. There have been times when that has been a five- or six-inning total for the big but sometimes erratic righthander.

Almost 70 percent of those pitches (70) were strikes and there was only one walk -- to the second hitter of the game.

"That's what he's supposed to do," manager John Oates said after the Orioles beat the Indians, 2-1, for their second straight win. "He can be a very effective pitcher when he throws strikes. He has an outstanding arm."

Perhaps even more amazing than Robinson's strike-ball ratio or the fact the Orioles won a game with only two runs, was the fact the game lasted only two hours and 23 minutes. That is a mercurial pace this year for the Orioles, whose previous best time was 2:35 on Opening Day.

"Al [pitching coach Al Jackson] and I have been working on that -- getting ahead in the count and working faster," said Robinson. "I'm better when I'm pitching like that."

Working at a faster pace isn't a new idea for the Orioles. "We've been stressing it since spring training," said Jackson. "We have to pitch to our strength and we have a good defensive team. Getting them to hit the first or second pitch is a plus."

So is getting hitters out, something the Orioles have not done with any degree of regularity until recently. They have just completed a stretch of five straight games (one trip through the starting rotation) where the starters have pitched to a 1.95 earned run average.

Even more important, the five starters (Jeff Ballard, Jose Mesa, Bob Milacki, Roy Smith and Robinson) all lasted at least until the sixth inning. "Everybody else has had their turn, now maybe it's our turn," said Jackson. Robinson (3-4) is now 3-2 with a 2.23 ERA at home and has a 2.43 ERA for his last six games (four starts -- 33 1/3 innings).

* NO DECISION BY FRANK: Frank Robinson did not make an appearance at the stadium yesterday, or a decision about the front-office job he has been offered by the Orioles.

The ex-manager and the club are believed to be working out the fine print in the language of the contract.

* TURN BACK THE CLOCK: When the Orioles meet the Minnesota Twins Wednesday, June 19 they will turn back the clock -- 25 years. It will be 1966 all over again, or at least a reasonable facsimile of the club's first world championship year.

A number of events are planned for "Turn Back The Clock Day" in an effort to authenticate the era. The game will be played at 1:35, the only midweek afternoon game on the Orioles' schedule.

All fans entering the park on a fully-paid ticket that day will receive a replica 1966 Orioles cap. The 3,400 seats that used to be called the bleachers will go on sale starting Saturday for the 1966 price of 75 cents.

Popcorn will be 25 cents and a special program insert will be sold for 50 cents (or given away with the purchase of a regular game program). On that day the Orioles will wear 1966 style uniforms, the ushers will wear straw hats, the umpires the old-style short brimmed caps and others will dress in a style appropriate for the era.

In addition, players from the 1966 team, former batboys, and the base sweeper will be on hand -- and broadcast legend Chuck Thompson will serve as master of ceremonies.

Approximately 25,000 tickets have been sold for the game, which is part of the promotional activities connected to the Orioles' last year at Memorial Stadium.

* IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: It was nine years ago yesterday that Cal Ripken last missed a game. He sat out the second game of a doubleheader against Toronto.

Ripken was replaced in the lineup at third base (he moved to shortstop July 1 that year) by Floyd Rayford.

Last night Ripken moved into a tie for the American League home run leadership, his 12th tying the game in the fourth inning. He had two other hits to raise his batting average to .352.

* THIS 'N THAT: The Orioles had only 24 players in uniform last night. Jeff McKnight returned to his home in Bee Brank, Ark., for his grandmother's funeral. He will rejoin the team tonight in Boston.

Gregg Olson recorded a save in back-to-back games for the first time this year by pitching a scoreless ninth last night. He had only one save in the previous 23 days.

By winning two of three from the Indians, the Orioles won only their second series of the year. They also won two of three from Texas April 12-14.

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