Easygoing O's are E-sy pickings Oates questions attitude after 5-error, 9-1 clunker

THE BALTIMORE SUN

On a scale of 1 to 10, the Orioles fell below the board yesterday. And manager Johnny Oates said he is mystified by his club's apparent lack of motivation.

En route to a 9-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, their third defeat in the past four games, the Orioles had almost as many errors (five) as hits (seven) in the most ragged performance of a dismal season.

From start to finish the game was a clunker for the Orioles, who appeared to be sleep-walking after Saturday night's 14-inning, 5-4 win that lasted five hours, 34 minutes.

"As best I remember, both teams were on the field [Saturday] night," said Oates, who went on to say that his team played to its personality in yesterday's debacle.

"We have a very large percentage of quiet, easygoing people who play on the field with the same style. How you get them to play other than the way they're used to playing, I don't know.

"I compare us to the umpiring crew we had in this series," Oates said of crew chief Joe Brinkman and associates Rick Reed, Tim McClelland and Derryl Cousins. "Everything is slow. Their calls are slow. Everything. We fit right in with that crew.

"We've got about 10 guys who would never speak if you didn't speak first," Oates said. "They are that quiet. That doesn't mean if you're loud you're going to be a good ballplayer.

"That's not to say we can't play well -- some days we've been great, done everything right. But lately that seems to be happening every other day.

"When you see a game like today -- it shouldn't be that way at the major-league level," Oates said. "You can talk about hitting and pitching all you want, but if you don't catch the ball and throw it, you're going to have a tough time winning."

The Orioles' laid-back style has been introduced as an issue before, and it was a consideration last winter when several personnel changes were made. In the process, some of the liveliest players in the clubhouse -- Bill Ripken, Randy Milligan and Sam Horn in particular -- were let go.

Although those moves were based on ability, not personality, Oates said that team chemistry has been the subject of continuing discussions.

"That's something we've been addressing," said Oates. "We've been talking about it for the last two years to the day [yesterday was the second anniversary of Oates' hiring as manager].

"We've talked about [getting] a bulldog-type leader as an everyday player, much like [Rick] Sutcliffe has been for the pitchers."

The frustration of yesterday's game took its toll.

"No matter where you sat, or where you watched it from, it was ugly," said shortstop Cal Ripken. "Those kind of games are going happen from time to time. You have to try and keep them to a minimum."

Injuries have played a role lately, but the team was in trouble even before injuries to center fielder Mike Devereaux, designated hitter Harold Baines and starting pitcher Arthur Rhodes.

Yesterday, all of the ugliness came together and the Orioles' record fell to 17-25, as they dropped 10 games behind the division-leading Detroit Tigers.

Fernando Valenzuela took the loss, giving up eight hits and five runs, four earned, in 5 1/3 innings. But half the hits against Valenzuela (1-4) were little more than routine grounders that found their way through the infield.

"He wasn't as sharp as his last three outings, but he threw the ball better than his line would indicate," said Oates.

Kevin Reimer's two-run bases-loaded single sparked a three-run third inning against Valenzuela, and the Brewers chased him in the sixth, when Dickie Thon singled, stole second and went to third on a wild pitch. Alan Mills relieved with one out and hit John Jaha with a pitch before fumbling Joe Kmak's safety squeeze attempt, allowing Thon to score.

Left-hander Jim Poole then took over and gave up three earned runs on two hits in 2 2/3 innings, the first time this season he has given up an earned run.

Cal Eldred (5-5) pitched the first eight innings yesterday to improve his career record against the Orioles to 3-0 (1.88 ERA). The Orioles scored their only run on Leo Gomez's sixth-inning home run, his eighth of the year.

Brewers-Orioles scoring Brewers third: Kmak grounded to shortstop Ripken. Listach walked. On Valenzuela's wild pitch, Listach to second. Doran singled to shortstop. Hamilton grounded to second baseman Hulett, Listach to third, Doran to second. Vaughn intentionally walked. Reimer singled to center, Listach and Doran scored, Vaughn to third. Reimer stole second. Thon singled past second, Vaughn scored, Reimer to third, Reimer out advancing, second baseman Hulett to catcher Tackett. 3 runs, 3 hits, 0 errors, 1 left on. Brewers 3, Orioles 0.

Brewers fifth: Listach grounded to third baseman Gomez. Doran safe on third baseman Gomez's throwing error. Hamilton grounded into fielder's choice, pitcher Valenzuela to shortstop Ripken, Doran forced at second. Hamilton stole second. On catcher Tackett's throwing error, Hamilton to third. Vaughn singled to left, Hamilton scored. Reimer struck out. 1 run, 1 hit, 2 errors, 1 left on. Brewers 4, Orioles 0.

Brewers sixth: Thon singled to right. Brunansky flied to left fielder Leonard. Thon stole second. On Valenzuela's wild pitch, Thon to third. With 2-0 count on Jaha, Mills relieved Valenzuela. Jaha hit by pitch. Kmak safe on sacrifice plus pitcher Mills' fielding error, Thon scored, Jaha to second. Listach struck out. -- Doran walked, Jaha to third, Kmak to second. Poole relieved Mills. Hamilton struck out. 1 run, 1 hit, 1 error, 3 left on. Brewers 5, Orioles 0.

Orioles sixth: McLemore struck out. Ripken popped to second baseman Doran. Gomez homered to left-center on 0-0 count. Hulett doubled down the left-field line. Leonard struck out. 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 1 left on. Brewers 5, Orioles 1.

Brewers ninth: Listach singled to center. Doran flied to left fielder Leonard. Hamilton singled to center, Listach to third. Vaughn walked, Hamilton to second. Reimer safe on third baseman Gomez's throwing error, Listach scored, Hamilton to third, Vaughn to second. Frohwirth relieved Poole. Thon singled to center, Hamilton and Vaughn scored, Reimer to second. Brunansky popped to second baseman Hulett. Jaha singled to center, Reimer scored, Thon to third. Kmak grounded to second baseman Hulett. 4 runs, 4 hits, 1 error, 2 left on. Brewers 9, Orioles 1.

CLEANUP CREW

Leo Gomez became the eighth player to bat in the No. 4 spot for the Orioles this season, and he also became their first cleanup hitter to hit a home run this season. The list:

Cal Ripken.. .. .. .. .. .. ..Glenn Davis

Harold Baines.. .. .. .. .. ..Mike Devereaux

Chris Hoiles.. .. .. .. .. .. Sherman

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Obando

Mark Leonard.. .. .. .. .. .. Leo Gomez

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