Hitters' impatience puts win out of reach


Yesterday's loss to the Minnesota Twins provided a microscopic view of the Orioles' season to date. Their mistakes -- and impatience -- were all too visible.

It can't be said this was a game the Orioles should have won -- you can't say that after getting five hits in the Metrodome. But it definitely can be said it was a game in which the Orioles didn't give themselves a chance to take a victory.

That much was apparent in the way they wasted the fourth inning, which has to rank as one of the worst offensive innings the Orioles have had all season.

Frankie Rodriguez, a 22-year-old rookie with a 10.07 ERA, a reputation for wildness and without a big-league win, gave the Orioles every opportunity to pad their 1-0 lead.

During the course of that inning, Rodriguez threw only two pitches in the strike zone and, incredibly, the Orioles didn't come close to scoring.

Of the 17 pitches Rodriguez threw, four were officially logged as strikes -- but it wasn't until he had thrown 15 pitches that he actually got one in the strike zone.

Cal Ripken walked on four pitches and the count went to 3-0 on Harold Baines, who hit into a double play on the next offering, which was low and away. Rodriguez had yet to throw a strike and there were two outs and no one on base.

The pattern didn't change.

Kevin Bass walked on four pitches and Jeff Huson fouled off a low-and-inside pitch before Rodriguez threw two more balls. Instead of a 3-0 count, it was 2-1. Having sufficient time to locate the plate, Rodriguez then threw two straight strikes. The first was fouled off, the second became a routine fly ball for the third out of the inning.

As bad as that inning was, the next wasn't any better. By then, the Orioles trailed, 3-1, as starter Scott Erickson was victimized by four ground-ball "turf" singles.

Despite what happened the inning before, the Orioles' patience at the plate didn't improve.

Greg Zaun led off and fouled out on a borderline, 3-1 pitch. Curtis Goodwin immediately chased a pitch that was down and in before working the count to 3-2. He then doubled -- only to be thrown out at third base.

Through a span of six hitters, Rodriguez had thrown 22 pitches outside of the strike zone. The Orioles not only didn't score any runs, they had only one base runner left to show for the experience.

It isn't often that a hitter with Baines' patience and experience is going to hit into a double play on a bad 3-0 pitch. And it isn't often that a manager is going to take the bats out of the hands of his hitters by putting on the take sign.

Sometimes you have to rely on the judgment of your players, which Orioles manager Phil Regan had plenty of reason to question yesterday.

After five innings, Rodriguez had thrown 82 pitches -- and only 39 of them (48 percent) were strikes. Given those numbers and his track record, runs should have been put on the board as a matter of routine.

Rodriguez has a good arm, and exceptional stuff (even his 3-0 pitches were nasty sinkers) -- but he should have been tested a lot more than he was by the Orioles.

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