OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Orioles arrived in the Bay area facing another scheduling anomaly, a five-game series against the Oakland Athletics that could have a dramatic impact on their chances of reaching the playoffs this year.
Five games in four days on the heels of a 13-game road trip and only a brief stop at home. Five games in four days for a team that should be wearing down about now. Five games in four days for a team that hopes to finish the season in a four-man rotation.
"Regardless of whether it's a good schedule or a bad schedule, everybody's got to do what they can do," said manager Davey Johnson, who was just happy for the Wednesday day game in Baltimore before last night's opener. Too many times this year, the team has reached a road destination at 3 a.m. and had to play that evening.
This time, they got in at a reasonable hour, but they are on the tail end of a 20-game run in which they will have played 18 games on the road.
Meanwhile, the Chicago White Sox -- who appear to be the Orioles' main competition for the wild-card berth -- were embarking on a seemingly easy road trip, with a day off yesterday and three games against slumping Milwaukee just a short bus ride away, then three against Detroit.
The next three weeks, the White Sox do not play a single team with a .500 record. They have home series against the Brewers and Tigers, seven games against Toronto and three with Boston. That's going to make them tough to catch.
"I don't think you can look at it that way," said Orioles third baseman B. J. Surhoff. "You still have to win. It's just like lining up two teams on paper. One might seem superior, but you've got to play.
"Nobody thought the Twins would come in and sweep us," Surhoff said, "and you'd think that Seattle would be doing well with all those games at home. Look what happened to them."
The Orioles have risen to the challenge. They came into Oakland having won 11 of their last 15 games, five of five against the struggling Brewers. In the end, every team plays essentially the same schedule, but the Orioles' surge still left them trailing the White Sox, who are in excellent position to keep them at bay until mid-September.
"I don't think about things like that because I've got no control over it," Johnson said. "I've got enough things to have anxiety about. I'm only concerned with these 25 players going here and doing what we are capable of."
The coming schedule isn't particularly harsh for the Orioles, either. They face the three also-rans in the AL West -- the A's, California Angels and Seattle Mariners -- in a span of 19 games (including last night's), but Johnson is going to have to nurse his banged-up pitching staff through this long weekend just to earn a fresh start Tuesday at Camden Yards.
Pub Date: 8/16/96