When power is out, O's can't hold candle to Yanks AL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Quick, let's add another 20-home run hitter. Is Dave Kingman available? The Orioles are ready to deal prospects, and bump Bobby No off their postseason roster.

Sorry, it's not working.

It was never going to work.

No team this one-dimensional can win a World Series.

It was a fun ride, but the Longball Express never was built for the long haul.

A crash was inevitable, and here it comes.

Will the Orioles even notice?

They're so exhausted from overswinging, they can barely lift their bats.

Manager Davey Johnson wanted to add speed this season, wanted to manufacture runs, wanted to play actual baseball.

Instead, the Orioles created a monster.

They set a major-league record for most home runs in a season, but also a playoff record for most strikeouts in a game.

Even Johnson knows they went overboard in their lust for power.

"You look at Yankees -- they've got five guys that can run," Johnson said last night. "We've got two.

"We're a good club. Are we a championship club yet? We're close. And with more [postseason] experience, we'll get closer.

"But what we talked about early, when you can add young players to your starting lineup, they generally can run.

"That's imperative," Johnson said.

The Orioles need to address the problem this off-season, need to find greater offensive balance.

The verdict is almost in on 1996.

And the Orioles are guilty of poor clutch hitting, among other sins.

Indeed, last night's 8-4 loss in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series was a microcosm of the entire season.

And the eighth inning was a microcosm of the loss.

The Orioles actually managed three straight singles off Mariano Rivera to load the bases with none out.

Did they score?

Of course not.

They didn't hit a home run.

Chris Hoiles struck out, Brady Anderson struck out, and Todd Zeile popped up.

Anderson swung at a shoulder-high fastball.

That kind of night.

That kind of series.

That kind of year.

The Orioles are 3-for-29 with runners in scoring position in this series, 0-for-14 with two out.

Nine of their 15 runs against the Yankees have scored on homers. Five of the other six have scored on outs.

Think they can win three straight from New York?

First, let's see them win one game this season against the Yankees at Camden Yards.

Could happen.

But the Orioles still wouldn't win the final two games at Yankee Stadium, unless maybe they signed Greg Luzinski.

Load it up!

"The life expectancy in a seven-game series, especially when it's 3-1, is not too long," Orioles hitting coach Rick Down said.

Down can't say it, but he'd probably welcome a few more hitters who could make contact, make adjustments.

The Yankees allowed the fewest homers in the league this season.

The Orioles can't just abuse them the way they do Detroit or Toronto.

"All season long, we haven't really worked at manufacturing runs, hit-and-runs, bunting 'em over," Down said.

"We've relied on two-base hits and homers. That's been our existence. We can't change what got us here."

True enough, but the last two games have exposed the Orioles for what they are.

They had no chance against Jimmy Key's off-speed wizardry in Game 3, and no excuse for failing to pound Kenny Rogers in Game 4.

Rogers ran six 3-2 counts on the first nine hitters, pitching so meekly, he got bawled out by Yankees pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre in the dugout.

The Orioles scored four runs off him in four-plus innings, but on a night when Rocky Coppinger allowed three homers, they needed to score more.

Roberto Alomar and Rafael Palmeiro helped defuse rallies by striking out with runners in scoring position and less than two outs.

The Orioles had one last chance to grab the lead and avoid Rivera in the fifth, but failed to advance Alomar after he hit a leadoff double.

"We like the ball up in the zone," Johnson said. "If you keep the ball down on us, if you throw it soft, keep it away from us "

If you do anything to make the Orioles adjust their mammoth swings, you've got them in trouble.

Perhaps it was only fitting that the Yankees were the team that hit four homers last night -- two by Darryl Strawberry, a player the Orioles tried to sign.

The Yankees can play long ball, and the Yankees can play little ball. The Yankees are one victory away from their first World Series appearance since 1981.

Let this be a lesson to the Orioles.

The Longball Express was one powerful locomotive.

Alas, it was bound to derail.

Pub Date: 10/14/96

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