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Some always bring 'A' game when facing O's

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Probably not a day goes by in the spring and summer months that it's not uttered in a Baltimore bar or living room, in the stands or the broadcast booth at Camden Yards.

An opposing pitcher sets the Orioles down in order or an opposing batter smashes a double to the gap and someone, somewhere declares it to whoever will listen: "Man, that guy just kills the Orioles."

You'll likely hear it tonight, when the ultimate Orioles-killing pitcher takes the mound. This time it'll be true.

No pitcher with more than 20 decisions against the Orioles has a better winning percentage in the modern franchise's history than Houston left-hander Andy Pettitte.

In the nine seasons he pitched for the New York Yankees, Pettitte faced the Orioles 28 times. He was an amazing 20-4 with a 3.64 ERA in 168 innings. Only one active pitcher has more wins against the Orioles than Pettitte. That's his teammate, Roger Clemens, who mercifully won't pitch in the Astros' three-game series at Camden Yards.

Clemens is 22-12 with a 3.44 ERA in 49 Orioles games (322 innings). His winning percentage, .647, is second all time.

"They played on such good teams and we were struggling, too. They beat up on us pretty good, especially in '01 and '02," said Orioles first baseman Jay Gibbons. "Plus, they're pretty darn good pitchers."

The only other active pitcher as rough on the Orioles is left-hander Jamie Moyer, who has bedazzled his former club with an assortment of junk for years. Moyer (15-3, 3.06 ERA in 26 games) matches Pettitte's .833 winning percentage, but has had more no-decisions in two fewer starts.

If Pettitte is the current Orioles killer, who is the champ of yesteryear? Bullpen coach and de facto team historian Elrod Hendricks takes a great guess: Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter, who won 224 games for the Kansas City/Oakland A's and the Yankees.

"Hunter had his great years against us," Hendricks said. "It seemed like he had a knack of finding a way to beat us. But he beat everyone else, too."

Hunter is second on the all-time Orioles-beating list with 26 wins. He also has the most losses (24) and decisions (50). But the all-time wins leader is another Hall of Famer, Yankees left-hander Whitey Ford, who was 30-16 against the Orioles.

Only one of the wins leaders, active or all time, finished in the top five for ERA against the Orioles (140-inning minimum), Detroit Tigers left-hander Mickey Lolich. Current Yankees pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre leads with a 2.33 ERA. Only former Kansas City Royals left-hander Larry Gura (13-8, 2.53 ERA) finished in the top five in ERA and winning percentage.

Now, to the plate. Who is the biggest Orioles killer with the bat? Here are three popular names: Frank Thomas, Manny Ramirez and Ken Griffey Jr.

Thomas, the White Sox slugger, is tops on the active list of homers with 35, and he's tied for second all time with Jose Canseco and Kent Hrbek. Thomas also was second among active players in RBIs with 106, before being passed Sunday by another classic thorn in the Orioles' side: Griffey Jr. With two homers and three RBIs in the three-game series in Cincinnati, Griffey padded his totals to a .315 batting average, 30 homers and 107 RBIs - not bad for a guy who until last weekend hadn't played against the Orioles this millennium.

The Yankees' Alex Rodriguez is second among active players with 34 homers, and probably will take over the lead, given the 19 times he plays the Orioles each season.

Considering the schedule, the Orioles-bashing RBI crown should eventually be owned by Boston's Ramirez. He leads active hitters with 117 RBIs, good for fifth all time. He's also hit .323 with 26 homers in 147 games against the Orioles.

Until he steps it up, however, the official title of Ultimate Orioles Killer among hitters must stay with another Red Sox outfielder. Jim Rice may not make the Hall of Fame, but Orioles pitchers did their part in trying to get him to Cooperstown. In 176 games, the Red Sox slugger batted .324 with 38 homers and 136 RBIs. He's tops in homers and shares the RBI title with former Boston teammate Dwight Evans.

The best pure hitter against the Orioles' all time (minimum 150 plate appearances) is also one of the best ever: Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki. He's hitting .393 in 163 plate appearances, and that includes a 4-for-11 skid last month at Camden Yards in which he actually went hitless in a game.

Not all Orioles killers are household names, though.

Boston's Marty Barrett, (.363 batting average), Chicago's Lamar Johnson (.349) and journeyman catcher Don "Sluggo" Slaught (.347) are the other top average hitters.

And the best slugger per at-bat against the Orioles isn't Rice or Rodriguez or even the much-maligned Albert Belle, who hit 32 homers - one for every 10.88 at-bats against Orioles pitching - before signing with the Orioles.

Based on home run/at-bat ratio, the best homer hitter against the Orioles (minimum 150 at-bats) is the immortal Ken Phelps. He's the Seattle first baseman the Yankees traded Jay Buhner for, which ultimately set the scene for a hilarious Seinfeld bit in which the Frank Costanza character berated George Steinbrenner for dealing Buhner.

Phelps had 123 career homers, and just 17 as a Yankee. But he hit 17 in just 163 at-bats against the Orioles, for one every 9.59 trips to the plate.

Maybe if Mr. Costanza had seen Phelps' act as an Orioles killer at Memorial Stadium, he wouldn't have been so critical of The Boss.

Sun staff writer Roch Kubatko contributed to this article.

O's foes

Here are the active pitchers and hitters who have hurt the Orioles the most.

Pitchers

MOST WINS

1. Roger Clemens 22

2. Andy Pettitte 20

3. Jamie Moyer 15

4. David Wells 14

5. Kelvim Escobar 12

Hitters

MOST HOMERS

1. Frank Thomas 35

2. Alex Rodriguez 34

3. Ken Griffey Jr. 30

4. Carlos Delgado 28

5. Juan Gonzalez 28

Tough on O's

Leaders against the Orioles in various categories (for active leaders in homers and wins, see Page 1E):

Home runs

All time

Jim Rice 38

Jose Canseco 35

Kent Hrbek 35

Frank Thomas 35

Reggie Jackson 34

Alex Rodriguez 34

RBIs

All time

Jim Rice 136

Dwight Evans 136

George Brett 123

Robin Yount 123

Manny Ramirez 117

Active

Manny Ramirez 117

Ken Griffey Jr. 107

Frank Thomas 106

Carlos Delgado 105

Bernie Williams 101

HR/at-bat ratio (Minimum 150 plate appearances)

All time

Ken Phelps 9.59

Albert Belle 10.88

Troy Glaus 11.47

Mark McGwire 11.67

Frank Thomas 12.00

Batting average

(Minimum 150 plate appearances)

All time

Ichiro Suzuki .393

Marty Barrett .363

Lamar Johnson .349

Don Slaught .347

Larry Hisle .344

Wins

All time

Whitey Ford 30

Catfish Hunter 26

Mickey Lolich 25

Billy Pierce 23

Roger Clemens 22

Winning percentage (Minimum 20 decisions)

All time

Andy Pettitte .833

Roger Clemens .647

Mark Langston .630

Doyle Alexander .619

Larry Gura .619

ERA

(Minimum 140 innings)

All time

Mel Stottlemyre 2.33

Vida Blue 2.46

Larry Gura 2.53

Bret Saberhagen 2.60

Mickey Lolich 2.61

Source: Orioles media relations

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