In Brave new world, Dr. Johnson still has all the right moves
ATLANTA - It was like Dr. Frankenstein being allowed back in the laboratory. "Bodies!" screamed Dr. Frankenstein to Igor. "I need more bodies!" "Players!" screamed Dr. Davey Johnson, to his bench. "I need more players!" Like Dr. Frankenstein, Dr. Davey has created a monster that is devouring all of baseball. The Baltimore Orioles consumed the Atlanta Braves in three straight games, finshing them off yesterday with a 5-3 win that came with some experimental moves by Dr. Davey that the Food and Drug Administration might not have approved. Dr. Davey got a taste of managing again in the National League this weekend in the Orioles' three-game interleague series with the Braves, and by yesterday he was like a food addict at a buffet. Dr. Davey once called the National League his mad lab during his years with the New York Mets and Cincinnati Reds. When he came to Baltimore last year, Dr. Davey complained about not being able to strut his stuff, with the limited moves a manager can make in the American League game. But in the bottom of the ninth in the first game Friday night, with the Orioles ahead 4-3, Dr. Davey pulled off a triple switch - Lenny Webster behind the plate, batting fifth; Randy Myers in to pitch, batting seventh; and Tony Tarasco in to play right field, and batting ninth. "I just wanted to show you all I could still do it," Dr. Davey joked after the game. But that move just rekindled the mad doctor in the Baltimore manager, and yesterday he was out of control, double switching here, there and everywhere, moving players all around the field, changing his lineup more times than Dennis Rodman changes hair color.
At one point, he may have tried to write Mookie Wilson's name in there. In the bottom of the eighth, with the score tied 3-3, he brought in Armando Benitez to pitch and bat eighth. He brought Roberto Alomar, who didn't start, to play second and bat ninth, the spot due up in the ninth inning. And he moved Jeff Reboulet from second to shortstop, pulling Mike Bordick. Bordick had already taken the field and seemed confused as he was walking off slowly. "It caught me by surprise," Bordick said. "But when I saw Robbie coming out, I knew it was a double switch. It's a good thing that Davey is used to that stuff." But that was nothing compared to what Dr. Davey concocted in the ninth. In the top of the inning, he pinch hit Pete Incaviglia for Reboulet, and Incaviglia grounded out with Alomar on second base. When Reboulet, who had been in the on-deck circle, came back to the dugout after being replaced by Incaviglia, the players were thoroughly confused. "Everyone was talking about it, who was going to play where," he said. With Reboulet and Bordick now both out of the game, the stage was set for a bizarre dramatic moment - Cal Ripken was about to play shortstop again for the first time this year. B.J. Surhoff moved to third and Incaviglia started the bottom of the ninth in left field. "It was a little different than I remember it," Ripken said. "I'm glad to do it in a fallback situation, but I was just getting comfortable at third base." Great, now he doesn't want to play shortstop. He's lucky Dr. Davey didn't ask him to pitch next. As it was, all the moves may have even confused the mad doctor. After sending Incaviglia out to left field, Johnson took him out after three batters, perhaps realizing that in a tie game in the ninth inning he had someone in left field whose hands are so bad they rust when it rains. Dr. Davey moved Jeffrey Hammonds to left field and put Tarasco in right. "I didn't have a lot of options," Dr. Davey said after the game, trying to explain all the moves. "I was running out of pitching and I'm comfortable with Cal at shortstop and B.J. at third. "It was good to be able to do some things," Dr. Davey said, but he acknowledged, "maybe I overdid it a bit." It doesn't matter, because there is something going on with this team that is more sorcery than science. On Saturday, Chris Hoiles, who strikes out five times and is one strike away from a record sixth whiff, gets the game-winning hit in the top of the 12th. Yesterday, a ball hit down the left-field line in the bottom of the sixth by Chipper Jones should have scored two runs and given the Braves a 4-3 lead. But the ball went through a small gap just barely as wide as the ball, created when a Turner Field security guard left a gate open. The hit was declared a ground rule double, allowing just one run to score to tie the game at 3-3. And in the top of the 12th, Webster, with 12 career home runs over six major league seasons, gets the game-winning hit with a two-run homer off ace reliever Mark Wohlers, completing the sweep of the NL champions and giving the Orioles an astounding record of 45-19. The moves for this Orioles team are being seemingly decided at a higher level than on the field. But that didn't stop Dr. Davey yesterday from showing that he still knows his way around the laboratory.