Horn giving definite hints as DH His late-season surge puts him high on charts for the '91 hit parade

September 20, 1990|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Evening Sun Staff

Sam Horn is doing his best to keep the Orioles' parade of designated hitters from passing him by.

Manager Frank Robinson has used 15 this year. Horn would like to call off the auditions for 1991, and he's making a point with the parade's grand marshal.

All of a sudden Horn's numbers are looking very respectable, especially on a team with the worst DH production in the American League. The big lefthanded hitter has 13 home runs and 42 runs batted in despite only 220 at-bats.

Calculated over an average season, those figures are decent credentials. But . . . there's always a but.

bTC "You can project all you want," Robinson said after the Orioles drove another nail into Boston's pennant hopes with an 8-4 win over the Red Sox last night at Memorial Stadium. "But you don't know until you put the numbers up there [over a full season]."

The point Robinson made was that Horn would have a lot more at-bats if his production earlier had matched what it has been lately. "Before he wasn't as consistent," said Robinson. "It was all or nothing.

"Since he's come back [from a shoulder injury and a subsequent rehabilitation assignment in the minor leagues that was extended], he's performed more like we had hoped he would," said Robinson.

"He's doing things to get your attention much more consistently. It's to the point where you say, 'Wait a minute, maybe he can be the productive hitter we're looking for.'

"We weren't looking for Sam Horn to carry the club," said Robinson, "just to give us some production in home runs and runs batted in. He's been much more consistent in that regard lately than he was earlier in the year."

After a pair of three-run homers in an opening game win at Kansas City, Horn was in limbo for a long spell, his huge presence noted only on occasion. His injury undoubtedly is one reason Horn has only 220 at-bats. But the fact the Orioles have only a .214 average, with 57 RBIs from their designated hitters is evidence enough that Robinson wasn't overwhelmed earlier.

All but six of Horn's RBIs have come as a DH, so the evidence is overwhelming that he has been, by far, the most productive of the 15 Robinson has used in that spot. Still, up until now, it hasn't been enough to warrant consideration as No. 1 in the parade, something Horn hopes to change.

He's hitting .340 (15-for-44) with 17 RBIs in his last 14 games. Too late to have a major impact on this season, perhaps, but not too late to improve his stock for next year.

It was a three-run homer by Horn, breaking a 2-2 tie in the fifth inning, and a strong relief effort by Curt Schilling that handed the Red Sox their latest dose of discomfort -- and knocked them out of first place. Both Horn and Schilling are products of the Boston organization, and if last night's game didn't produce a degree of revenge it at least provided some personal satisfaction.

"Ask anybody," said Horn, "and I'm sure they'll tell you when you go out against your former team, you want to contribute. I'm just happy I could do some damage."

The last time Horn tried to contribute against the Red Sox, who let him go as a minor-league free agent last winter, he didn't have the same kind of results. "I was pressing too hard when we went to Boston," he said. "I was trying to hit the ball out of the park every time, and you can't do that.

"I think from my first at-bat [last night] it was evident I was trying to hit the ball up the middle. That's what I was trying to do on the home run."

He didn't succeed, which was to the Orioles' benefit and the Red Sox's dismay. His screaming line drive stayed just inside the rightfield foul pole. "I didn't know if it was going out, but I knew it would get in some runs."

Those three runs were enough to make a winner of Anthony Telford (3-2), but it wasn't easy. "He struggled in every inning but the fifth," said Robinson, who made one of his patented mid-count switches after a home run by Mike Greenwell, a single by Dwight Evans and a loud foul by Mike Marshall.

"He [Telford] didn't let the game get away, that was the main thing," Robinson said of the rookie, who allowed three runs and seven hits in five innings. "But in the sixth it didn't look like he was going to be able to do it, so there wasn't any sense leaving him out there."

The quick call almost caught Schilling unprepared, but he worked four strong innings to pick up the third save of his career. "Frank asked me when I came to the mound if I had enough time to get ready," said Schilling, "but what are you going to say at that point?"

Schilling had worked one inning in the 4-1 win the night before, but had no trouble closing out the final four innings. He too admitted to some personal satisfaction. "Because . . . just because," he said when asked if the game had added meaning.

The righthander came to the Orioles in the Mike Boddicker trade two years ago. "It was the best thing for me," he said. "I don't know if I'd be in the big leagues yet if I was still there -- but I don't think so."

By winning the last two games, the Orioles not only dismissed the Red Sox from first place, but also broke a string of 13 straight series losses to Eastern Division opponents. They hadn't won against an East team since taking two of three against the Yankees June 8-10.

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