MILWAUKEE -- The Baltimore Orioles continue to parcel out their base hits greedily, as if there were only so many to last the season, but home runs are coming cheaper by the day.
The Orioles managed six hits yesterday, but three of them landed in the bleachers to send the Milwaukee Brewers to a 7-2 defeat and spoil Opening Day for a crowd of 50,058 at County Stadium.
First baseman Glenn Davis hit his first home run in the American League and paid a painful price for it in his next at-bat. Cal Ripken hit his third of the year and continues to swing the most productive bat in the lineup. Sam Horn topped it all off with a grand slam in the eighth inning and broke a close game wide open.
No power shortage here. The Orioles spent the off-season rebuilding the heart of the batting order. Though offensive continuity remains elusive -- the club has had six hits or fewer in all but one of their first six games this year -- the recharged lineup has been able to do significant damage anyway.
"We have a lot of guys who can hit the ball out of the ballpark," Ripken said. "It's comforting to know that you don't have to string four hits together to get a run. That keeps the pressure off the lineup."
In the past three games, the club has seven home runs. Ripken has three of them, including his decisive two-run shot in the fourth inning yesterday. Horn has two home runs and seven RBI in the last two games, but those two homers are his only hits in 14 at-bats. He struck out in nine of his other 12 trips to the plate.
"It's a funny game," Horn said. "There are a lot of guys who aren't hitting right now. But it feels good to win a game knowing that six or seven guys aren't even hitting yet."
But Davis didn't think it was very funny when Brewers pitcher Chris Bosio drilled him in the back with a fastball after Ripken circled the bases in the fourth. Davis had driven a towering drive into the upper half of the left-field bleachers in the second, so he might as well have worn a target to the plate.
He glared at Bosio as he walked to first base, but did not make a move toward the mound. No sense rushing into anything with 12 games left to play against the Brewers.
"There's no need for that stuff in baseball," Davis said. "To me, that's weak. We've got a lot of play left. They have to realize that if they want to play that way, there are ways to counteract that."
Davis was understandably relieved to get his first homer out of the way. He arrived in Baltimore with some great expectations attached, so it was better not to keep everyone in suspense for too long.
The home runs by Davis and Ripken staked right-hander Jose Mesa to a 3-0 lead, but the Brewers climbed back to within a run and were threatening to take the lead when the Orioles bullpen entered the picture.
Left-hander Mike Flanagan came on with runners at second and third and one out in the sixth. He walked pinch hitter Greg Vaughn to load the bases, but got veteran Willie Randolph to bounce into an inning-ending double play.
Mark Williamson came on with two out in the seventh to pitch the final 2 1/3 innings, his first save of the year made easier when Brewers manager Tom Trebelhorn brought on right-hander Edwin Nunez to face Horn with the bases loaded in the eighth. Horn didn't take it personally, but he did take a 1-1 pitch to the deepest part of the ballpark.
"I guess he [Trebelhorn] was thinking that Nunez would get me out easy," Horn said. "I just said to myself, 'I've got to bear down.' "
He drove the pitch over the center field fence to turn a one-run game into a mini-blowout and turn Trebelhorn's brainstorm into a bust.
The logic of the move was irrefutable. Horn had struck out in nearly three of every four at-bats. He had only the one hit. No sense bringing on the left-hander and getting a right-handed pinch hitter -- Leo Gomez -- who has three hits in his first seven at-bats this year.
Horn remains an all-or-nothing proposition. He is striking out at an alarming rate, but he seems to rise to a new level when there are two or more runners on base. Five of his 16 home runs as an Oriole have come with two men on base and two more have come with the bases loaded.
Mesa had to be grateful. He pitched well for the second time in a row and was in danger of coming up empty again, but the grand slam assured him of his first victory of 1991.
He gave up two runs on six hits set a career high with seven strikeouts as he evened his record at 1-1. He gave up two runs over six innings in his first start and took the loss when Chicago White Sox left-hander Greg Hibbard gave up three hits over eight innings last Wednesday.