Oriole Park erupted in a spontaneous celebration last night, one that brought back memories of 1989 and brought home the notion that there could be more to the new-look Orioles than just a shiny new ballpark.
The Orioles swept the Detroit Tigers right out of town with an offensive display that had the crowd of 45,013 literally dancing in the aisles. There should have been dancing in the dugout, too, after a 16-hit attack that trounced the Tigers, 12-4, and completed a perfect four-game homestand.
The bad news is that the Orioles had to leave late last night to open a nine-game trip in Kansas City tonight. They were getting very comfortable in their new digs, as evidenced by their 6-1 record in the first two series at Camden Yards.
There had been some debate lately as to how friendly the new park was to hitters, but the Orioles and Tigers established last night that it is not the toughest place in the world to clear the fences. There were five home runs -- including three in a row by the Tigers in the third inning -- and enough offensive fireworks to dismiss any thought of it being a pitchers' park.
Center fielder Mike Devereaux had a terrific night, with a home run, a triple, a single and a leaping catch at the wall to highlight the Orioles' most exciting performance of the season. Shortstop Cal Ripken chipped in with three hits, Sam Horn had a mammoth home run, and four other Orioles drove in runs to bail pitcher Ben McDonald out of another potential loss.
The Orioles scored all of their runs in two innings, a five-run fourth that erased a four-run Tigers lead and a seven-run seventh that pumped up the volume. Devereaux's two-run homer in the seventh loosened up a one-run game and the sent the fans into a new dimension.
"When I came back to the dugout, I said, 'Look, check out these fans,' " Devereaux said. "Even in '89, you didn't see this. The new ballpark has brought out a new attitude in everybody. It's just an exciting place to be. We love the place and the fans love it, too. The first night of the series, it was so loud, it was like the World Series."
It might be a hitters' park, but it was an impressive first night for relief pitcher Alan Mills, who pitched 3 1/3 hitless innings to get the victory in his Orioles debut. He came on in relief of a beleaguered McDonald and held things together while the Orioles staged their first big comeback of the young season. Todd Frohwirth added three innings of one-hit relief to get his first save of the year.
Mills, who was acquired from the New York Yankees this spring for Francisco de la Rosa and a player to be named, walked three and struck out four on the way to only his third major-league victory. He has only been with the Orioles since Saturday, but he knew what he had to do.
"I wasn't nervous," Mills said. "I was just trying to keep the score the way it was."
McDonald battled the flu all weekend, which might explain why he didn't put up much of a fight last night. The Tigers knocked him silly in the third inning and almost knocked a few bricks out of Oriole Park in the process.
Three straight Tigers conquered the confines of Camden Yards, sending McDonald to an early shower with a homer hat-trick that helped carry the Tigers to a lightning-quick four-run lead.
Alan Trammell, Cecil Fielder and former Orioles catcher Mickey Tettleton homered in the span of seven pitches to break open a scoreless game and temporarily pump some life into the slumping Tigers offense.
McDonald had lost 8 pounds during his three-day illness, but he had not given up a hit until Trammell's two-out line drive barely cleared the 333-foot sign in the left-field corner. Moments later, Fielder reached out and pulled a shot to straightaway left that landed in the first row of the stands.
Left fielder Brady Anderson made a leaping try for Fielder's fifth homer of the season -- and he didn't miss by much -- but all he came down with was a sore elbow.
There would be no doubt about Tettleton's line drive to right, which cleared the Tall Wall and kept going until it had one-hopped the warehouse. The drive landed on the Eutaw Street corridor, 406 feet from home plate, but the tape measure does not tell the whole story. The ball touched down on a surface that is 25 feet above the playing field, so it probably would have traveled closer to 430 feet on the same plane.
Tettleton came up approximately 26 feet short of the warehouse, which has been estimated to be a 460-foot shot from home plate.
It was the first time an Orioles pitcher had given up three consecutive home runs since July 28, 1987, when right-hander Tom Niedenfuer gave up three straight against Detroit in the ninth inning of a game at Tiger Stadium.
McDonald didn't stay around much longer. He gave up a single to Tony Phillips and a run-scoring double to Rob Deer before giving way to Mills. But the offensive show was just beginning.