Orioles' hot bats keep Royals in deep freeze, 10-4

April 22, 1992|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The scouting report on the slumping Kansas City Royals is not complicated. An advance scout could get the message across to his team in just three words:

"Get here quick."

The Orioles arrived just in time to get a piece of the worst start in Royals history, scoring a 10-4 victory last night at Royals Stadium to win their fifth straight game and equal their longest winning streak of 1991.

They traveled all night to get here. They braved the bitter cold that dumped snow all over the region only a day earlier. They scored in double figures for the second consecutive game, something they have not done in nearly five years.

If it is the worst of times for the beleaguered Royals, it is just the opposite for the Orioles, who are off to their best start in 10 years.

Leadoff man Brady Anderson continues to lead the way, drilling two more triples and driving in three runs on the way to his fourth multi-hit performance in the past six games. Chris Hoiles also stayed hot, with two more hits to raise his average to .390 and challenge for the league lead in that department.

The major beneficiary of all this was right-hander Jose Mesa, who pitched 6 2/3 innings and gave up three runs on eight hits to earn his first victory of the year. He has won just three times in his past 18 starts, dating back to last May, but he appears to have joined in the pitching renaissance that has given the Orioles newly found credibility in the American League East.

"Good things are starting to happen," manager Johnny Oates said. "You score 12 runs and you come back out and score a few more the next day, and you feel like you can't be beat.

"It happens in this game. Things start going good and you make things happen. When things are going bad, you wait for things to happen to you."

If that sounded like a perfect description of the two teams that had just passed in the night, it was understandable. The Orioles are providing reason to believe they can be competitive in the American League East this year. The Royals are slipping out of the AL West race in record time.

The heat was on, but only in the dugout. On the field, the game-time temperature was 39 degrees, and the wind made it feel like the teens.

Early in the day, there was talk that the game would be postponed, but the Orioles were not in any hurry to take the night off, regardless of the weather. They were coming off a 16-hit performance Monday night and a four-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers that had boosted them two games above .500 for the first time since 1989.

The prospects for adding to that winning streak couldn't have been better. The Royals are off to a 1-12 start, and you don't have to look past the run-production stats to figure out why. They came into the series with a major-league low 26 runs in their first 12 games.

"You want to take advantage of that," Oates said. "You sit out there and you know they've been struggling with the bat, and they are capable of hitting better than they are. You hope they keep struggling until you leave town. The way they're swinging the bat, you figure Mesa shouldn't get beat unless we don't score or he walks a bunch of guys."

Mesa wasn't overpowering, but he didn't have to be. He allowed six base runners in the first three innings, but the Royals did not score until Wally Joyner's broken-bat double down the right-field line tied the game at 1-1 in the third.

Anderson had given the Orioles the lead with a run-scoring triple in the top of that inning, and would play a major role in the six-run rally that knocked starter Mark Gubicza out of the game in the fourth.

Gubicza, who came into the game with a 7-3 career record against Baltimore, retired two of the first three batters he faced in the fourth before allowing six straight Orioles to reach base. Mark McLemore broke the tie with a looping single to left, and Anderson brought home two more runs with his second triple of the game.

Anderson hit safely in his first three at-bats and had seven total bases in the first four innings, one short of his single-game high. It was the second time in eight days that he has had two triples in a game. He leads the American League with four triples and ranks among the league leaders with 11 RBI.

"I'm just trying to stay consistent and not change too much," Anderson said. "I'm just trying to get a good pitch and do something with it."

His first triple was pulled down the right-field line. The second was a shot up the alley in right-center. Mike Devereaux followed with a run-scoring single, and Cal Ripken walked before Sam Horn sent Gubicza packing with a drive off the right-field wall.

Horn was the ninth batter to come to the plate in the inning. The Orioles, who scored just 10 runs in their first six games, have batted around three times in their past two games to score 18 runs. Horn and Anderson have combined to drive in eight.

"I think we're starting to play consistently as a team," Anderson said. "We got off to a mediocre start because of that tough series in Toronto, but we're starting to play consistently. We're pitching. We're playing solid defense, and now our offense is starting to heat up."

Mesa quickly settled into the comfort zone provided by his teammates and cruised to his first victory of the year. He served up a two-run homer to catcher Mike Macfarlane in the sixth inning, but the decision was never in serious doubt.

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