KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's amazing enough that the Orioles are 10-5 with Cal Ripken contributing quietly and Glenn Davis not at all. It's even more amazing when you consider which hitters are fueling the sudden increase in run production.
After scoring 10 runs their first six games, the Orioles have exploded for 62 their last nine. Here's the Punch (and Judy) line: Of those 72 runs, 49 have been scored or driven in by the eighth, ninth and first hitters in the batting order.
That's 68 percent.
The bulk of the production is traced to the regular leadoff hitter, Brady (Babe) Anderson, and the usual No. 8 hitter, Chris (Crash) Hoiles. But don't forget second basemen Bill Ripken and Mark McLemore, who have combined for nine RBIs in the No. 9 spot -- or two more than Cal, the reigning AL MVP.
Go ahead, hammer that 8-9-1 combination in the lottery. Anderson, batting first, hit a two-run homer to trigger last night's 8-1 victory over Kansas City. David Segui, batting eighth, broke a 1-for-21 slump with two doubles and an RBI. McLemore, batting ninth, had a career-high four hits and an RBI.
Still not convinced?
Hoiles began the night leading the American League with a .386 average. Manager John Oates moved him to the fifth spot with Randy Milligan out of the lineup, and the slugging catcher completely unraveled, going 0-for-4 with a walk.
"I don't want to hit there anymore," Hoiles joked.
Still not convinced?
Backup catcher Jeff Tackett has started one game this season. He hit a home run batting ninth. Hoiles replaced him in the same game. He hit a home run batting ninth.
That Oates sure knows how to place 'em.
Take your pick:
A) He's a very dumb manager.
B) He's a very smart manager.
C) He's a creative genius.
"How 'bout any of the above?" Oates said, smiling.
Oates had this brilliant idea to drop Mike Devereaux in the batting order so he could drive in more runs. Guess what? Anderson has nearly twice as many RBIs as Devereaux (13-7). His total not only leads the club, it ties him for sixth in the league.
Don't look now, but Anderson has as many RBIs as Mark McGwire, who leads the majors with eight home runs. Three weeks into the season, he's nearly halfway to his career-high of 27 RBIs. It's no big deal, but he also ranks among the league leaders in nine other offensive categories.
That Mike Boddicker trade doesn't look so bad anymore, does it? Boddicker is mopping up for the 1-14 Royals. Anderson is about to ignite the country's next great sideburn fad. Brady wanna-bes are already surfacing in the outer reaches of Baltimore.
When will The Babe point?
"I pointed to second my last at-bat," Anderson said, "and grounded out."
Jerry Brown chants his 800 number.
Orioles fans chant 8-9-1.
"I don't think you can explain it," McLemore said. "It's happening that way right now, and it's good. We're scoring runs. Teams can't look at us and say the guys at the bottom of the order are just outs. This changes things a little bit."
It changes things all right. Hitting coach Greg Biagini said if the ninth-place hitters keep producing, opponents won't be able to pitch around Hoiles. That's a new one. Not even the '27 Yankees worried their No. 8 hitter wouldn't get enough good pitches to hit.
Whatever, McLemore and Bill Ripken ease that concern. Ripken's suicide squeeze provided the insurance run Opening Day, and now the ninth-place duo is unstoppable. It accounted for the go-ahead or game-winning RBI in four straight games this week. The streak ended last night, but McLemore went 4-for-5.
Then there's Segui, the third-string first baseman who entered last night's game batting .050. Oates knew he was ready to ignite. Biagini told him Wednesday -- and this is an exact quote -- "Segui's magic wand is just about to come out."
It wasn't magic.
Segui batted eighth.
Finally, we turn to Cal Ripken. Why is this man batting third? He had two doubles and two RBIs last night, and he's finally getting hot. You'd never know it, but Ripken has reached safely 18 times in 31 trips during the winning streak (9-for-22 with 10 walks).
"Everyone wants to get off to a good start," said Ripken, who has raised his average from .138 to .255. "I was probably jumpy and a little excited. I got outside of myself. I'm trying to get back into it now. It's been a little bit better lately."
Time to bat him ninth.