The raw numbers suggest Bill Ripken "owns" Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Bill Wegman. But if Ripken holds any secrets of success, he isn't about to divulge them.
"I've been fortunate," the Orioles second baseman-turned-slugger said yesterday after improving his career average against Wegman to an eye-popping .818. "I've gotten a number of hits on ground balls through the infield. They easily could have been hit to the infielders. I guess you could say it's just one of those things in baseball."
That's easy for him to say. Ripken collected three of his four hits off Wegman, including a home run in the sixth inning of the 7-4 victory. He is 9-for-11 lifetime against the right-hander.
The home run wasn't the only damage he inflicted on Wegman. He also had a two-run single through the left side with the bases loaded in the fourth.
The 4-for-4 outing lifted Ripken's average from .206 to .228. The home run was his third of the season, all at Camden Yards. He hit two homers in 867 at-bats at Memorial Stadium.
"The past two or three weeks I have been a little more consistent with contact," he said. "I have hit more balls on the head of the bat."
The home run might have been a turning point in the game. The Brewers had just cut into the Orioles' lead with two runs in their half of the sixth. But Ripken pummeled a 2-0 fastball into the seats in left-center to make it 7-2. Up to that point, Wegman had been throwing sinkers to Ripken, who was looking for the fastball after a steady diet of sinkers.
"You always hate to give up a run after you score a couple against a team," Ripken said.
Ripken's fourth hit was a broken-bat single. His other four-hit game -- in Boston on Aug. 2, 1989 -- also featured a broken-bat hit.
"If I ever get three hits again, I should break my bat going up to hit," he said.
Joe's back in stride
Ripken wasn't the only Brewer-killer this week. Right fielder Joe Orsulak had six hits in nine at-bats in the last two games to raise his six-game average against Milwaukee to .522 (12-for-23).
What's more, Orsulak has quietly, but steadily, pulled his average back into the .280 range and earned more playing time. He is hitting .354 since May 15 and has lifted his average from .195 to .283.
"He's relaxed now," said hitting coach Greg Biagini. "He looks more confident."
Biagini also said he thinks Orsulak has stopped trying to pull every pitch and is going to the opposite field more now.
Left fielder Brady Anderson's two-run homer in the fourth gave him the team lead in RBI with 50 in 76 games. He entered July with more RBI than any leadoff hitter since Bobby Bonds had 53 in 1973 with the San Francisco Giants.
The Orioles' record for most RBI by a leadoff hitter in a season is 66, by Don Buford in 1970.
Olympic time change
The starting time for the July 11 game at Camden Yards between the U.S. Olympic team and Korea has been changed from 3:30 to 3 p.m. at the Orioles' request. The Orioles play the Minnesota Twins at 7:05 p.m.
The Olympians are on a 30-game exhibition tour and have yet to complete nine innings in any of their games, which have served as preliminaries to major-league games. Fans must have a ticket to the Orioles' game that night for admission to the Olympic game.
Yesterday's sellout of 46,033 was the 18th straight and 26th of the season. . . . Center fielder Mike Devereaux led the American League with 41 hits in June, and was fifth in the league in average (.345). . . . Scott Fletcher's third-inning triple for the Brewers was the 19th triple at Camden Yards, matching the number hit last year at Memorial Stadium. . . . There were 12 extra-base hits in yesterday's game, including four home runs and seven doubles. . . . After a day off today, the Orioles open a stretch of 21 straight games against the Western Division tomorrow in Minnesota.
Bill Ripken matched his season-high total for home runs yesterday with his third of the year. His career totals:
Year. . . . . .. AB. ....... HR. .. .. ... AB/HR
1987. . ....... 234. . ..... 2. . .. ....... 117
1988. ......... 512. ....... 2. ............ 256
1989. ..........318. ....... 2. ............ 159
1990 . ..... ...406.. .......3. ...... . ... 135.3
1991. ......... 287. ....... 0......... ... . . --
1992. .......-x 145. ....... 3. ............ 48.3
x-through yesterday's game