Going, going, gone, gone for Rangers' duo 2 HRs by Gonzalez, Palmer are first for Texas since '87 ORIOLES OPENING DAY '93

April 06, 1993|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Staff Writer

For Juan Gonzalez, his soft-spoken nature stems from not yet reaching a comfort level with the English language. For Dean Palmer, his quiet demeanor comes from having just one full season of major-league experience.

As far as the Texas Rangers are concerned, the two can keep being low-key in the clubhouse -- as long as they continue to speak loudly at the plate as they did in yesterday's 7-4 win over the Orioles.

Gonzalez and Palmer each homered twice, marking the first time since 1987 that two Rangers hit two home runs in a game. With a team that last August acquired Jose Canseco from the Oakland Athletics, the Rangers have one of the more potent lineups in baseball.

"You can not pitch around our lineup," said Kevin Kennedy, the Rangers' first-year manager. "Anybody in our lineup can hurt you."

American League pitchers may feel a lot of pain pitching to Gonzalez, Palmer and Canseco, who last year combined to hit 95 home runs. Gonzalez hit a league-leading 43 home runs, and Palmer and Canseco hit 26 each.

"Give [Texas] credit, they throw a pretty good lineup at you," said Orioles starter Rick Sutcliffe, who gave up three home runs. "I didn't make the adjustments I needed to and was constantly up [in the strike zone] the whole game."

That hurt Sutcliffe most in the third inning when, with a man on and two outs, he tried to get a 3-0 fastball past Gonzalez, who muscled it over the center-field wall. Julio Franco then singled, and Palmer showed his strength with a home run to left field that capped a five-run inning and gave the Rangers a 5-1 lead.

A three-run fifth by the Orioles cut the lead to 5-4, but in the sixth Palmer went deep again with a leadoff home run to dead center off Sutcliffe. Two innings later Gonzalez again went deep to left-center, this time off Alan Mills. The Rangers last had two home runs in the same game when Bob Brower and Pete Incaviglia did it against Cleveland on July 26, 1987.

"I hit them both hard, and I knew they were gone," said Gonzalez, who went 2-for-3 in his ninth multi-home run game.

"I felt better and better as the game went along. I don't like the cold, but it's my job. It didn't bother me."

Not much seems to bother Gonzalez, a 23-year-old native of Puerto Rico who has two full seasons behind him. In those seasons, Gonzalez produced 70 home runs and 211 runs batted with his home run crown a year ago marking a first for a Texas Ranger.

"I'm just looking to be patient and hit the ball hard," said Gonzalez, a muscular 6-foot-3, 210-pound left fielder. "We have a lot of good hitters on this team."

One good hitter who can get overlooked is Palmer, not exactly a household name, but a third baseman who has demonstrated a lot of potential in his short major-league career. Palmer placed ninth in the American League in home runs last year with 26.

Palmer, who went 2-for-4 yesterday, had his shortcomings last season. His 154 strikeouts led the majors and greatly contributed to his .229 average.

"[Palmer] has too good a stroke to hit .229," Kennedy said.

L "He's got a quick bat, and he's going to be a super player."

With Canseco (1-for-4 yesterday) batting third, Gonzalez hitting fourth and Palmer sixth, chances are this won't be the last multi-home run game by more than one Texas player this season. But Palmer said that he and his teammates can't fall into the trap of expecting too much of themselves.

"People expect us to go out and score a lot, so we have to be careful not to go out and put too much pressure on ourselves," said Palmer, 24, who is 6-2 and 195 pounds. "We have to go out and just let it happen. There were a lot of times last year where I was just going for the long ball. The attitude this year is to just hit the ball straight."

If that happens, and if the pitching holds up, the Rangers can count on being in the thick of things in the American League West.

"We play together," Gonzalez said, "and we have a good opportunity to win the division."

For the time being, Kennedy is just going to enjoy the show.

"I've never had two guys hit two home runs in a month -- my home run leader last year had 11," said Kennedy, who was dugout coach for the Montreal Expos last season after spending eight seasons managing in the Los Angeles Dodgers' minor-league system. "To see Gonzalez and Palmer have a day like that, it feels real good."

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