Olson, Orioles'attack big signs of relief Key pitching backs 12-5 win over K.C.

May 01, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

In his new role, Gregg Olson looked a lot like his old self last night.

The Orioles' newly discovered offense continued its barrage in a 12-5 victory over the Kansas City Royals, but for those looking for a sign of complete recovery, it came in the eighth inning.

That's when Olson, temporarily reassigned to the role of setup man one week ago, came into a pressure-packed situation with the game on the line. The Orioles were protecting a 6-5 lead at the time, and the Royals had the potential tying run on third and lead run on first with one out.

It was the kind of situation in which Olson has thrived in his four-year career, but not in the early weeks of this season. His response to the situation could be an indication that he's ready to reclaim his role as the team's closer.

Olson struck out pinch-hitter Kevin McReynolds, who swung and missed a patented curve ball on a 2-2 pitch for the second out. Then Brent Mayne, who earlier had hit his first home run, took a fastball for a disputed third strike.

After getting a mixed greeting from the crowd of 45,915 when he entered the game, Olson received a standing ovation when he walked off the mound to a top-step dugout reception from his teammates.

Two-run singles by Brady Anderson and David Segui and a two-run double by Leo Gomez added up to the home team's biggest inning of the season in the bottom of the eighth.

That turned the game into a rout and effectively removed any remaining drama from the Orioles' third straight victory. But it didn't dull the fact that Olson claimed his fifth save (in seven opportunities) of the season.

"You have to be pumped up, because that's a no-win situation," Olson said. "With a man on third and one out, I'm basically conceding the run and trying to keep the man on first from scoring to give us a chance to win it in either the eighth or ninth inning.

"If that happens, it's a blown save, and I've failed again," Olson said. "The fact that I'd never faced McReynolds only complicated things, because I didn't know what to expect. And I had to think about Mayne, too, because he's given me some trouble [2-for-4 before last night], so there were a couple of things going through my mind."

Olson was the third reliever used by manager Johnny Oates, behind Alan Mills and Brad Pennington. It was the first time he had been in a save situation since he gave up two runs in a 3-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox on April 22.

"It didn't look to me like he was conceding a run," Oates said. "That's a tough situation to be in. I thought he did great."

Ben McDonald (2-2) pitched six innings and was the beneficiary of the third straight big run production by the Orioles, who scored 19 runs in two previous wins over the Minnesota Twins. After going 25 2/3 innings without allowing a home run (he surrendered 32 last year), McDonald gave up two last night -- a two-run blast by George Brett and a bases-empty shot by Mayne. It was the first of the season for each and the 299th of Brett's career, adding a couple of footnotes to his Hall Of Fame credentials.

Brett's homer was his 3,023 hit, tying him with Lou Brock for 15th place on the all-time list. It was also his 1,072nd extra-base hit, moving him past Mel Ott into 13th place in that category.

Kevin Appier (2-3), who struck out five of the first seven batters he faced, was the losing pitcher, giving up eight hits and six runs.

Tom Gordon was the principal victim of the Orioles' eighth-inning uprising, being charged with four runs. Rusty Meacham gave up the other two.

Gomez hit a two-run homer off Appier in the sixth inning and finished the night with four RBI.

It was the third straight game in which the Orioles had established a season-high for runs scored in a game.

The 31 runs in the past three games are the most since they scored 32 in three games against Toronto and Texas, Aug. 4-6, 1986. This from the same lineup that averaged 3.4 runs in the first 18 games.

"I said three games ago that I think we've turned the corner," Oates said.

"I don't expect to score 12 runs per game the rest of the year, nor did I expect the club to play the way it did earlier. We're going to be somewhere in between.

"All the things that were going wrong for us earlier, are now going right.

"We're getting hits and some pitching, and when they [the opposition] hit the ball hard, it's right at someone for a double play."

Mark McLemore, who is settling into his new job in right field, had another big game for the Orioles. He improved his average to .311 and extended his career-high hitting streak to seven games with two hits, scored three runs, stole a base and became only the second player in team history to walk twice in the same inning (the eighth).

But on an offensive night, the game turned on Olson's performance.

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