Ripken pulls up to break with a little more steam Late push boosts average 14 points

Orioles notebook

July 12, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

Cal Ripken has been a little sheepish about his place in the All-Star starting lineup this year, but he finished the first half on a modest roll.

Ripken hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning of yesterday's 11-5 loss to the Chicago White Sox and went on to complete his fourth consecutive multiple-hit performance.

It will take awhile for him to raise his batting average into a respectable range, but it is beginning to look like he has figured things out at the plate. He had 10 hits in his past 23 at-bats to raise his average from .215 to .229.

"He's hitting the ball well," manager Johnny Oates said. "In Kansas City, he hit a lot of balls hard. He's hitting the ball into the seats in batting practice. I think he has been swinging the bat well for a while now."

The .215 average prompted Ripken to tell reporters last week that he might have considered withdrawing from the All-Star Game if it were not in Baltimore, but his run-production numbers are far from embarrassing. The home run yesterday was his 12th of the year, and the two RBI gave him 45 after 88 games.

Those numbers project to full-season totals of 22 home runs and 83 RBI, and that doesn't figure in the likelihood that he will swing the bat better than he did in a frustrating first half.

Hoiles still hot

Catcher Chris Hoiles had two more hits yesterday and added a run-scoring double in the eighth inning to increase his team-leading RBI total to 46. In his past 23 plate appearances, he's 9-for-19 with four home runs, 12 runs scored and 10 RBI.

Tight squeeze

The Orioles remained within 1 1/2 games of first place despite the loss, making the American League East race the tightest ever at the All-Star break. Never before in 61 All-Star breaks have four teams been bunched that tightly at the top of the standings. The fifth-place Boston Red Sox are only three games out.

The closest to this year was the 1974 AL East race, when the Red Sox, Orioles, Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees were within two games of the top spot. The Orioles won the division title that year.

Both AL races are tight. In the AL West, the top five teams are only two games apart.

Hammonds sits

Outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds was not in the starting lineup, but Oates said it had nothing to do with the health problems that bothered him in the past week.

"It was a managerial decision," Oates said. "That's the lineup that I wanted to play."

Hammonds said after the game that he was available to play, but indicated he would benefit from the three-day All-Star break. He has just gotten over the flu and still has stiffness in his shoulder.

"Put it this way: I'm looking forward to the next few days off," he said.

Comic relief

Comedian Bill Murray attended yesterday's game as a guest of pitcher Rick Sutcliffe, and spent some time assisting the play-by-play team on Home Team Sports. Before he was through, he congratulated the station on 10 years of broadcasting.

"Happy birthday HTS," he said. "You're 10 now, and I think it's about time you started picking up after yourself."

Rotation set

Oates has set his rotation for the start of the second half. Right-hander Ben McDonald will start the opener of a four-game series against the Minnesota Twins on Thursday night at Camden Yards. He'll be followed in the rotation by Sutcliffe, Mike Mussina, Fernando Valenzuela and Jamie Moyer.

Workout scheduled

The Orioles will work out late Wednesday afternoon at Oriole Park. The workout is mandatory for everyone except uniformed personnel who are involved in the All-Star Game.

"I'm having a workout, but I won't be here," said Oates, who will be an American League coach Tuesday.

All the best

The Orioles completed a run of 14 straight games against teams that were either in first place or tied for first place, going 7-7 against the Toronto Blue Jays, Kansas City Royals and White Sox.

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