Fernando takes Twins for stroll Scoreless streak, but not mastery, ends in 7-2 win

July 19, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

It has reached the point where the only surprise about Fernando Valenzuela comes when he allows the opposition to score.

That happened in the second inning yesterday, when the Twins ended a streak of 24 2/3 scoreless innings by the veteran left-hander. But after that it was back to a string of zeros.

Valenzuela limited the Twins to six hits, only two after the second inning, as the Orioles cruised to a 7-2 victory that kept them within a half-game of the lead in the American League East. The Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees, tied for first, both won.

It was the third complete game of the year for Valenzuela (5-7), who lowered his ERA to 3.53 in the process.

"He's not just going out there and tricking people," said Orioles manager Johnny Oates. "He's making good pitches."

Other than the second inning, when Kent Hrbek drove in the Twins' first run with a double and came around to score on ground singles by Dave McCarty and Pat Meares, Valenzuela's only trouble spots were the fourth and seventh innings. Brady Anderson took care of the first threat all by himself -- leaping above the left-field wall to take a home run from Shane Mack.

In the seventh, with the Orioles leading 4-2, Mack opened with a single and Hrbek walked.

But Lenny Webster followed with a medium-speed bouncer that Tim Hulett turned into a third-to-second double play.

"The bench got on me because I yelled 'triple play' when the ball was hit," Oates said. "[Harold] Baines said, 'Who did you think was running -- me?' "

Initially, Hulett had the same thought about Webster's grounder down the third-base line. "He had yanked a few [foul balls] down there and I thought, 'If he hits it in the right place we might get three.' But it wasn't quite hard enough and wasn't close enough to the base."

Three outs or two, the fact that Valenzuela was allowed to pitch in that situation reflected the growing confidence Oates has in him.

"It's getting to the point where I'm very comfortable with Fernando on the mound," Oates said. "I'm very confident he can get out of anything he gets into."

Valenzuela, who has pitched much better than his record indicates, has been a major factor in the Orioles' turnaround. And it has been as basic as it has been impressive.

"I'm throwing all of my pitches for strikes," he said, "and I'm just working on staying ahead of the hitters. I just want to be consistent. This comeback has been like another career for me, a second chance."

Earlier in the season he was losing because the offense wasn't producing during his starts. But the Orioles have been scoring at a consistent rate of late, and yesterday was no exception.

A single by Cal Ripken and a sacrifice fly by Jeffrey Hammonds gave the Orioles two rare first-inning runs (they have scored only 34 times in their first at-bat all year). After the Twins tied it in the second, Mike Devereaux delivered the game's big hit in the fifth inning.

Hulett opened with a single, then went to third on a two-out single by Mark McLemore, who had three hits and scored three runs. Devereaux followed with a drive that cleared Mack's head in center field, bouncing off the fence near the 410-foot sign for a triple.

In the seventh inning, the Orioles parlayed a walk to Anderson and singles by McLemore and Chris Hoiles -- plus a costly error by Hrbek at first base -- into the three runs that broke open the game.

When it was over the Orioles had their seventh win in 10 games and 29th in 41. And Valenzuela was the primary topic of conversation.

"He shut us down," said Minnesota manager Tom Kelly. "We came up with a couple of runs in the second inning, but then we couldn't do anything with him.

"He has this mystique of the screwball, but he doesn't throw strikes with that pitch. He gets you out with the 'cutter' [a fastball that breaks in on right-handed hitters]. It's a very effective pitch.

"He looks inviting to people and they get caught up in trying to hit home runs or drive the ball, when you should take it the other way," said Kelly, who was happy to be leaving Baltimore.

Yesterday's win was the third for the Orioles in the four-game series, and their fifth in six games against the Twins at Camden Yards this year.

FERNANDO'S FOUR

Fernando Valenzuela has given up just two runs in his past four starts. The breakdown:

Date.. .. ..Opp... ..Res... ..IP.. ..H .. ..ER

6/30.. .. . Tor... .W, 6-0.. ..9 .. .6 .. ...0

7/5 .. .. ..K.C. ...L, 7-1 ...6 2/3 .. .6 .. ...0

7/10 .. .. .Chi. ...W, 6-0 ...8 .. ..2 .. ...0

7/18 .. .. .Min. ...W, 7-2 ...9 .. ..6 .. ...2

SERIES BUSINESS

With yesterday's victory over the Twins, the Orioles are 10-1-2 in their 13 series since May 31. The breakdown:

Date.. .. .. .. ...Opponent .. .. .. .. ..Result

5/31-6/2 .. .. ..Athletics .. ... .. .. ..W, 2-1 ......TC 6/4-6/6 .. .. .. .Mariners ... .. .. .. ..W, 3-0

6/7-6/9 .. .. .. Athletics ... .. .. .. ..W, 3-0

6/10-6/13 .. .. ...Red Sox .. .. .. .. ...W, 3-1

6/14-6/16 .. .. ...Brewers . .. .. .. .. .W, 2-1

6/18-6/20 .. .. ...Indians .. .. .. .. .. W, 2-1

6/22-6/24 .. .. .. .Tigers .. .. .. .. .. W, 3-0

6/25-6/27 .. .. ...Yankees .. .. .. .. ...W, 2-1

6/28-6/30 .. .. .Blue Jays .. .. .. .. ...L, 1-2

7/1-7-4 .. .. ...White Sox .. .. .. .. ...T, 2-2

7/5-7/7 .. .. .. ..Royals .. .. .. .. .. .W, 2-1

7/8-7/11 .. .. ..White Sox .. .. .. .. ...T, 2-2

7/15-7/18 .. .. ...Twins .. .. .. .. .. ..W, 3-1

Total .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .30-13

ON FIRE

The Orioles are the hottest team in the major leagues since May 31. The breakdown:

Team .. .. .. .. ..Record .. .. .. ..Pct.

Orioles .. .. .. ...30-13.. .. .. .. .698

Cardinals .. .. .. .29-14.. .. .. .. .674

Giants .. .. .. .. .28-14.. .. .. .. .666

Braves .. .. .. .. .25-17.. .. .. .. .595

White Sox .. .. .. .25-18.. .. .. .. .581

Indians .. .. .. ...24-18.. .. .. .. .571

Dodgers .. .. .. ...24-19.. .. .. .. .558

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