To keep his job, Baines employs clutch hitting Orioles DH hits another key homer

August 27, 1993|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,Staff Writer

When he's up with runners on base, Harold Baines is thinking of just one thing -- his job.

"I love to hit when I see runners on base," said Baines, the Orioles designated hitter. "They brought me over to hit, and that's what I've got to do if I want to keep my job."

Baines pleased his boss yesterday, tying the game with a two-run homer in the seventh inning off California Angels left-handed reliever Ken Patterson. Baines has tied the game or put the Orioles ahead with seven of his 12 home runs, and his RBI total of 56 is fourth on the team despite having 313 at-bats.

"There's no other guy I'd like better in that situation," manager Johnny Oates said after yesterday's 9-4 victory. "His home run really picked things up for us. He's a clutch hitter and a proven professional."

Baines, 34, was acquired from the Oakland Athletics for two minor-leaguers last January. He is concerned about his job because he is signed only through this year. Baines said he loves playing near his hometown of St. Michaels, on the Eastern Shore, but also said his feelings won't determine his future with the Orioles.

"I'm happy here with the Orioles, but it's out of my hands," said Baines, who has been traded three times since 1989. "I try not to think about it. It's up to the Orioles, and what direction they want to take."

Baines' negatives include his age and his sore knees, which have relegated him to the DH role. His 87 starts this season have been at DH, and he last played in the field on Oct. 4, 1992, for Oakland.

Baines has missed 38 games this season, mostly because of his sore knees, and has not played in more than 141 in any season since 1989.

Before Baines' two-out blast yesterday, the Orioles had just 12 hits in their previous 28 2/3 innings. But one inning later, they scored five runs on four hits to earn the team's 34th come-from-behind win.

"I think when somebody gets a big hit, it relaxes the other players," Baines said.

Asked if he enjoys the role of a 14-year veteran taking the pressure off the younger players, Baines said: "No, I just want to save my job."

In his past six games, Baines is 8-for-19 and has raised his batting average to .304. His career average entering this season was .286.

Baines is batting .334 with runners on base this season, 57

points higher than his average with the bases empty. He has accomplished that statistical feat in nine of his past 10 seasons.

With two out and runners in scoring position, Baines is hitting .340 with 19 RBI in 47 at-bats. That average tops all Orioles with more than 17 at-bats in that situation.

"The idea is when runners are on second and third, pitchers throw the ball away to stay away from my power," Baines said. "You can't afford not to hit it the other way when they pitch you away 80 percent of the time."

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