Deep trouble: Rangers crush reeling Orioles Gonzalez's 3 HRs spark 11-1 romp

August 29, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Orioles may very well have left the American League's Eastern Division race here last night.

If so, they did it with a bang. Make that five bangs.

Led by Juan Gonzalez, the Rangers' homer-happy left fielder who hit three out of the park, Texas blasted five home runs and handed the Orioles a humiliating 11-1 defeat before a delighted audience of 37,008.

Fernando Valenzuela (6-9), winless in his past seven starts, was charged with the loss, but it was reliever Kevin McGehee who took the brunt of the Rangers' long-ball attack. McGehee gave up the last four home runs and was charged with six runs in his four-plus innings.

It was the second time in his brief career that the 23-year-old Gonzalez hit three home runs in a game.

A year ago Gonzalez led the American League with 43 home runs. His prolific performance last night moved him into a tie with Seattle's Ken Griffey for the major-league lead with 39 and put him on a pace to hit 49 this season.

The five home runs by the Rangers brought to 24 the number they have hit against the Orioles this year, a Texas club record against one opponent in a season.

This was the second time in less than a week that Valenzuela and McGehee have been victimized by the Rangers. They were on the receiving end of a 13-6 pounding last Monday night in Baltimore.

In addition to the three long homers by Gonzalez, Doug Strange and Dean Palmer also homered for the winners. The Rangers have won eight of 11 against the Orioles this year, including the past four.

The barrage of homers made a distinct impression on manager Johnny Oates.

"I didn't hear any sirens," he quipped. "You mean nobody got hurt on those things?"

Right-hander Roger Pavlik (9-6) allowed the Orioles only four hits in eight innings to gain credit for the victory. In losing the first two games of the three-game series that opens a nine-game road trip, the Orioles have managed only eight hits.

Already entrenched in fifth place, the Orioles drifted closer to unofficial elimination from the AL East race with last night's loss. They remain 5 1/2 games behind the first-place Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees because both lost yesterday, but now trail the third-place Detroit Tigers by 1 1/2 games and the fourth-place Boston Red Sox by a game.

If there was any consolation last night for the Orioles, it was that the defeat was swift and thorough. "They [the Rangers] are playing well and swinging the bats," said Oates.

"When they put 11 runs on the board, it makes it awfully tough. When they hit the ball that hard, you have to give the hitters credit."

"If Gonzalez keeps going like that, he might hit 700 [home runs) -- in one year."

It didn't take the Rangers long to set the tone for the game. After Valenzuela retired the first two batters, Gonzalez followed Rafael Palmeiro's single with the first of his tape-measure home runs.

An inning later, the Rangers put three more runs on the board as Valenzuela gave up a walk, two singles, a double and tossed in a wild pitch. He managed to finish the inning, but was replaced in the third by McGehee with the Rangers leading 5-0.

In three starts against the Rangers this year, all losses, Valenzuela was racked for 16 hits and 18 earned runs in six innings for a 27.00 ERA.

Gonzalez was the first batter to face McGehee, just as he was for the right-hander's major-league debut last Monday night, also in relief of Valenzuela.

On that occasion, Gonzalez was hit by a pitch. Last night he extracted a measure of revenge with a 440-foot blast deep into the left-field seats that was a preview of things to come.

Leadoff home runs were the play of the day during much of McGehee's stay on the mound. Strange led off the fourth with his sixth homer of the year and Palmer opened the sixth inning with his 28th. It was the seventh home run of the year against the Orioles for Palmer, the eighth of his career -- and the first outside of Camden Yards.

Meanwhile, the Orioles did not get a hit off Pavlik until Mike Pagliarulo doubled with two outs in the fourth. It took two more innings before they scored, three straight singles by Mark McLemore, Cal Ripken and Harold Baines producing a run.

The Rangers, however, were far from finished for the evening. Gonzalez's third home run of the game, a rocket inside the left-field foul pole, highlighted a three-run seventh inning that officially turned the game into a laugher.

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