Going, going Gonzalez vents frustration on O's BASEBALL

August 30, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Juan Gonzalez underwent a serious attitude adjustment Saturday night.

The Rangers' young power hitter was not in a very pleasant mood before the game, but he was a happy slugger after taking out his frustration on the Orioles. For the second time in his career, Gonzalez hit three home runs in a game, leading a five-homer barrage that carried the Rangers to an 11-1 win.

Before the game Gonzalez, along with catcher Ivan Rodriguez, exchanged words with teammate Gary Redus, who chided the pair for their late arrival at batting practice. Rodriguez yelled to Redus "go do your work," and both he and Gonzalez made their displeasure obvious.

The flare-up prompted Rangers manager Kevin Kennedy to call a pre-game team meeting. The session evidently helped clear the air -- and Gonzalez shortly thereafter began filling the atmosphere with flying baseballs.

"I didn't hear any sirens," said Orioles manager Johnny Oates. "You mean nobody got hurt by any of those things?"

Gonzalez, who refused to discuss the pre-game incident, obviously was elated after the game. He had been in a 16-for-80 (.200) slump before launching the three missiles that moved him into a tie with Ken Griffey for the major-league lead with 39 home runs.

"I've been working hard the last four or five days on my mechanics and my balance," said Gonzalez. "I've been swinging at a lot of bad pitches, but tonight [Saturday] I was seeing the ball good."

Gonzalez missed a chance to tie the major-league record of four home runs in a game when he was left in the on-deck circle as Rafael Palmeiro struck out to end the eighth inning. "I told Raffy I was mad at him," said Gonzalez, who struck out the only time he didn't hit for the distance. "But I'm happy.

"I'm not thinking about hitting four home runs, but one day I

might bump four out. I'm happy because 37,000 fans are happy and we're in a pennant race. The fans do not get too many chances to see a player hit three home runs."

The power show by Gonzalez came on the heels of a stretch in which opponents had success making him chase pitches outside the strike zone. "I didn't doubt Juan would come back and hit," said Kennedy. "When he swings at strikes, he's capable doing what he did. And that was awesome."

The Rangers' domination was so complete that they left only four runners on base. There was little the Orioles could do, other than watch in admiration.

"When they hit them that hard, you have to give the hitters credit," said Oates. "When they put 11 runs on the board it makes it awfully difficult [to come back]."

The Rangers gave Orioles starter Fernando Valenzuela an early dismissal, scoring five times in the first two innings. Reliever Kevin McGehee, who made his major-league debut against the Rangers under similar conditions last Monday, took the brunt of the homer barrage.

After Valenzuela surrendered the first home run by Gonzalez, McGehee gave up the last four of the game -- two more by Gonzalez and one each by Doug Strange and Dean Palmer.

It was the third time this year that Valenzuela was victimized by the Rangers' potent offense. The veteran left-hander lasted only six innings total in the three starts, compiling a 27.00 ERA while giving up 16 hits and 18 earned runs.

A TALE OF TWO MONTHS

After being named the American League Pitcher of the Month in July, Fernando Valenzuela has gone winless with a 13.95 ERA in his six starts in August:

Date .. .. ..Opponent .. ..Dec .. .IP .. .H .. .ER

8/2 .. .. ...Milwaukee .. ..ND .. .5 1/3 .. .7 .. ..5

8/7 .. .. ...Cleveland .. ..ND .. .3 1/3 .. .9 .. ..4

8/12 .. .. ...Detroit .. ...ND .. .. 2/3 .. .7 .. ..7

8/17 .. .. .. Seattle .. ...ND .. .7.. ...5 .. ..3

8/23 .. .. .. .Texas .. .. ..L .. .1 2/3 .. .6 .. ..7

8/27 .. .. .. .Texas .. .. ..L .. .2 .. ..5 .. ..5

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