Orioles sluggers,Valenzuela go distance,11-3 Baines, Hoiles HRs help lefty end skid

September 15, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

BOSTON -- The Orioles didn't leave anything to chance last night, not after a discouraging loss the evening before cost them an important game in the standings.

No, this time, they hammered the Boston Red Sox until there was no doubt and scored an 11-3 victory that kept them two games off the pace in the tight American League East race.

Get out the tape measure. The Orioles have hit more home runs (74) than any other AL team since the All-Star break, but they haven't hit many that were more impressive than the two tremendous shots that carried to the outer reaches of Fenway Park last night.

Harold Baines hit a 449-foot bomb to center field in the first inning that registered as the longest home run hit in Boston this year. Chris Hoiles brought the Orioles from behind in the seventh with a drive to left that cleared the screen atop the Green Monster in left field.

They are the same two players who homered to give the Orioles a four-run lead in the series opener, but this time the rest of the club pitched in to make sure that nothing stood between starter Fernando Valenzuela and his first victory since July 23.

The Orioles built on Hoiles' 26th home run of the year to score four times in the seventh and added five in the eighth to win for the 12th time in their past 15 games.

Valenzuela went the distance and gave up three runs on eight hits to improve his record to 7-9, ending a winless streak that encompassed nine starts and lasted for nearly two months. He couldn't have picked a better time to crank up a big performance, since the Orioles were still reeling from a bullpen blowup the night before.

He allowed a run in the second inning and a two-run homer in the hTC fifth on the way to his fifth complete game of the season, outlasting Red Sox starter Danny Darwin to defeat the Red Sox for the first time in three 1993 decisions.

Reliever Todd Frohwirth warmed up for the ninth inning, but Valenzuela persuaded manager Johnny Oates to let him finish up.

"He said, 'I haven't pitched much lately, I need to stretch it out a little bit,' " Oates said. "He was talking about a couple of starts he had that didn't last more than two innings. But he has hung in there. He's making some adjustments. The league had adjusted to him and he's adjusting back."

The odds appeared to be stacked heavily in the Orioles' disfavor going into the game. Valenzuela was 0-2 against the Red Sox as well as being 0-for-August and September. Darwin was 2-0 against the Orioles and had given up just one run in 14 innings against them. But Valenzuela got his club even with a clutch performance that had to provide a big lift at a pivotal point in the stretch run.

He needed some help after a two-run home run by Mo Vaughn put the Red Sox in front in the fifth, and he got a lot of it as the Orioles scored in double figures for the second time in the last three games.

"This was nice, especially right now because each game counts a lot," Valenzuela said. "This game, coming from behind like we did, means a lot for me and for the team."

The Orioles got a handful of big performances, including a big double by newcomer Lonnie Smith in his first start since coming over in a trade last week with Pittsburgh. He hit a fly ball that bounced over the center-field fence during the four-run rally in the seventh.

Hoiles reached base four times on the home run, two singles and a walk. He raised his average to .316 and increased his RBI total to 73 with another in a string of big games.

"We're right in the middle of a pennant race and every game is a big game," Hoiles said. "Fernando did a great job -- he kept us in the game -- and the offense eventually scored some runs for him. We had a tough loss last night, so we needed to come back. It was almost a must win."

It was the second night in a row that the Orioles muscled up in the early innings, this time with the tremendous first-inning blast by Baines. He jumped on the first pitch and drove it deep into the bleacher section behind center field.

The home run was the 16th of the year and the third in three games for the veteran DH, who continues to be the steady run producer the Orioles hoped he would be when they acquired him from Oakland last winter. He also started the Orioles' attack in Monday's game with a home run in the second inning, but the club blew a four-run lead and dropped a 6-4 decision.

The Orioles nearly added a third run in the first inning off Darwin, but the inning ended when Cal Ripken was tagged out in a home-plate collision that knocked former teammate Bob Melvin out of the game. Melvin suffered a gash over his right eyebrow that required stitches.

Darwin wasn't originally scheduled to start last night. He has been hindered by a infected fingernail on the middle finger of his pitching hand, so Boston manager Butch Hobson had left-hander Frank Viola penciled into the rotation.

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