O's bring down curtain on Royals

April 07, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

The condition of Ben McDonald's right elbow was the Orioles' main concern coming into last night's game against Kansas City.

Coming out of it, the Orioles might have considered icing Rafael Palmeiro's left elbow. At the rate he has been making curtain calls, he is bound to develop a sore arm tipping his cap.

Backed by the power hitting of Palmeiro and Harold Baines, McDonald pitched into the seventh and earned the win as the Orioles completed a two-game sweep of the Royals, 4-2, in front of 44,778 human loudspeakers at Camden Yards.

Two games into his Orioles career, Palmeiro has hit two home runs and taken two curtain calls.

Can it get any better?

"I can do it again next time and make it three days in a row," he said. "One of these days, it'll stop. Hopefully, it won't be for a while. I'm just going to enjoy it while it lasts."

Even if it means having to tip his cap over and over, something that brushes against his understated nature.

"How can I get tired of that?" he said.

Palmeiro and Baines hit back-to-back home runs off losing pitcher David Cone in the sixth.

Even the reserved Baines acknowledged the wild applause, albeit it with a little help from a friend.

"He's kind of like me," Palmeiro said. "He's not the kind of guy who's into all that. He wasn't going out there, so I pushed him out there."

The consecutive homers off Cone gave the Orioles a 3-2 lead. Brad Pennington, Mark Eichhorn and Lee Smith provided the relief, Smith earning his second save two games into his Orioles career with a 1-2-3 ninth.

McDonald, a scratch in his final spring training start because of mild elbow tenderness, threw 98 pitches and eased concerns about his health.

He allowed eight hits, including Wally Joyner's two-run home run in the third. McDonald struck out three, and walked one before handing the ball to left-hander Pennington, who made it out of the seventh with some quick thinking by catcher Chris Hoiles.

Vince Coleman, the first batter Pennington faced, bounced into a force play and stole second.

Hoiles, charged with a passed ball, dropped Pennington's third strike to Brian McRae. By the time Hoiles retrieved the ball, it was too late to get McRae at first, but not too late to nail Coleman straying too far off third base, starting a rundown that ended the threat and the inning.

Jeffrey Hammonds lent an insurance run with his speed in the seventh. Royals reliever Stan Belinda hit Hammonds with a pitch and was replaced by Mike Magnante.

Brady Anderson greeted Magnante with a single to center. Hammonds did not stop at second, slid in ahead of the throw to third, and scored when Mike Devereaux grounded into a force out at second as Anderson broke up the double play with a hard slide.

"Until it's proven I can't play that way, I'm going to keep doing it," Hammonds said of his aggression on the bases. "If I have a chance to run, I'm going to go for it."

Orioles manager Johnny Oates had no complaints.

"There aren't too many players in the league who could have gone from first to third on that ball," Oates said.

And there isn't anybody in the league who hits Cone the way Baines does. In eight lifetime at-bats against Cone, Baines has seven hits and two home runs.

Cone took a 2-1 lead into the sixth and took a headache out of it.

Leading off the inning, Palmeiro sent Cone's 1-1 delivery deep into the right-field bleachers.

Baines sent Cone's 1-0 pitch to the left-field corner for the Orioles' first back-to-back home runs since last July 16 (Devereaux and Baines off Minnesota's Jim Deshaies).

"We tell our pitchers just stay away from the big inning," Oates said. "We may not get anything for four or five innings, but just keep us close and we'll be there at the end."

Joyner's home run gave the Royals a 2-0 lead that wasn't dented until the fifth, when Anderson singled sharply to center with two outs, scoring Mark McLemore from second.

The Orioles twice fell just short of getting to Cone early.

Leading off the second, Baines reached on a single to center. Then Baines watched Cal Ripken and Hoiles hit fly balls to the warning track, only to trot back to the dugout leaving Baines at first.

Ripken's high blast to left barely stayed in the park, backing Coleman to the wall. As a fan in the left-field seats reached his cap over the fence, apparently brushing Coleman's arm, the ball popped out of the left fielder's glove and fell to the turf.

Third-base umpire Jim Evans quickly ruled fan interference and Coleman was credited with a putout.

Hoiles, who later threw out Coleman attempting to steal second, sent McRae to the warning track for another false alarm.

Cone survived the double scare, but couldn't keep the Orioles down forever.

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