Baines' triple helps O's run down Rangers, 6-4

April 17, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The biggest nightmare for any pitcher opposing the Orioles came to life last night at The Ballpark in Arlington.

The bases were loaded, the game was tied in the eighth inning, and Orioles manager Johnny Oates had Harold Baines at his disposal.

Ouch.

That Baines came through in the clutch to lift the Orioles to a 6-4 comeback victory over the Texas Rangers was not a surprise. Where he stopped running after hitting Tom Henke's pitch was the stunner.

Pinch hitting for designated hitter Jack Voigt, Baines delivered his first triple since April 24, 1991, when he played for the Oakland Athletics.

It ended a 394-game triple drought for Baines and continued the season-opening tear of the hitter who grows more productive the older he gets, the more worn down his knees become.

Baines' drive punctuated a four-run eighth-inning rally that gave the Orioles a 6-3 lead in a game they trailed 3-0 after six innings.

"He's the best hitter on that team," Henke said of Baines. "I had nowhere to put him. So I just went right after him. I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. It's not like we're pitching to Little Leaguers."

The hit sailed past Texas right fielder Rob Ducey, rattled around in the corner briefly and drew a throw to the plate. Baines slid into third after Rafael Palmeiro, Cal Ripken and Chris Hoiles scored ahead of him.

"I guess this ballpark's built for triples," Oates joked. "Harold hasn't stayed around this long without doing something right."

Ripken's one-out single to left had scored Brady Anderson from second to tie the score at 3. Anderson had reached on a leadoff single and took second on Mike Devereaux's sacrifice bunt.

In the bottom of the eighth, Alan Mills, relieving Jim Poole, struck out Dean Palmer on three swinging strikes to strand two runners in scoring position and preserve the Orioles' three-run lead.

Lee Smith pitched the ninth to earn his fifth save in five tries, but it took him 30 pitches to get it. Smith allowed one unearned run that came as a result of second baseman Mark McLemore's first error.

Hitting .389 with three home runs and nine RBI, Baines started each of the Orioles' first nine games. Texas started left-hander Kenny Rogers and Oates used the opportunity to let Baines rest his knees.

Rest is what winning pitcher Ben McDonald (3-0) provided the Orioles' bullpen on the night he joined teammate Mike Mussina as the only three-game winners in the American League. McDonald lasted 7 2/3 innings, allowed seven hits and three runs. He threw 115 pitches.

McDonald's effort appeared in vain until Palmeiro awakened an Orioles offense that had produced just nine runs in the previous three games by leading off the seventh with his fourth home run.

That started a two-inning span in which the Orioles scored as many runs (six) as they had the previous two games.

McDonald had taken a three-hit shutout into the sixth, but a 3-0 deficit out of it.

Jose Canseco hit his third home run, all coming against the Orioles, and second in as many nights, with one on and one out. Just before the homer the Orioles botched a rundown play that enabled David Hulse to steal third and turn Canseco's blast into a two-run homer.

One out later, Will Clark cleared the fence in right-center for his second home run.

Palmeiro's fourth home run, which bounced off the "Rafael Thanks for the Memories" sign hanging from the upper deck in right field, was his second against his former team, breaking a string of 13consecutive outs for Kenny Rogers and his close friend's shutout bid.

"I bought it and put it up there," Palmeiro joked of the sign.

Palmeiro took his time circling the bases and later said the louder the crowd booed, the more he enjoyed it.

Ripken followed with a walk, bringing Leo Gomez up for his first at-bat of the season. Gomez doubled down the left-field line to score Ripken and bring the Orioles within 3-2.

Voigt bounced to second and McLemore walked, bringing up Jeffrey Hammonds. Rangers manager Kevin Kennedy brought right-hander Cris Carpenter in from the bullpen to replace

Rogers. Wise move. Hammonds grounded to Palmer at third, who threw to second for the inning-ending force.

Through six innings, the Orioles threw as many fits as they had hits.

One.

Third baseman Chris Sabo accounted for both.

Sabo argued home plate umpire John Shulock's called third strike in such a (four-letter) way as to draw an ejection, the first of the year for the Orioles.

Sabo, who has been ejected several times in his career, also was in the middle of the Orioles' best opportunity to get to Rogers early. It came in the second, when they loaded the bases with one out. Rogers walked Hoiles, Sabo singled to left, and Rogers hit Voigt with a pitch.

McLemore, a .306 hitter with runners in scoring position for the Orioles, didn't deliver this time, grounding to short for an inning-ending double play.

Rogers, the first left-handed starter to face the Orioles, set the tone by striking out Anderson, Devereaux and Palmeiro in order in the first.

Rogers struck out Anderson twice more and got Devereaux once more, pushing Anderson's season strikeout total to 13 and Devereaux's to 15.

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