Gomez big deal in O's win

April 24, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

During the off-season the Orioles committed more than $40 million to acquire Rafael Palmeiro, Sid Fernandez and Lee Smith -- and ran up a huge phone bill trying to unload Leo Gomez.

Yesterday all four were principal contributors in a 4-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners at Camden Yards. The victory was the second straight and 10th of the season for the Orioles, who matched their 1992 pace by reaching double figures in victories on the earliest date since 1969, when they did it April 21.

Making his first start of the year, Gomez dumped a single into left field with one out in the eighth inning to drive in the winning run. It was the second time in a week that the deposed third baseman played a major role in an Orioles victory. Gomez also had a key RBI double in the seventh inning of the 6-4 come-from-behind victory over the Texas Rangers last Saturday night.

Having been replaced in the lineup by Chris Sabo, another free-agent acquisition, Gomez has been the odd man out in the Orioles' scrambled infield picture.

"As soon as they signed Sabo, I thought they were going to trade me," said Gomez, who nevertheless found himself on the roster when the season started.

"I know that I have to be ready every day. I just look to see if my name's in the lineup."

The game-winning single by Gomez came off Bobby Thigpen, the second of three pitchers used by the struggling (5-11) Mariners. It came after Chris Hoiles led off the inning by muscling a single to right, Jack Voigt executed a sacrifice bunt, and Mark McLemore drew a walk.

The deciding run didn't come soon enough to give Fernandez his first American League victory, but the left-hander did more than his part. Making only his second start of the year, and first before the home crowd, Fernandez allowed only four hits and struck out eight in 7 2/3 innings.

His only costly mistakes came in the fourth inning. Greg Pirkl lofted a two-run homer to left-center field, and the last batter Fernandez faced, Ken Griffey, hit a two-out double off the right-field wall that enabled Torey Lovullo to score from first base. Lovullo had drawn the last of three walks issued by Fernandez.

Jim Poole (1-0) got pinch hitter Tino Martinez on an infield grounder to end the inning and wound up as the winning pitcher. Smith then continued his record-setting pace by recording his ninth save in as many opportunities by retiring three straight hitters in the ninth.

Thigpen (0-2) took the loss after Roger Salkeld, making his first start of the year, gave up seven hits and three runs in six innings. Palmeiro was Salkeld's major tormentor, lining a single, double and home run in three at-bats to figure in all three of the early runs.

Palmeiro's one-out double in the third preceded a single by Harold Baines, a sacrifice fly by Cal Ripken and an RBI single by Hoiles, who had been on an 0-for-12 skid.

However, the 2-0 lead lasted only until the top of the fourth.

Rich Amaral led off the inning with a walk. After getting Griffey on a fly to left and striking out Jay Buhner, Fernandez was victimized by Pirkl, whose high lazy fly drifted into the seats just -- to the left of the 364-foot sign in left-center field.

The Mariners didn't generate another threat against Fernandez until the eighth, when Lovullo was able to score from first on Griffey's double only because he was running on the pitch.

"He [Fernandez] was very impressive from the first hitter to the last," said manager Johnny Oates. "His coming out had nothing to do with the pitch count [107]. Griffey was the last hitter he was going to face, regardless.

"It turned out to be one hitter too many, but there was nothing wrong with the way he was throwing. It looked like Junior [Griffey] might have been sitting on a breaking ball and Sid tried to get a fastball past him [as he had done earlier in the game] and couldn't do it."

Griffey's double cost Fernandez his first victory, but the Orioles quickly unraveled the 3-3 tie and had a chance to break the game open in their half of the inning. Neither of the hits surrendered by Thigpen was particularly hard hit, but they found openings in the outfield.

"The pitch I threw to Gomez ran over the plate a little," said Thigpen. "I threw it, he happened to be looking for it and hit it. What else can I say?"

Left-hander Tim Davis replaced Thigpen and walked Brady Anderson to load the bases, but Jeffrey Hammonds hit a weak grounder that resulted in a force at the plate, and Palmeiro struck out on a 3-2 pitch that broke low and out of the strike zone to end the threat.

But one run was enough for Smith, who struck out Mike Blowers, got Eric Anthony on a grounder to Palmeiro and pinch-hitter Reggie Jefferson on an easy fly to left. The right-hander became the first pitcher to record nine saves in as few as 16 games and

maintained his perfect ERA -- 0.00.

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