Ripken quietly heats up, takes over club RBI lead

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

April 29, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

ANAHEIM, CALIF — ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Just as he has been during the Orioles' quickest start since 1985, shortstop Cal Ripken quietly was right in the middle of the club's biggest offensive output of the year in Wednesday night's 13-1 rout of the California Angels.

Ripken was responsible for four of the season-high 19 hits, two of a club-record 11 extra-base hits, and one of a season-high five home runs.

He also drove in five runs, three coming on his first home run of the season in the seventh inning. Ripken expanded his RBI total to a team-best 19, and the big night put him on a pace to drive in 154 runs with only eight home runs.

"You like to get that first one out of the way," Ripken said of his home run to left off California reliever Scott Lewis. "Once you get the first one out of the way the home runs tend to come in bunches."

Ripken drove in a run with a first-inning single, singled and scored in the sixth, hit a three-run home run in the seventh and drove in a run with a double in the eighth. In doing so, he improved his batting average with runners in scoring position to .463 (11-for-24, 18 RBIs).

With last night's 1-for-4 outing, Ripken has hit safely in 11 of 12 games. He has hit .422 (19-for-45) with 15 RBIs during the stretch, raising his average from .270 to .341.

How much has the improved lineup helped him at the plate?

"It's too early to tell, too early to evaluate offensive performances in April," Ripken said. "Potentially, we have one of the better offensive ballclubs in the league, but we won't know until August and September. I'm excited about our potential."

Devereaux back and forth

Back in the lineup after missing five starts with a strained groin muscle, center fielder Mike Devereaux homered, doubled and scored two runs Wednesday.

"I didn't feel it at all," Devereaux said of the injury. "I wanted to come out strong and I needed to come out strong to get something going."

However, he went the other way last night, striking out in his first four at-bats and grounding out in the ninth to drop his average to .177.

Third baseman Chris Sabo (back soreness) was out of the lineup for the fifth time in six games. Designated hitter Harold Baines (strained groin muscle) missed his fifth consecutive start.

Rotation settling in

Arthur Rhodes and Ben McDonald pitched the team's first back-to-back complete games since Rick Sutcliffe and McDonald achieved the feat last Aug. 5 and 6.

Every starter pitched into the eighth inning the last time around the five-man rotation. Sid Fernandez extended the streak to six last night, going 8 1/3 innings for his first Orioles victory.

"Less than a week ago I was trying to figure out how I was going to get some rest for our bullpen," Orioles manager Johnny Oates said. "Now I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to get some innings for a couple of guys out there."

McDonald became the first five-game winner in the American League with a seven-hitter. He walked one, struck out four and lowered his ERA to 2.65.

Unlike last season, when he had the fourth-worst run support of any AL starter, McDonald has been backed consistently this season with an average of 7.2 runs.

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