Orioles deliver Oates' order with a 6-4 victory

June 09, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The names remained the same, but the order in which they were arranged and the results they produced changed.

One game into manager Johnny Oates' new batting order, the Orioles are unbeaten.

Hey, when you have the second-worst offense in the league, you take comfort where you can.

The Orioles used 12 hits and a three-run seventh inning to come from behind and defeat the Kansas City Royals, 6-4, in front of 17,892 last night at Kauffman Stadium.

The rally made a winner out of reliever Alan Mills (1-2), took starter Sid Fernandez off the hook, and created a save opportunity for Lee Smith, who earned his 23rd in 25 chances with a 1-2-3 ninth.

Five players changed position in the batting order and all five drove in a run. So did Leo Gomez, naturally.

The changes: Mark McLemore moved from eighth to second, flopping with Mike Devereaux. Cal Ripken (2-for-4, home run No. 6) moved from fifth to third, bumping Rafael Palmeiro to fourth and Harold Baines to fifth.

By taking two of three from the Royals, the Orioles picked up a game in the American League East standings, moving within 3 1/2 games of the first-place Yankees and within a game of second-place Boston. This is the closest the Orioles have been to first place since May 19.

"That was the most aggressive we've looked at the plate in a long time," Oates said of the seventh inning. "We went up there with a little vinegar in our swings."

Perhaps the lineup shift had something to do with the Orioles' productive offensive night.

Then again, the Orioles won't face former teammate Bob Milacki every time out.

Milacki (0-1), seeking his first major-league win as a starter since he won for the Orioles on Sept. 1, 1992, took the loss in his third start for the Royals since being promoted from Triple-A.

Milacki pitched 6 2/3 innings and was charged with allowing five runs on nine hits, but when he turned the game and two base runners over to the bullpen, his team led 4-3.

Milacki came out after Ripken's single put runners on the corners. Left-hander Billy Brewer came on to face Palmeiro and Baines. Palmeiro's infield hit scored McLemore with the tying run and Baines' weird-hop single past second baseman Chico Lind scored Ripken with the go-ahead run.

Exit Brewer, enter right-hander Rusty Meacham. Gomez, delivering his second opposite-field hit of the night, drove home an insurance run with a double to right.

Mills, who relieved Fernandez with a runner on second and the Orioles trailing 4-3 in the sixth, tossed two shutout innings and received a boost from left-hander Jim Poole, who retired Bob Hamelin on a popup to strand two runners in the eighth with the Orioles leading by two.

Fernandez allowed six hits and four earned runs and struck out six in 5 2/3 innings.

Fernandez led 3-2 going into the sixth, but his night began to unravel after he delivered a pitch that made the count 3-and-2 to Dave Henderson, who led off the inning.

Fernandez shook his arm and stretched his fingers after the pitch and was visited by Oates and head trainer Richie Bancells. Fernandez hit his funny bone on his knee and felt numbness in his fingers.

"It's fine," Fernandez said. "I only felt it for about one hitter."

Henderson swung and missed at the next pitch after the visit for strike three, but each of the next four batters hit the ball hard. Gary Gaetti lined a single to left and Mike Macfarlane tripled to right-center, as Gaetti scored the tying run.

Hubie Brooks flied deep to left to score Macfarlane with the go-ahead run. After Greg Gagne doubled, Oates replaced Fernandez with Mills, who retired Lind.

Homering for the second night in a row, Ripken gave the Orioles a 3-1 lead by clearing the left-field fence. Ripken had not homered in consecutive games since last season, when he homered in the last game before the All-Star break to tie Ernie Banks' record for a shortstop and broke the record in the first game after the All-Star break.

Kansas City clipped the Orioles' lead to a run in the bottom of the inning and threatened to do worse. Vince Coleman reached on a leadoff walk and scored on Wally Joyner's double to the corner. Brian McRae then walked, prompting a visit to the mound by Oates.

After the brief sermon on the mound from his manager, Fernandez struck out the side in order. It started a string of 10 consecutive outs for Fernandez.

"I told Sid the only thing I know about pitching is it was hard for me to hit it," said Oates, who was filling in for pitching coach Dick Bosman last night. "And he was making it too easy on them, throwing 3-2 curveballs in the dirt. Hitting is tough. Make them swing the bat. Be aggressive."

The Orioles took a 2-1 lead in the second when Devereaux lined a two-out single to right to drive in Baines.

Devereaux moved into scoring position when Jack Voigt walked. Lind then robbed the Orioles of a run with a spectacular play at second. Brady Anderson tagged a hard grounder that Lind went to his right for and backhanded.

In the first, Anderson got the Orioles started with a leadoff triple to the corner in right. He scored on McLemore's grounder to second, but the Orioles didn't keep the lead for long.

McRae hit his third home run with two outs and the bases empty in the first, tying it 1-1.

McRae's home run to left was the 14th allowed by Fernandez, a club high.

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