Oquist's start is no O's relief

June 20, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

Orioles right-hander Mike Oquist was breezing so smoothly through the Minnesota Twins lineup early yesterday afternoon, it seemed as if he was in the midst of one of his quick long relief appearances.

Then the third inning arrived and served as a reminder that this indeed was an Oquist start.

The Twins scored six runs, all charged to Oquist, in the third and ripped their way to a sweep-averting, 10-4 victory over the Orioles in front of the 27th consecutive sellout crowd at Camden Yards, this one numbering 47,088.

Oquist, who retired the Twins' first six batters, didn't make it out of the third. He faced nine batters in the inning and allowed five hits and two walks.

For the day, the Twins counted five doubles and three home runs among their 15 hits.

Twins shortstop Pat Meares -- who? -- hit two of the home runs after going homerless in his first 498 major-league at-bats. Kent Hrbek hit the other.

Right fielder Chris Sabo (3-for-5) couldn't carry the Orioles' offense by himself, though he tried, hitting a two-run home run in the first off winning pitcher Pat Mahomes (7-2, 5.47) and singling in a pair of runs in the seventh, chasing Mahomes.

Mahomes scattered 12 hits and allowed four runs in six-plus innings.

On the same day Sabo completed a series in which he went 8-for-11 with eight RBIs, Leo Gomez went hitless and watched his hitting streak end at 10 games.

"We try to pick out at least one or two players who could be Player of the Week," Twins manager Tom Kelly said. "We identified Sabo and Leo Gomez as potential Players of the Week. We try to do that each series. They seem like nice fellows. And we wanted to see if we could help them get a couple of votes."

Oquist won't receive any support in the election.

How has Oquist (2-2, 5.94) pitched for the Orioles this season?

Think of his pitching appearances as Clinton brothers. His relief outings have been Bill, his starts Roger.

In four relief outings covering 16 2/3 innings, Oquist has gone 2-0 with a 1.08 ERA. In four starts also covering 16 2/3 innings, he has gone 0-2 with a 10.80 ERA.

Time to find a new fifth starter?

Not just yet, Orioles manager Johnny Oates cautioned.

"Honestly, I don't know what his best role is," Oates said. "I don't think it's right to judge a guy after four starts."

Said Oquist: "I really can't say why there has been such a difference. I try to take the same mental approach to the mound."

Oates likely will use Thursday's day off to skip his fifth starter the next turn in the rotation, though he didn't have any reason to make that decision yet yesterday.

"It's not that bad," Oquist said of missing turns. "Being the fifth starter, that's the spot you are in."

Being a long reliever, the spot you are in is coming into a game with your team trailing in the early innings, pitching, then sitting for a week or two.

Sometimes it's even hot and muggy and the ball carries as if shot from a cannon. Such were the circumstances Mark Williamson pitched under yesterday.

Williamson took over with the bases loaded and two outs in the third, with the Orioles trailing 4-2. Scott Leius singled in a pair of runs, making it 6-2.

Williamson then tossed five scoreless innings until allowing a two-out home run to Meares in the eighth.

Hrbek hit a two-run home run off left-hander Tom Bolton in the ninth, giving the Twins six home runs in two days.

"The ball flies out of here during the summer," Williamson said. "It flies."

Especially to left-center, where the fence feels closer to pitchers than the 364 feet that it is.

"I think they have the numbers backward," Williamson said, meaning it feels more like 346.

For the most part, Williamson kept the ball on the ground, limiting the Twins to one run on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings after letting two of Oquist's runners score.

"Letting the two runs in leaves a bad taste in your mouth," Williamson said. "But other than that and the home run, I felt pretty good. I felt better the longer I went."

The Orioles had opportunities to catch up, but couldn't catch a break in the third inning, when they couldn't turn a Cal Ripken double and singles from Sabo and Harold Baines into a run. After Sabo led off with a single, he was doubled off first when Rafael Palmeiro tagged a hooking line drive right into Hrbek's glove.

Sabo's two-run single in the seventh trimmed the Twins' lead to 6-4 and Baines came up with one out and two runners on, only to bounce into an inning-ending double play.

The Orioles couldn't overcome the six the Twins rolled in the second, an inning in which Oquist received no favors from his outfield defense.

Scott Leius led off with a double to left that Jeffrey Hammonds made an unsuccessful dive on. Matt Walbeck followed with a double to right that a more experienced outfielder than Sabo might have caught.

Hammonds also misplayed a ball and received an error in the three-run ninth, allowing Shane Mack to score from first on Dave McCarty's double.

The Twins ended the Orioles' seven-game day winning streak, but left town impressed.

"I still think they have the best club in the league," Hrbek said. "There are no soft spots in their lineup and they have a great pitching staff."

ORIOLES TONIGHT

Opponent: Milwaukee Brewers

Site: Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Time: 7:35

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Brewers' Bill Wegman (4-0, 3.61) vs. Orioles' Jamie Moyer (2-4, 5.49)

Tickets: Several hundred scattered singles remain, not including 183 bleacher and 275 standing-room tickets that go on sale when the gates open.

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