Orioles, Angels reach rare air in 11-homer fest

July 02, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

They tested the air quality at Camden Yards last night and found out there wasn't any air.

The hitters voiced their landslide approval by hitting a major-league record-tying 11 home runs. On the other hand, the eight pitchers who saw action rejected the conditions as unreasonable and unsuitable.

Before the night was over, nine different players hit home runs as the Orioles out-slugged the California Angels, 14-7. The onslaught stunned and delighted a capacity crowd of 47,342.

On a night when Mike Mussina recorded his 12th victory despite contributing more than any pitcher to the impromptu home run derby, Mark Eichhorn continued to look nearly invincible. Not only did the sidearming right-hander avoid the gopher-ball epidemic, but he also managed to avoid giving up a run while tidying up behind Mussina for three innings.

Surviving three innings without allowing a run last night may have been the highlight of Eichhorn's recent stretch. In his past 22 appearances he has allowed only two earned runs for an ERA of 0.47.

That won't get him any consideration for the Cy Young, but Orioles manager Johnny Oates can think of another honor. "I asked him [Eichhorn] after the game if he'd ever heard of a long reliever being nominated for the All-Star team," said Oates.

"I can't pick him, I can only nominate him. But I honestly think he deserves it."

Eichhorn retired nine of the 10 batters he faced, allowing only a ground-ball single to Chad Curtis in the eighth inning before turning the game over to Jim Poole in the ninth. Based on what had happened earlier, the four shutout innings to finish the game constituted a major accomplishment.

Five Orioles homered, with Jeffrey Hammonds connecting for his sixth and seventh home runs of the year. Rafael Palmeiro (14), Leo Gomez (10), Chris Hoiles (14) and Cal Ripken (11) also joined the hit parade.

Tim Salmon (Nos. 17 and 18) led the Angels with a pair of homers, while Curtis (6), Chili Davis (14) and Jim Edmonds (5) had bases-empty shots. All five of the Angels' home runs were allowed by Mussina (12-4), who lasted only the five innings necessary to qualify for the victory.

The win was the sixth in the past eight games for the Orioles and moved them within 3 1/2 games of the division-leading New York Yankees, who dropped a 4-3 decision to the Seattle Mariners.

After escaping with the win, Mussina likened the experience to ++ another game that features a lively ball. "Let's break open a box of Titleists and play another one," said the right-hander, who went into the game with a league-leading 2.67 ERA and saw it jump to 3.05.

"It was like a basketball game," said Mussina. "People pay to see dunks -- but you might not see 11 dunks in one basketball game."

The 11 home runs by the two teams not only set a record for Oriole Park at Camden Yards, but also matched the major-league high that had been reached seven times previously, three times in the American League.

The last time two teams hit 11 was Sept. 14, 1987, when the Toronto Blue Jays hit 10 and the Orioles one.

Curtis stood between the two teams and a record. In the fifth inning, he raced to the fence in center field and leaped high to take away a home run from Hoiles. Two innings later, Hoiles changed direction and went to left field for his homer.

Lee Smith, the Orioles' closer, who had a good vantage point from his seat in the bullpen and didn't have to contend with the prevailing elements, reiterated a claim that has been made often this year. "I told you the ball is juiced," he said. "I've been telling these guys they're going to hurt someone."

The Orioles finished the night with 13 hits, one more than the Angels. Six straight hitters in the lineup -- Chris Sabo, Palmeiro, Ripken, Gomez, Hoiles and Hammonds -- had two apiece.

Palmeiro had two walks, a sacrifice fly and four RBIs, one more than Ripken, while Sabo scored four times, once more than Hammonds and Palmeiro.

Sabo became the second Oriole to score four runs this season -- Brady Anderson did it against Oakland on April 26.

It didn't take long for the atmosphere to fail the baseball resistance test. The game's first pitch was thrown at 7:37 p.m., and the initial home run was launched about two minutes later.

After the first two hitters went out in rapid and routine fashion, Salmon hit his first homer of the evening, and 16th of the year, over the right-center field fence. It was the only home run of the inning, but Salmon set the tone for the night.

It wasn't until 10:39 p.m. that an inning passed without a ball leaving the yard. At least one home run was hit in each of the first seven innings.

The five home runs hit off Mussina were two more than he gave up in six starts during the month of June and almost half as many as the 11 he allowed in his previous 17 starts.

"It was just an unbelievable game," said Mussina, a leading candidate to start the All-Star Game a week from Tuesday. "This game is a credit to our guys, who came out swinging and outdid their guys."

And Eichhorn, who came out slinging -- and kept the ball in the park.

HOMER HAPPY

Home run records set or tied in last night's game between the Orioles and Angels:

* Most home runs by both clubs, major leagues: 11 (ties record, now accomplished eight times)

* Most home runs by Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards: 6 (old record: 5, vs. Seattle 5/1/92 and vs. California 8/26/92)

* Most home runs by opponent at Oriole Park at Camden Yards: 5 (old record: 4, on several occasions)

* Most home runs by both clubs at Oriole Park at Camden Yards: 11 (old record: 7, vs. Oakland 9/12/93)

ORIOLES TONIGHT

Opponent: California Angels

Site: Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Time: 7:05

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

Starters: Angels' Mark Langston (4-4, 5.28) vs. Orioles' Ben McDonald (10-5, 4.92)

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

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