One win good as pair of pants

SIDELIGHT

July 06, 1994|By Lori Van Lonkhuyzen | Lori Van Lonkhuyzen,Sun Staff Writer

A clue to the Orioles' recent offensive streak may be hanging in Chris Hoiles' locker.

It's in the pants.

Before the Orioles' game against Seattle last night, Hoiles meticulously checked the tag and climbed into Pair of Pants No. 1 as he headed out to batting practice and left Pair of Pants No. 2 hanging on a hook. Later on, he would come in and change to No. 2.

Pants are pants, right? So what's the difference?

"One's got BP hits and the other's got game hits," he said.

Then after explaining how a batting practice bat never is used in a game situation, Hoiles said, smiling, "No, I'm not superstitious."

Whatever the Orioles are doing right offensively probably can be summed up in a dozen or so different theories ranging from mechanics to blessed bats.

One belief is that the hitting bug is some kind of contagious disease that players are catching .

"Right now, it just seems like everybody is hitting well," Orioles manager Johnny Oates said. "I don't know how you catch it, I was immune to that. Evidently my parents had me vaccinated for it at a young age."

Then there are some theories that this offensive surge is just a lineup full of powerful hitters.

"It's a combination of things. We're playing together, the weather's getting hot and we're all getting healthy," outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds said. "This is what we were supposed to do from the beginning. It shows you the game of baseball is not an easy game."

Regarding the weather, a belief is that in warmer weather the ball carries farther.

"I just think when it's warmer, players play better," Orioles hitting coach Greg Biagini said. "It doesn't have anything to do with balls or bats. They have 200 or 300 at-bats already."

Biagini also believes the Orioles may have the better part of their season ahead of them.

"Great hitting teams don't necessarily have to hit from Day One," he said. "If you look back, the Orioles are a second-half team."

If they are a second-half team, the Orioles have gotten started a few games early. In their past eight games before last night, the Orioles had hit .316 (90-for-285) and had scored 57 runs (7.1 per game). Between June 5 and last night, the Orioles hit 49 home runs to lead the majors. Going into last night, they had won eight of their past 11.

No one has emerged as the singular star . Going into last night, Cal Ripken had driven in 61 runs and was batting .309. Hoiles had eight home runs in 18 games and leads the club with 16. Rafael Palmeiro was batting a team-leading .334.

"The more people you have hitting, the tougher it is to pitch

around them," Oates said. "If you only have one guy hitting, you can pitch around him and get to the other guys. If you have seven guys hitting, you can't pitch around all of them. You have to come get someone."

That someone has many times been third baseman Leo Gomez, who has 13 home runs (four in his last four games) and a .309 batting average.

"Right now, I'm seeing the ball pretty good and I'm trying to use the whole field," Gomez said. "I'm waiting for my pitch. When they pitch outside, you go to the right; when they pitch inside, you go left. Sometimes it's hard for pitchers and they say, 'Now what are we going to throw to Leo?' This is when they make mistakes."

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