Palmeiro provides just tonic for Orioles' hangover

July 18, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Orioles went about the task of cleansing the stain from one of their most crushing defeats as quickly as possible yesterday at dreary Anaheim Stadium.

The day after Lee Smith blew a save opportunity that ultimately prevented the Orioles from sweeping four games from the California Angels, Rafael Palmeiro quickly headed the damage control.

Palmeiro triggered a 15-hit day by hitting a three-run home run in the first inning and the Orioles didn't stop there, going on to defeat the Angels, 10-5, in front of 17,525 spectators who must have thought the World Cup final was blacked out locally.

Palmeiro, whose home run pitch was a 2-0 fastball delivered by starting and losing pitcher Russ Springer (2-2, 7.71), virtually won the game right there with his 18th home run and first of the three-run variety.

Orioles left-hander Jamie Moyer (4-6, 4.98) earned the victory by allowing seven hits, four walks and four runs (two earned) in 6 1/3 innings. Mark Eichhorn went the rest of the way and allowed one run.

"The best thing you can do after a tough loss like the one we had last night is get ahead early," Palmeiro said.

Get ahead early and stay ahead. This one did not require a ninth-inning appearance from Smith, the Orioles' slumping closer.

The offense, matching preseason expectations after a slow start, saw to that and the victory enabled the Orioles to stay 1 1/2 games behind the New York Yankees, who swept four games from the Seattle Mariners team that the Orioles visit tonight.

Baseball's top home run-hitting team during the past six weeks, the Orioles have homered in 27 of their past 30 games.

In their past 38 games, the Orioles have hit 62 home runs, the most in the majors since June 5.

Palmeiro, who teamed with Juan Gonzalez and Dean Palmer, and at different times Ruben Sierra and Jose Canseco, knows all about teams that hit home runs. He also knows from his experience with the Texas Rangers than it takes more than long balls to make an offense click.

"We're not just a team that lives and dies by the home run," Palmeiro said. "We've got guys who can swing the bat, hit and run. We can do a lot with the offense."

Can and have been.

The Orioles are batting .305 in their past 18 games and have had 10 or more hits in 12 of those. For the season, they are 35-7 when reaching double figures in hits.

"We have a strong lineup from one to nine," Palmeiro said. "We don't have an easy out."

Leadoff hitter Brady Anderson, batting .271, has been the toughest out of all lately. Anderson went 2-for-5, scored two runs, doubled and picked up his 26th stolen base in 27 attempts.

Anderson extended his hitting streak to 12 games and his club record of successful stolen-base attempts to 22.

In addition to front-liners Palmeiro and Anderson, the Orioles received a boost from reserves Dwight Smith and Jeff Tackett.

Tackett went 2-for-5, drove in two runs, scored one and hit his second major-league triple, a bloop just inside the right-field chalk line.

Smith (3-for-5) hit his seventh home run, off Springer, with one on in the third to give the Orioles a 5-1 lead.

California manager Marcel Lachemann was not surprised that Springer surrendered five runs in his three innings.

"He was up quite a bit in the strike zone," Lachemann said, "and you're not going to get away with that, especially against a team like the Orioles."

Since joining the Orioles in a trade with the Angels, Smith is hitting .316.

"It felt funny playing against those guys," said Smith, who went 1-for-4 in his only other start against his former teammates. "I went out with the guys at night and they were laughing at all the bats I was breaking. It's nice to get one laugh in on them for the four days."

Thanks to Mike Devereaux striking out once every 2.5 at-bats against right-handed pitching, Smith is playing more often than when he first came to the Orioles.

"The guys kidded me saying I should be in the NFL because I only play on Sundays," Smith said. "But I've always said if you give me 300 at-bats, the number at the front of my batting average is going to be a 3."

Numbers.

One night after Bo Jackson tied the game with a dramatic ninth-inning home run off Smith, Jackson was not in the lineup.

"I kick myself for not starting Bo," said Lachemann, who is finding his way as a manager. "I went with the numbers game and I should have had the big guy in there."

No kidding.

Not that there is much chance Jackson could have made five runs' worth of difference.

The Orioles concluded their season series against the Angels with an 8-4 record that could have been 9-3 but for Jackson's big hit.

Palmeiro played more than a bit part in that success.

He hit .468 with five home runs and 17 RBIs.

"He's one of the better hitters in the game and when he's seeing the ball well it doesn't matter who's pitching," Oates said. "When he gets in one of those streaks he can do a lot of damage."

Palmeiro, it seems, sees the ball best in daylight.

Under natural light, he is batting .462 with an RBI every four at-bats and a home run every 13.2 at-bats. Under the lights, he is hitting .284 with an RBI every seven at-bats and a home run every 23.6 at-bats.

It was daytime, the count was 2-0, Springer was the pitcher, Palmeiro the hitter. Palmeiro was sitting on a fastball and Springer gave him one.

Ballgame, first inning or not.

ORIOLES TONIGHT

Opponent: Seattle Mariners

Site: Kingdome, Seattle

Time: 11:05

TV/Radio: No TV/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Mike Oquist (3-2, 5.61) vs. George Glinatsis (0-0, 0.00; major-league debut)

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