Palmeiro puts light on hitting

SIDELIGHT

July 27, 1994|By Brad Snyder | Brad Snyder,Sun Staff Writer

The statistics say that Rafael Palmeiro hits better during the daytime -- his .432 average dwarfs his .283 mark for night contests.

Yesterday afternoon, Palmeiro confirmed the numbers with his 22nd home run and two singles during the Orioles' 10-4 victory over the Indians.

But Palmeiro has excelled under any conditions. "He's a good hitter," Oates said. "It doesn't matter if it's day or night or three o'clock in the morning."

Palmeiro (.335, 22 home runs, 67 RBIs) is amassing one of the finest seasons in Orioles history. His .335 average tops the club mark of .328 set by Ken Singleton in 1977.

Palmeiro said his daytime statistics do not account for his offensive success.

"I see the ball better at night, actually," Palmeiro said.

He prefers playing under the bright lights, but most of all at this ballpark.

"I feel good at this ballpark," Palmeiro said. "There are going to be places where a player is not going to feel good. This is one field I just like.

"I've always hit well here, even when I was with Texas," he said. "It just carried over."

It sure has. Palmeiro is hitting .500 with six home runs and 14 RBIs in 14 day games here and .365 overall at Camden Yards this year. His manager has seen the difference.

"I think it's a ballpark thing," Oates said.

Of late, Palmeiro has hit the ball well anywhere. He has homered in seven of the 10 games since the All-Star break and has raised his average with runners in scoring position from .286 on June 24 to .345.

For the past two seasons, July has been the cruelest month for American League pitchers who face Palmeiro.

His .426 average won him Player of the Month honors last July, and this month, Palmeiro is hitting .352 with nine home runs and 25 RBIs.

Palmeiro explains his hot streaks, which have included a club-record 24-game hitting streak this season, in much simpler JTC terms. "I just see the ball and hit the ball wherever it's pitched," said Palmeiro, who spent his All-Star break at his backyard pool in Texas with his son, Patrick Ryne. "When I get in trouble is when I try to pull everything."

He did not try to pull everything yesterday afternoon. In the third inning, the left-handed-hitting Palmeiro hit a 3-1 pitch off Albie Lopez just inside the left-field foul pole.

Palmeiro also hit an opposite-field single off Lopez the following inning. In the seventh, Palmeiro eventually pulled a pitch for a single. He hit another one foul into the right-field corner an inning later.

The Cubs, Palmeiro's original team, thought he would spend his entire career as a slap-hitting singles hitter. In 1988, they sent him to Texas in a trade involving erstwhile Rangers closer Mitch Williams. "Obviously, there were some people who misjudged me as a player," Palmeiro said. His 37 home runs and 105 RBIs last season with the Rangers proved his point.

Those numbers also landed Palmeiro a five-year, $30.5 million contract with the Orioles, giving the team its best first baseman since Eddie Murray and peace of mind to its manager.

"He's one of the best offensive players in the American League," Oates said. "He may not have the numbers of an Albert Belle, Ken Griffey or Frank Thomas, but he's in there game in, game out."

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