High-powered Orioles lineup beats Appier with bloopers Royals ace sees no defense against run-scoring flares

April 03, 1996|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Kevin Appier yesterday stared into the face of an Orioles lineup filled with people who can drive the ball long . . . . then was beaten by a pair of pitching-wedge shots.

Two bloopers to center field by Cal Ripken knocked in the first three Orioles runs in a 4-2 Opening Day victory and left the Kansas City ace wondering what else he could have done.

"They just flared in," Appier said of Ripken's two-run, first-inning single and run-scoring, third-inning single that provided all the attack necessary for Mike Mussina and his bullpen.

"How do you defend those kind? Cal Ripken hit some well-pitched balls. I thought I was throwing well, but mostly a lot of things went their way."

The fuzzy-cheeked Royals don't figure to score any more often than in 1995, when they finished last in the American League in runs. So, their pitching staff should be involved in a lot of low-scoring, tight games.

"Cal just hit those balls off the end of the bat and hit the wind in the right spot. That cost us three right there," said veteran catcher Mike Macfarlane. "I think he broke his bat on the second one.

"Both of them came with two outs, so that hurt doubly."

Appier and Macfarlane agreed that the Orioles always have a tough lineup to contain and that it is "even tougher" with the addition of Roberto Alomar, B.J. Surhoff and Bobby Bonilla since the start of last season.

But Appier and his relievers kept the ball in the park and might have won had Mussina not had a strong outing.

The tone of the game was set in the Iron Man's first at-bat of the year. With two on and two out in the first, Ripken cued a ball into short center that handcuffed Johnny Damon, the speedy outfielder being touted as a future superstar.

"I went back and briefly to the side," said Damon. "It seemed like he had taken a good hack and I thought it was going out there farther.

"I think it was still real close; a hair faster and I'd have caught up with it. Unfortunately, I didn't read it good enough. I feel sorry for Ape [Appier]. He got the soft liner.

"You talk about Albert Belle corking the bat. I think Cal could have hollowed the bat out."

Manager Bob Boone would not fault Damon, calling the ball "a tough read with the wind, which helped pull it back. Cal hit a pitching wedge, the ball spun off and it just fooled [Damon] a little bit."

Appier was reasonably satisfied with his outing. He settled down after a 29-pitch first inning and walked only one despite going deep into a lot of counts.

"I felt a little rusty at first," said Appier, who went 11-2 to start last year and made the All-Star team before having shoulder problems. "The last three [of five] innings I got more comfortable, more in sync. The arm speed got a little better."

He wouldn't fault the wind, the Opening Day distractions or his talented center fielder.

"There are distractions wherever you pitch," said Appier, who became the club's all-time leader with his fifth straight Opening Day start. "And with Johnny, it was difficult to tell because of the wind."

Pub Date: 4/03/96

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