O's spread hits around to drive foes batty Johnson gets contribution from all parts of order

Sidelight

April 12, 1996|By Brad Snyder | Brad Snyder,SUN STAFF

With Peter Angelos' money and Pat Gillick's brains, the Orioles have a lineup worthy of an all-star team.

The days of the Orioles teams depending on Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray to come through in the clutch are distant memories, as foreign to many of the current Orioles as playing at Memorial Stadium.

Thus far in 1996, everyone is contributing.

"That's the way it should be," Bobby Bonilla said. "It's awesome."

With his 10th-inning single Wednesday, Rafael Palmeiro became the sixth Oriole in six victories to drive in the game-winning run. The game-winning RBI stat was scuttled several years ago because it proved meaningless in blowouts, particularly in the early innings. (Tony Tarasco's two-run home run in the second inning qualified as the GWRBI last night, for instance.)

But the Orioles are 5-0 in games won by two runs or less. Three of their seven game-winners came in the seventh inning or later.

The team's clutch hitting, manager Davey Johnson said, is a product of its offensive depth.

"You have to have that," Johnson said. "I would be real uncomfortable if you have to rely on Bonilla or Palmeiro only."

The pressure is not on the team's No. 3 and No. 4 hitters to produce every time.

"When you have guys up and down the lineup who can do it, there's less pressure," Palmeiro said.

Palmeiro was Wednesday's hero, a game that was a perfect example of getting production out of all parts of the batting order.

Jeffrey Hammonds, the No. 9 hitter, led off with a double. Brady Anderson bunted him to third. After Roberto Alomar was walked intentionally, Palmeiro drove in the game-winner.

"It makes it more of a team," Johnson said. "We feel like we can generate runs at any point in the lineup."

Before last night's game, Johnson predicted that the Orioles' hitting would only be getting better because Palmeiro (.231) and Anderson (.222) were struggling.

He proved prophetic. Anderson went 4-for-5 with two homers to lift his average to .313. Palmeiro (.241) added a homer in three at-bats and also contributed a sacrifice fly.

"Collectively, we're not swinging the bat as well as we're capable of," Johnson said before his team scored 14 runs last night.

Now they're scoring often. The Orioles already know how to spread the scoring around. In their six previous victories, they had received game-winning RBIs from Ripken, Bonilla, Tarasco, Chris Hoiles, Mike Devereaux and Palmeiro.

That's the point of having a team with a lot of depth," Anderson said. "We have a great lineup."

Anderson is the only other player besides Ripken who was on the team when Ripken and Murray were the cornerstones.

The "Eddie, Eddie" cheers that used to go up in the stands aren't needed anymore. Murray is with the Indians, and the Orioles have professional hitters at every position.

You have a lot of players in the lineup who can handle the bat," Johnson said. "In this day and age, you can't have it any other way."

Pub Date: 4/12/96

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