Sour '95 taste gives way to vintage '96

April 14, 1996|By Ken Rosenthal

161-1.

You laugh.

The Orioles might never lose again.

A five-run deficit in the fifth inning?

A two-run deficit in the eighth?

Putty in their hands.

"I read where Pat [Gillick] feels like he wants to add a couple of things to the team," Minnesota's Paul Molitor said yesterday. "It's tough to give him any empathy.

"I don't know how much better you can get."

The Orioles are 9-1, the best record in the majors -- and no, it's not too early to get excited. Only 22 teams this century have started 9-1 -- and 10 have gone on to win a division or a pennant.

Yesterday's 7-6 victory marked the third time this season the Orioles have won a game they trailed after six innings. They faced that predicament on 58 occasions last season -- and won only six times.

Last season, this season.

Junk food, steak and lobster.

A five-game winning streak? The Orioles didn't put one together until the final five games of last season. Before that, they hadn't done it since early September 1993.

This year, it took them all of 10 games.

They lead the New York Yankees by 3 1/2 games, the Boston Red Sox by seven. The Red Sox visit Camden Yards for three games this week. By the time they leave, they could be out of the race.

161-1.

Why not?

Right now, the Orioles are the Chicago Bulls of baseball.

Not to put the pressure on Jimmy Haynes or anything, but he's the only pitcher to lose for the Orioles this season, and he starts again today.

You read it here first:

He'll throw a no-hitter.

Heck, when someone knocked Mike Mussina's cap out of his locker yesterday, Mussina reached down to the floor and flipped it right back onto the hook.

"That's how good we're going," he said, smiling.

Even with the score 6-1, everyone in the park sensed the Orioles could win. In the end, the only mystery was identifying the Orioles at the center of the unruly mob that engulfed Brady Anderson at home plate after his sudden-death homer.

"Jeffrey [Hammonds], Devo [Mike Devereaux] and [Tony] Tarasco had me wrapped up pretty good," Anderson said, offering up his teammates as if they were suspects on "NYPD Blue."

Devereaux?

"That wasn't me," he protested. "I plead the fifth. I did get a few good uppercuts in there, though."

Hammonds?

"I lit him up," he acknowledged. "I was hyped."

Any other confessions?

"I got my shots in," Bobby Bonilla said. "He deserved it. You hit the game-winner, you've got to pay the price."

Anderson said he had never hit such a homer, not even as a 3-year-old batting against his father.

"My dad used to strike me out to end the game every time," he said, smiling.

You could barely hear Anderson -- the clubhouse is a raucous place now, the music turned up loud. The Orioles are 7-0 in games decided by one or two runs. Last season -- here we go again -- they were 25-35.

Last season, this season.

Barry Manilow, Bruce Springsteen.

The Bay City Rollers, the Rolling Stones.

Here's another stat that illustrates the Orioles' sudden knack for winning. In their five games with the Twins this season, each team has scored 19 runs. Yet, the Orioles are 4-1.

They didn't tie the score yesterday until B. J. Surhoff's two-run homer off the right-field foul pole with two out in the eighth. That's right, they trailed for seven innings. Someone should get fired.

161-1.

Mussina is on a pace to win 49 games -- all right, maybe he'll win only 30. Hammonds, Surhoff and Roberto Alomar are on pace for 113 extra-base hits. Surhoff, Anderson and Rafael Palmeiro are on pace for 49 home runs.

"Me and the rest of the league," Anderson said, unimpressed. "What's Cecil [Fielder] going to hit, 148?"

No question, we're in an offensive age, but the amazing part is, the Orioles are just now starting to hit. They entered yesterday ranked first in team ERA, but only seventh in runs.

"You can contain a couple of guys on any given day," Molitor said. "But if the thunder doesn't get you, the lightning will. No one player has to feel the burden of being the man. They can spread it out."

That goes not just for the lineup, but the entire team. If the Orioles don't beat you with their offense, they'll beat you with their defense. If they don't beat you with their defense, they'll beat you with their pitching.

"They're just so well-rounded," Molitor said. "They've got speed, contact hitters and power, balance, starting pitching, a bullpen, a closer. They've got youth and experience, and they blend it."

161-1.

Actually, we'd settle for 101-61.

Last season, this season.

Paying your taxes, hitting the lottery.

Last season, this season.

"Running Scared," "Braveheart."

Pub Date: 4/14/96

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