Rhodes shuts down Royals in 3-2 victory Lefty goes strong 5 in first start to give O's battered staff a lift

'He's the whole package'

Alomar, Anderson RBIs spark attack

April 26, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Arthur Rhodes spent the past five years bouncing from the minors to the majors and back, his address always related to his spells of wildness. Through all the walks and the recurrent trouble with his mechanics, the Orioles clung to him.

They were rewarded for their patience last night, when Rhodes, filling in as a temporary starter, threw five shutout innings against Kansas City, beating the Royals, 3-2, and saving a beleaguered Orioles bullpen from more wear and tear.

Roberto Alomar drove in two runs and Brady Anderson extended his hitting streak to 12 games, with a single and an RBI double, to lead the Orioles' offense.

The Orioles (13-8) finished what could have been a disastrous road trip with two wins over Kansas City, and tonight they begin a nine-game homestand with a two-game lead in the AL East.

"I heard Arthur had a lot of problems," said manager Davey Johnson. "I haven't seen any problems."

Rhodes hadn't thrown more than three innings in any of his five previous appearances, and with the lefty coming back from shoulder trouble, Johnson planned to protect Rhodes and limit him to 60 to 80 pitches.

But Kent Mercker's poor start Wednesday, when the Orioles used three relievers to pitch four innings in a game in which the Orioles had 18 hits and 11 runs, made it paramount that Rhodes pitch efficiently, as well as effectively.

And he did so, on his way to his third victory, which ties Rhodes with Mike Mussina for the team lead.

"I had a good night tonight," said Rhodes, who allowed five hits, one walk and struck out four. "I just kept the ball down in the strike zone. . . . I knew our bullpen had been busy the last couple of days. I told myself to go five or six innings and help our bullpen out."

One of Kansas City's hits against the left-hander stayed in the infield, and there was one flyout in Rhodes' five innings. Translated: Only five balls left the infield against Rhodes.

"They hit about two balls hard the whole time," said pitching coach Pat Dobson. "He threw strikes, located his fastball pretty good, throwing away. If his name ever came up as a possibility in a trade, I'd say no way.

"He's a little more mature, he can handle pressure. The biggest thing is that he can throw strikes. He seems to be pretty much the whole package right now."

Rhodes got into semi-serious trouble three times, two runners reaching base in the third, fourth and fifth innings. But in each case, he bore down and made good pitches.

"You could tell he had really good velocity," said Anderson. "He threw a really good 3-2 curveball for a strike to [Joe] Vitiello, and when he can do stuff like that, he's tough."

Rhodes threw the fifth inning, his pitch count reaching 91, and was relieved by Jimmy Myers in the sixth, with the Orioles ahead 3-0.

The Royals, with their BB gun offense, pinged their way back with two runs in the seventh, but ran themselves out of something that could have been much bigger.

The first four Kansas City hitters singled off Myers to start the inning. With runners at first and second, Jose Offerman fouled off his first bunt attempt, and then in an effort to exploit the holes in the Orioles' bunt defense, Offerman swung away and lined to left.

But left fielder Mike Devereaux was positioned perfectly to make the catch, and Bip Roberts, who had taken off from second with the pitch on a hit and run, was doubled off. The inning ended when Vitiello grounded out to third.

Jesse Orosco relieved Myers and Randy Myers replaced Orosco to start the ninth, and picked up his first save since April 7.

Like Rhodes, Royals starter Julio Valera is normally a reliever; his last big-league start came on June 13, 1993. Kansas City manager Bob Boone said before the game he would be thrilled if Valera gave him five good innings. Four good innings, very satisfactory. Boone's plan was to replace Valera with left-hander Mike Magnante.

And Valera came through. He held the Orioles to two hits in the first four innings, no runner advancing past second base.

But Valera fell behind Devereaux two balls and no strikes to open the fifth inning, before Devereaux lined out hard to left. Chris Hoiles walked, and Tony Tarasco walked on four pitches.

Valera obviously was fading, and Magnante was throwing in the bullpen. The left-handed-hitting Anderson was next, Alomar behind him and the left-handed-hitting Rafael Palmeiro after that. Boone could have brought in Magnante then, to get the lefty-vs.-lefty matchup, and, more importantly, a fresh pitcher instead of a tired pitcher.

Pitching coach Bruce Kison went to the mound -- and Valera stayed in (perhaps because Anderson was 5-for-12 in his career against Magnante). Valera threw, Anderson swung and hit a liner off the facing of the Royals' bullpen in right field. Hoiles scored and Tarasco stopped at third on Anderson's double.

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