Ripken hits one for road in rout 3 hits, 2-run HR cap amazing trip, 14-1 win

June 03, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- As a matter of courtesy, Bobby Bonilla extended Cal Ripken the option of taking the last swings in batting practice yesterday.

"Hey, you can take one more round," Bonilla told his teammate.

Ripken replied: "I don't need it."

When Ripken can say that, Bonilla told reporters after the Orioles' 14-1 thumping of the California Angels yesterday, "that's when you know [he's] locked in."

Ripken had a homer among three hits yesterday and couldn't be more locked in if he were in prison. He left Baltimore last Monday batting .250 and not knowing if manager Davey Johnson would play him at third base or shortstop on the road trip. Ripken stayed at shortstop, and in five games -- five extraordinary games -- Ripken had 11 hits in 20 at-bats, with five homers and 14 RBIs.

If not for the special circumstances of his extraordinary week, Ripken's three hits yesterday would've blended in among his teammates'. Roberto Alomar stretched his hitting streak to 17 games and improved his average to .399 by going 3-for-5. Alomar hit his eighth homer of the year, as did Ripken and Chris Hoiles. Rafael Palmeiro hit a two-run homer, his 12th, among three hits. Mike Devereaux had two hits and scored four runs, the latter a career high, and Bonilla had three hits and two RBIs.

Plus, Scott Erickson pitched eight strong innings to win in his best outing of the season.

When Johnson pulled Ripken after the sixth inning, the Orioles leading 14-0, he congratulated the shortstop for his amazing road trip, which very well could earn him AL Player of the Week honors.

"Without him," Johnson said, "we probably wouldn't have won two games."

The Orioles took two of five, Ripken driving in eight runs in the other victory. Johnson was toying with the idea of moving Ripken to third a week ago, but now that plan is on hold. Indefinitely.

"I think things happen for the best," Johnson said, alluding to the proposed move. "I don't think a player like Cal Ripken needs a wake-up call. He's just a great player."

When Ripken struggled offensively in 1990 and 1993, there were suggestions that he should sit out a game, rest, end his consecutive-games streak. What he found was that as soon as he started hitting, that sort of speculation ceased.

The proposed move to third was a different issue, but the solution is the same.

"Everything has a way of fixing itself, especially when you hit better," Ripken said yesterday. "It seems that hitting is what carries you through any controversy. It felt good to drive the ball; it felt good to contribute."

Ripken hit two homers in the Orioles' first 45 games, and he has six in the past seven games.

"Your frame of mind can fluctuate," Ripken said. "When you're swinging well, you're usually feeling confident and feeling good about yourself."

So he's feeling confident these days? "No doubt," Ripken replied.

The timing of Ripken's streak of hits and homers is interesting, but many of his teammates thought he was emerging from his power drought when the Orioles ended their last homestand.

"He was starting to swing the bat better before," said Hoiles. "I'm sure that had something to do with it."

The hits and runs that came in bunches against California lefty Jim Abbott and a couple of relievers cured a whole lot of ills. Before he doubled yesterday, Devereaux's last extra-base hit came May 9. Hoiles' last homer occurred May 17. Bonilla's last three-hit game occurred in 1995.

Somebody asked Bonilla if the big day would provide a personal boost. "Dude, when was the last time I had three hits?" Bonilla replied, grinning. "Dude, as of today, I'm sizzling. Three hits, Bobby Bo, sizzling.

"California kind of kicked our butts. We had to win at least one of those games."

The Orioles scored two in the first on Palmeiro's homer, six in the third inning, two more in the fourth and four runs in the sixth inning. Erickson, exceptional in pitching with leads last year, fired strikes with his sinking fastball (no walks) and got lots of ground balls -- a marked departure from the other Orioles starts on the road trip. In four prior games, Orioles starters allowed 29 runs in 17 innings.

Erickson became the first Orioles starter to pitch into the eighth inning since Mike Mussina on May 14.

"Needless to say, we needed that one," Johnson said. "We needed a good pitched game, and Erickson was outstanding. It was certainly a shot in the arm."

Pub Date: 6/03/96

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