Bill Ripken remains hot, lifts O's, 6-4 Sore third baseman gets 3 hits, 2 RBIs to help drop Tigers

Cal drives in game-winner

Rhodes wins in relief

Alomar climbs to .405

June 06, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

Bill Ripken's back was stiff when he arrived at Camden Yards yesterday, and manager Davey Johnson gave him the option of sitting out. It's your call, Johnson told Ripken.

But the chances of Bill Ripken volunteering himself out of the lineup while he was getting a rare opportunity to play and riding a hitting streak were roughly equivalent to the chances of big brother Cal taking off a day.

Bill Ripken played, back pain and all, and he had three hits and two RBIs in the Orioles' 6-4 win over the Detroit Tigers. Cal broke a 4-4 tie in the bottom of the eighth inning with a single that scored Rafael Palmeiro. Arthur Rhodes pitched two innings of hitless relief to improve his record to 6-0, and the Orioles drew to within a game of the first-place New York Yankees in the American League East.

And Roberto Alomar's assault on historical standards continued: The Orioles' second baseman had two hits in three at-bats, including his ninth homer, pushing his average to .405.

He extended his hitting streak to 19 straight games, matching his career high, set last year.

Alomar is on a pace to compile 261 hits, which would break the major-league record of 257, set by an Orioles ancestor -- George Sisler of the St. Louis Browns, in 1920.

Alomar could go hitless in his next 75 at-bats and still be hitting .300.

"I thought he was the best player in the American League the first time I saw him," said Tigers manager Buddy Bell. "Now he might be the best player in baseball."

Bill Ripken might be the happiest player in the game, since he began playing every day two weeks ago. Ripken took over for the injured B. J. Surhoff on May 21, and in 12 games is hitting .326 with eight extra-base hits, and no errors. Johnson intended to replace Ripken with Surhoff as soon as Surhoff came off the disabled list.

Surhoff was activated Sunday and immediately joined the lineup -- as the designated hitter. Bill Ripken? He's still in there, his manager riding his hot streak.

"I've been riding him pretty good," Johnson said, grinning. "That might be what the pain in his back is from. He's probably feeling spurs in his back.

"He has done great. He's played outstanding, offensively and defensively."

In playing well, Bill and Cal have aided each other in the last 10 days. With Bill doing so well at third, Johnson had less reason to follow through with his proposed plan of moving Cal to third, and with Cal suddenly hitting, Johnson had no reason to switch him from short and take Bill out of the lineup.

"It ended up good for me," Bill Ripken said. "If he had moved on, I wouldn't have had any playing time."

Bill Ripken started somewhat anxiously after replacing Surhoff, getting one hit in his first 10 at-bats. But when he saw his name in the lineup May 28, the night Johnson told Cal he would stay at short, Bill began feeling more comfortable. "I figured I was OK," Bill Ripken said. "I was on pins and needles up until then.

"It was a nice surprise [to be in the lineup]. I knew I could just go up to the plate and let it fly."

Cal hit three homers that night, Bill hit his first, and the left side of the infield has been covered by Ripkens since then -- and will be today, too. No reason to fix something that's already working.

Bill Ripken hit a bases-empty homer in the third inning, the first run of the game, and Alomar homered in the fourth, his ninth of the year. The Tigers squeaked out a run against starter David Wells in the top of the fifth, before the Orioles came back with two in the bottom half of that inning; singles by Chris Hoiles and Bill Ripken started the inning, and Alomar's run-scoring single finished it.

The Orioles took that 4-1 lead into the top of the sixth, but Detroit tied the score with three runs off Wells.

Palmeiro singled over shortstop to lead off the eighth. Tigers third baseman Travis Fryman leaped to spear a line drive by Bobby Bonilla, and then almost doubled off Palmeiro at first. Ex-Oriole Richie Lewis relieved Myers to pitch to Cal Ripken, right-handed pitcher against right-handed hitter, and Ripken ran the count to three balls and one strike.

Palmeiro broke on the 3-1 pitch, Ripken flailing at the pitch, and Palmeiro slid into second with his fourth steal. It became a big play, when Ripken rolled a single to center. After a fielder's choice and a hit batsmen, Bill Ripken broke his bat blooping a ball to short center, scoring Surhoff with the Orioles' sixth run.

"Billy's playing well, what else can you say?" Cal said afterward. "It's nice to look over and see him there. He's picked up where the team's needed it."

Playing last night did nothing to ease the pain in Bill Ripken's back. But he will play today. Every chance he gets, he will play.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Detroit Tigers

Site: Oriole Park

Time: 7: 35

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Tigers' Felipe Lira (3-4, 6.40) vs. Orioles' Jimmy Haynes 8.06)

Tickets: 2,700 remain

Pub Date: 6/06/96

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