Palmeiro stars in O's 8-2 rout of Blue Jays Snubbed by AL, he hits 21st HR, drives in 4 runs

Strong outing for Erickson

All-Star Anderson hits ML-best 29th HR

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

TORONTO -- If you make the All-Star team, like Brady Anderson did yesterday, your manager shakes your hands and you receive an official, written invitation from the league. If you are left off, like Rafael Palmeiro, a few embarrassed reporters stand around your locker and recite the names of those more fortunate than you.

It's a familiar drill for Palmeiro. Hit a bunch of homers, drive in a whole lot of runs, and then get lost amid the crowd of Mo Vaughns and Mark McGwires and Frank Thomases. Palmeiro wasn't happy about it, but he went out and did what he usually does. He hit a homer and drove in a whole lot of runs -- four -- accounting for half the Orioles' run production in their 8-2 victory last night over Toronto. Brady Anderson hit his league-leading 29th homer on a 3-0 pitch in the ninth inning, his third homer in three games.

Orioles manager Davey Johnson wasn't sure if back stiffness would prevent Scott Erickson from starting last night, but after heat treatment and a deep massage from trainer Richie Bancells, Erickson's back loosened and he pitched seven strong innings, improving his record to 5-6. Bobby Bonilla also homered for the Orioles, his 10th of the year and third in four games. The win assured the Orioles of at least a .500 record on the critical 10-game road trip that ends tonight.

Three years have passed since Toronto manager Cito Gaston offended Baltimore by refusing to use Mike Mussina in the bottom of the ninth of the All-Star Game at Camden Yards, and maybe this was payback. Mike Hargrove was in Cleveland when the AL All-Star reserves were announced, but unfortunately for Gaston, Palmeiro was in Toronto.

Palmeiro's expression never changed when reporters read him the list of players who were picked. He didn't bang a chair or pound a fist against his locker. There were no angry words. In fact, he cracked a joke about changing his position -- "I'm going to play second base next year" -- and seemed more disgusted that Montreal's Henry Rodriguez wasn't a part of the National League All-Star team.

Palmeiro had long since come to the conclusion he was going to be left off the team, the price for playing first base. "It happens every year, man," Palmeiro said. "I know Frank Thomas and Mo Vaughn deserve to be there.

"But if you look at my production as far as runs are concerned, I'm up there with all of them . . . Producing is the name of the game, and I feel I was up there with those guys.

"They're MVPs, and people want to see MVPs."

Johnson called Palmeiro into his office, offered his condolences and left him with this: Let's win the World Series, and then next year, when Johnson would manage the All-Star team, he would pick Palmeiro -- "even if he was hitting .250," Johnson said.

As unlikely as that is. Palmeiro is on a serious binge of homers and RBIs, and has been for quite some time now.

He drove home Cal Ripken from first with a double in the first inning, Palmeiro's 73rd RBI. Toronto tied the score with a run in the bottom of the first, but Palmeiro buried Blue Jays starter Paul Quantrill two innings later.

Catcher Chris Hoiles led off the third inning with a double, his first since May 14. Quantrill retired Roberto Alomar on a groundout and Brady Anderson on a pop-out, but walked Ripken. Palmeiro's double in the first inning had come on a fastball, and so Quantrill tried a changeup in the third. Another mistake.

Palmeiro lifted it over the right-field wall, his 21st homer and his 74th, 75th and 76th RBIs. It was the eighth time this year he drove in the eventual winning run, the most of any Orioles player.

As Palmeiro crossed home, Bonilla, the next batter, was shaking his head. "Stop it," Bonilla said. "You can't impress them any more. Just stop it."

Palmeiro's been unstoppable. Since the All-Star break of last year, he's batting .321 (194 hits in 605 at-bats), with 45 homers and 133 RBIs. More homers and more RBI than Vaughn or Thomas last year, more RBIs than Albert Belle, more, more, more.

More of everything, other than All-Star appearances.

Palmeiro said he had no thoughts of vindication when he homered off Quantrill, fired no mental darts in the direction of Cleveland. "I was just trying to help the team win," Palmeiro said. "That's the key."

He paused.

"But maybe somebody will notice I'm second in the league in RBI."

Anderson said, "Raffy is in a hard situation being a first baseman. He's clearly an All-Star-caliber first baseman, and he is every year. How many first basemen can you take?"

Bonilla, the next hitter, followed suit with a bases-empty homer, giving the Orioles a 5-1 lead. Gaston yanked Quantrill after the third, probably tired of seeing the same old thing. Quantrill has allowed 121 hits in 85 2/3 innings this year, and 44 of those hits have been for extra bases: 21 doubles, two triples, and 21 homers.

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