Palmeiro, O's slam Indians Wells cruises, 14-2, as 5-game skid ends

July 28, 1996|By Jason LaCanfora | Jason LaCanfora,SUN STAFF

There was joy in the Orioles' clubhouse yesterday.

Manager Davey Johnson was beaming, having spent time chatting with his mentor and former manager, Earl Weaver. Players sported post-game smiles and joked with each other. Tom Petty's Greatest Hits blared from the clubhouse speakers after the game for the first time in weeks.

No need to deadbolt the door and scold the troops. No need for starter David Wells to smash the nameplate above his locker. The Orioles had won in grand style -- Earl Weaver style.

They routed the Cleveland Indians, 14-2, behind Wells and Rafael Palmeiro's grand slam, ending a five-game losing streak and pulling back to .500 at 51-51. The 14 runs tied their season high and most came via the home run, just as Weaver would want it.

Wells, making perhaps his last start as an Oriole with the trading deadline looming, took care of everything else, cruising through 7 2/3 innings and giving Johnson the kind of comfort Jim Palmer and Mike Cuellar gave Weaver.

"It was a great day," Johnson said. "It started with the unveiling of a plaque for Earl. I really enjoyed that. Seeing Earl made my day. . . . It was refreshing to talk to him. I tried to rub up against him and get some of the magic."

Many of the 47,360 at Camden Yards arrived early to capture one last piece of Weaver's magic, standing and cheering as the Orioles celebrated the former skipper's induction next week into the Hall of Fame with a pre-game ceremony.

It didn't take long for the Orioles to elicit a similar response from the crowd. Roberto Alomar led off the bottom of the first with a double. Brady Anderson advanced him to third with a sacrifice bunt and Palmeiro walked.

Indians starter Orel Hershiser was in trouble, but he struck out Bobby Bonilla for the second out, and appeared on the cusp of pitching out of the jam.

If Hershiser had gotten Cal Ripken out, perhaps his effort would have mirrored his previous nine, in which he had compiled a 0.85 ERA. Instead, he gave a run away, allowing Alomar to score on a wild pitch.

Ripken walked and Eddie Murray singled to load the bases.

B. J. Surhoff, who went 3-for-3 with three RBIs, emptied them with a triple to center field and the Orioles had a 4-0 lead, more than enough run support for Wells on this day.

The next wave of runs came in the sixth inning.

The Orioles batted around, scoring seven times in the inning on five hits. Everyone in the lineup except Ripken and catcher Gregg Zaun reached base in the inning. Palmeiro belted his third career grand slam over the right-field scoreboard to end Hershiser's day, and Bonilla, the next batter, took Alan Embree deep to left. The lead ballooned to 11-2.

"[Hershiser] didn't have a sinker today," Indians manager Mike Hargrove said. "He just wasn't on top of his game."

Hershiser yielded a career-high 10 earned runs. In his previous 10 starts he had given up just 12 runs combined. Palmeiro's homer ended a 73-inning homerless streak for Hershiser.

"He was falling behind hitters," said Palmeiro, who went 2-for-3 with four RBIs. "His sinker wasn't as sharp as usual. He was behind all the time. He pitches very well against us. Today was the exception."

Wells was exceptional.

He threw 96 pitches (68 strikes) on just three days' rest for his seventh win of the year. The Indians nearly jumped him in the second inning by loading the bases with no outs, but Wells struck out Alvaro Espinoza and Tony Pena hit into an inning-ending, 6-4-3 double play.

The Indians scored both their runs in the third inning with a single, a triple and another single, in that order, from the top of the order. But those three hitters, Casey Candaele, Brian Giles and Manny Ramirez, were the only ones to get to Wells. They collected seven of the Indians' nine hits.

Wells said his sinker kicked in after the third inning and he gave up just three more hits before Alan Mills took over and closed out the game.

Wells trained harder than usual for this start. He ran longer and worked out more intensively to get ready in three days rather than the usual four. The Orioles are considering going to a four-man rotation, which would keep Wells in better shape.

"Actually I think it's an advantage," Wells said. "I felt like I could pitch [Friday] and usually I feel like a Mack truck hit me two days after I pitched. I think it would be a good thing to go to a four-man rotation. It can't hurt anything."

Even if the Orioles go the four-man route, Wells may not be a part of it. He's one of the few attractive commodities the team has to trade before the Wednesday night trading deadline.

"If it's my last game, it's my last game," Wells said. "This is a great club. I'm comfortable here. . . . I have no control over what happens. Whatever happens, happens."

Hits and misses

On the field: The Orioles finally found a way to stop Albert Belle. Belle went 0-for-4 yesterday and was booed heavily. He roughed up the Orioles in the first two games of the series and was 11-for-22 with six homers and 13 RBIs against the Orioles this year before yesterday.

In the dugout: Indians manager Mike Hargrove decided to stick with Orel Hershiser in the sixth inning, even after hitting Brady Anderson with the bases loaded. Rafael Palmeiro, the next batter, hit a grand slam and the Orioles ended the inning with an 11-2 lead. They began it leading 4-2.

In the clubhouse: David Wells, often a hard-luck loser, commented on the heavy run support he was given. "It was a bonus," Wells said. "It helped a lot. It made it a lot easier to pitch. Once you get through five [innings] you know you have a good chance of getting a win."

Pub Date: 7/28/96

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