O's continue fun against Brewers, 12-2 Hammonds, Alomar, Palmeiro homer

team total now 174

Erickson goes distance

Win brings record to 7-2 on road trip

August 08, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

MILWAUKEE -- There was a time earlier this season when it was hard to tell the Orioles' lineup from a National League lineup. The bottom three hitters would come up and produce nothing and the Orioles suffered for it.

But catcher Chris Hoiles started hitting, Eddie Murray came in a trade, Jeffrey Hammonds was called up from Triple-A and suddenly the entire offense has jelled. The Orioles thrashed the Milwaukee Brewers, 12-2, last night, the seventh victory in the first nine games of the current road trip. Scott Erickson (6-10) won for the first time since July 2, throwing a complete game.

Hammonds, Roberto Alomar and Rafael Palmeiro each hit homers, in the Orioles' fifth consecutive multi-homer game. The Orioles have scored nine or more runs in six of their past nine games, and improved their club batting average from .273 to .278 on this trip.

Alomar is in the midst of a streak. So is Cal Ripken, and Bobby Bonilla and B. J. Surhoff. But they've been good all year.

The difference has been the production at the bottom of the lineup. Last night, Murray, Hoiles and Hammonds, the No. 7, No. 8 and No. 9 hitters in the Orioles' lineup, combined to go 5-for-12 with seven runs and five RBIs.

This is part of a larger trend: Hammonds has three homers in the past week, Murray drove in three runs Tuesday and scored three last night, and Hoiles has pushed his average to .245 -- his highest average since he went 1-for-3 (.333) on Opening Day.

"If you look at the bottom part of the order," said Orioles manager Davey Johnson, "with Eddie, Hoiles and Hammonds, there really isn't any let-up for us. . . . The bottom of our lineup really does some damage against left-handers."

Palmeiro said: "It's great that they're hot all together. Those guys, when they're going good, they can produce a lot of runs."

They're going good. Murray has been and probably will continue to be a steady source of production, getting his share of hits. But Hoiles and Hammonds are coming on, and the most encouraging sign for the Orioles is that each has started to drive the ball to the opposite field. Hoiles lined a single over second base in the third inning, and Hammonds -- who had trouble adjusting to off-speed pitches and breaking balls for the first three months of the season -- rammed an outside changeup to the base of the wall in right-center field following Hoiles' single, for a sacrifice fly RBI.

Hammonds has nine homers, a career high, and is hitting .250. In some ways, however, that deep drive to right may have been his best at-bat of the year, showing that he is making an adjustment.

Going to the minors, he agrees, probably helped him. "It's just a matter of playing and getting more comfortable," he said.

The Orioles are all getting comfortable on this road trip through the Midwest. They seized the high ground yesterday. Literally. Before the game, Orioles left-hander David Wells climbed into the massive beer mug that looms over center field at County Stadium, and teammates pelted him with baseballs.

Once the game began, Orioles hitters tried launching balls into the mug, as they pounded left-hander Scott Karl.

The Brewers took the lead with a run in the bottom of the first. Surhoff singled to start the second for the Orioles, and Murray grounded to shortstop Jose Valentin for what looked to be a double play. Valentin flipped to second baseman Mark Lorretta for the first out, but as Lorretta tried to throw to first, he was upended by Surhoff, and Lorretta's throw bounced in front of and then away from Kevin Seitzer, who couldn't catch the short hop. Murray hustled into second base.

What appeared to be a basic mistake became a turning point for Karl, who was forced to stay on the mound through it all and eat up innings, with Milwaukee playing a doubleheader tomorrow.

Hoiles doubled to score Murray, and Hammonds scored Hoiles by slamming his homer into the left-center field stands. Bernie Brewer, Milwaukee's mascot, sat sullenly in center field. Following Hammonds, Alomar pulled a homer inside the left-field line. Karl walked Mike Devereaux, the second walk drawn by Devereaux since July 19. Then Ripken bashed a line drive between center fielder Pat Listach and left fielder Marc Newfield, and Devereaux scored. It was the 2,499th hit of Ripken's career. Bonilla doubled home Ripken, and the game was effectively over.

Erickson, who is at his best with a lead, dominated the Brewers with his hard sinker and a handful of changeups, holding Milwaukee to 10 hits.

Johnson doesn't want to start talking about a turnaround, that maybe the Orioles are at the start of their first prolonged winning streak since early in the season. The offense is coming around, he said, and the pitching seems to be, too.

But he isn't watching the scoreboard, he says, checking for White Sox scores or Yankees scores. "I'm worrying about us," he said. "You've got to get this ship right here, and I think I'm seeing signs of it being right."

Orioles today

Opponent: Milwaukee Brewers

Site: County Stadium, Milwaukee

Time: 2: 05 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Rocky Coppinger (6-3, 5.04) vs. Brewers' Jeff D'Amico (3-4, 5.11)

Hit performance

In the past five games, the Orioles have been battering the ball, accumulating 75 hits and 12 homers. A game-by-game look:

Date .. Opp. .. H .. HR .. Result

8/3 ... Cle. . 14 ... 2 .. W 9-4

8/4 ... Cle. . 11 ... 2 .. L 14-2

8/5 ... Cle. . 21 ... 2 .. W 13-10

8/6 ... Mil. . 15 ... 3 .. W 13-3

XTC 8/7 ... Mil. . 14 ... 3 .. W 12-2

Pub Date: 8/08/96

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