Wells-Parent battery charges win O's lefty, new catcher hit it off to top A's, 3-1, widen wild-card lead

Bonilla raps 2-run double

Pounded in Oakland, Wells adjusts well

August 28, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

For a guy who doesn't like the small dimensions of Camden Yards, David Wells has done a heck of a lot of good pitching at home.

Wells, collaborating with new catcher Mark Parent, held Oakland to six hits and a run over 7 1/3 innings and beat the Athletics, 3-1, before 43,641. Bobby Bonilla broke a 1-1 tie in the sixth inning with a two-run double, and coupled with Chicago's 4-2 loss to Milwaukee, the Orioles moved 1 1/2 games ahead of the field in the wild-card race.

Wells became the second Orioles pitcher to win 10 games this year, and six of his wins have come at home. Wells has a 3.66 ERA in Camden Yards, compared to a 6.32 ERA on the road. The last time he faced Oakland, Aug. 18, he allowed seven runs in one inning.

"If that happens," Wells said, "you try to learn from what you did wrong and make adjustments."

And adjust he did. "This time," said Orioles manager Davey Johnson, "he was completely dominating. He made some great pitches to [Mark] McGwire."

Wells, nearing 120 pitches and bothered by a stiff lower back, was replaced with one out in the eighth and a runner on first. Alan Mills took over and struck out Scott Brosius. Oakland first baseman McGwire, the Hercules of the major leagues, drove a slider to deep left, and as the ball left the bat, it appeared McGwire had tied the game. But Orioles left fielder Mike Devereaux caught the ball just in front of the left-field wall. Mills went into the dugout suppressing a small grin.

When McGwire's ball left the bat, Wells joked later, "I went on my kneecaps in the dugout."

The win was the Orioles' 19th in 28 games. The Orioles are 9-3 against the A's this season.

The first meeting of pitcher and catcher is like any first meeting between two people. They may dislike each other and passively resist the other. They may not care either way, merely co-existing. Or they might get along great, instant rapport.

Wells and new catcher Parent, the latter signed yesterday, worked together as if they've known each other for years. Parent would call for a pitch, and in spite of his huge 6-foot-4 frame, he would set a low target and Wells would acknowledge the call and rock back and fire. Wells didn't step off the rubber or shake off signs or delay the game unnecessarily, trying to get in sync with his new catcher. He just reacted.

Johnson said: "He caught a [heck] of a game. He really worked well with David, and David isn't always the easiest human being in the world to deal with -- I know, from firsthand experience."

Wells said: "He called a good game. He's a big target back there."

The Orioles' games have averaged 3 hours and 10 minutes this year, a lot of that due to their own offensive firepower, some of it due to struggling pitchers -- and some of it because, at times, their pitchers haven't worked quickly. Wells did last night: The Orioles and Athletics played the first six innings in 1 hour and 45 minutes, mind-boggling, in light of all the marathons in which the Orioles have participated this year.

Tony Batista doubled to open the game for Oakland, but Wells and his defense prevented Batista from scoring. Wells fielded a chopper back to the mound and held Batista, then retired Brosius on a liner to second. McGwire bounced a single into the shortstop hole, but Cal Ripken reached out and gloved the ball; by keeping the ball in the infield, Ripken kept Batista from rounding third and scoring. Terry Steinbach flied out to end the inning.

Steinbach tripled with two out in the fourth, the ball ricocheting off the right-field scoreboard. Wells pitched out of trouble there, too, by retiring Matt Stairs on a grounder to short.

Wells made his only big mistake in the fifth inning, when he hung a changeup to right fielder Brian Lesher; Lesher, a strong and rangy player, blasted his first career homer to left.

Wells fell behind in the count to the next hitter, Ernie Young, two balls and no strikes, and Parent went to the mound to settle down his pitcher. Wells came back to strike out Young -- the first of eight straight hitters that Wells retired.

That bought enough time for the Orioles to put together some runs against Ariel Prieto.

Ripken, who walked in the 10th inning with the bases loaded to force in the winning run in Monday night's wild 12-11 win, doubled leading off the second inning last night, pulling a liner into the left-field corner.

Then the Orioles played "little ball," doing little things that score runs. B. J. Surhoff pulled a grounder to second, enabling Ripken to move to third with only one out. Eddie Murray, still two homers shy of 500, drove a high fly to short right, and Ripken slid home, a step or two ahead of Lesher's throw.

One out into the sixth, with the score tied 1-1, Orioles second baseman Roberto Alomar singled. After Brady Anderson grounded out and Alomar moved to second, Rafael Palmeiro walked. Bonilla walked to the plate with seven hits in his last 14 at-bats with runners in scoring position, and the streak continued. Bonilla slammed a ball off the scoreboard in right, and by the time Lesher retrieved the ball, he was too late to stop Alomar and Palmeiro from scoring. They were the 91st and 92nd RBIs of the year for Bonilla, who ranks second behind Palmeiro (119) in that category with the Orioles. Over his last 81 games, Bonilla has 64 RBIs.

The Orioles loaded the bases with nobody out in the seventh inning, but couldn't score, as Devereaux flied out and Prieto struck out Alomar and Anderson.

Pub Date: 8/28/96

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