5 HRs power Orioles past Angels, 12-8 Zeile hits 2

O's climb to 4th all time with 221 homers for season

15 in 5 games since trade

Tie for wild-card lead as Mussina wins 18th

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

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Orioles should rid themselves of uniforms and don red plaid shirts. Swing axes in the on-deck circle, instead of bats weighted down with sand-filled doughnuts. Forget the cleats and go with work boots.

Call the Hammermill paper company to be a sponsor. They all swing like lumberjacks anyway, so why not? Hitting behind the ** runner, poking the ball to the opposite field, that's what wimpy teams do. The Orioles have loaded their lineup with a bunch of heavyweights and they swing for the fences. They hit five homers last night in crushing California, 12-8, and lead the majors with 221.

Eddie Murray, who needs one more homer for 500 in his career, was not among those who hit homers last night. After Murray walked in the eighth inning, most of the fans who remained got up and left Anaheim Stadium. But those who exited missed his 3,200 hit an inning later, a solid single to right.

With the victory, the Orioles moved back into a tie for first in the wild-card race, and they're still four games behind the New York Yankees in the AL East. They've hit the fourth-most homers in major-league history, with 25 games to play. The 1961 Yankees hold the record, at 240 homers, the 1963 Twins hit 225 and the '87 Tigers hit 225.

Call the roll: Third baseman Todd Zeile, recently acquired from the Phillies, hit his first two Orioles homers. Brady Anderson bashed his 42nd of the year. Bobby Bonilla blasted his fifth homer in five days, his 24th homer of the year, and drove in his 100th run. Chris Hoiles hammered his 24th. They've hit 15 homers in their last five games, since making the trade for Zeile and Pete Incaviglia.

Timber.

Manager Davey Johnson was asked if the Orioles' bats are all corked. "It looked like it, didn't it?" said Johnson.

"The homers Zeile hit tonight, I might check [his bat]," said Anderson. "They were bullets. It's by far the best offensive team I've ever played on."

The Orioles are doing some other things well, too. The Orioles have made just one error in their last 127 innings, and Mike Mussina won his 18th game last night, the second-most in the AL, despite yielding four early runs.

But for a bunch of lumberjacks, those are mere sidelights, like sweeping out the shop or waxing the pickup. These guys are into hacking right now, and it has nothing to do with computers.

They were due for an explosion against California starter Shawn Boskie. He had won all three of his prior starts against the Orioles this year, doing an excellent job of locating his fastball. But in his 32 appearances before last night, Boskie had allowed 30 homers, tied for the third-most in the AL.

The Orioles were on a power rampage and Boskie gives up a lot of homers, and the Orioles and Angels played in a hitter-friendly park, Anaheim Stadium. All the circumstances were in place for an explosion.

And explode, the Orioles did.

But only after Johnson tinkered with his lineup. In previous games against Boskie, Johnson had tried to stack his lineup with left-handed hitters, and the Angels' right-hander dominated.

Last night, Johnson tried a different tact, supported by telling statistics.

Before last night's game, right-handed hitters had a collective .350 average against Boskie, with 16 homers in 323 at-bats. Left-handed hitters, on the other hand, had a .239 average, with 14 homers in 331 at-bats.

Seeing this, Johnson moved Zeile, who had been hitting sixth, into the second spot in the lineup. Anderson switched back into the leadoff spot, and Roberto Alomar moved down in the lineup, to third.

This way, the right-handed-hitting Zeile would break up Anderson, a left-handed hitter, and Alomar, a switch-hitter who is better from the left side.

It worked.

"Zeile hitting between Anderson and Alomar -- if another team wants to bring in a left-hander to face the Phillies' cleanup hitter, go ahead," said Johnson.

Zeile launched his first homer in the first inning, a bases-empty shot. The Angels scored three runs in the bottom of the second against Mussina to take a 3-2 lead, but Anderson unloaded on a fastball and drove it to the back of the Orioles' bullpen in right.

Zeile followed with his second homer of the game; it was the 12th time this year the Orioles have hit back-to-back homers. Boskie, thoroughly frustrated, walked around the mound shaking his head.

Bonilla homered leading off the fourth -- apparently, he doesn't need a corked bat to hit his homers -- and after Cal Ripken singled and Murray reached on an error, Boskie trudged off the field, replaced and dejected.

He allowed seven runs in three-plus innings, but the Orioles would continue their onslaught against the California relievers.

Hoiles hit a majestic shot to left off Mark Holzemer, high and long, the ball crashing 10 seats back in left-center field. The Orioles added three more runs in the eighth, after left-hander Mike Holtz walked the first three hitters of the inning.

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