O's get back in swing, rip Tigers, 7-4 Anderson, Palmeiro, Bonilla hit homers to back Erickson

Wild-card lead up to 1 1/2

Detroit breaks O's mark for HRs allowed in year

September 14, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

DETROIT -- Enough of that tense stuff, the close games, extra innings. Their barrage of homers slowed in the three-game series against the White Sox, the Orioles needed a blowout like Bob Dole needs votes.

What an opportune time for the Orioles, who almost certainly will break the '61 Yankees' all-time record of 240 homers in a season, to play the team on the verge of breaking the record for homers allowed. What a time to play the Detroit Tigers.

In a roundabout way, the Orioles shattered one of their own records last night, hitting three homers in a 7-4 rout, and with that, Detroit passed the '87 Orioles for homers allowed. The Tigers, firmly established as one of the worst pitching staffs in major-league history, have given up 228 homers, two more than the '87 Orioles.

Orioles starter Scott Erickson (12-11) didn't give up any homers, or much of anything else, for that matter, perpetuating his September dominance; in his career, Erickson is 19-7 in September. Brady Anderson knocked his 45th homer for the Orioles, Rafael Palmeiro his 36th and Bobby Bonilla his 27th, and the Orioles need just three more to match the mark of the '61 Yankees.

"Yeah, we'd like to go down in history as the most prolific home run hitting team ever," said Palmeiro. "But it really wouldn't mean anything if we didn't make the playoffs."

The Yankees beat Toronto, 4-1, to maintain their 3 1/2 -game lead over the Orioles in the American League East race. However, Chicago lost to Boston, 9-5, and the Orioles lead the wild-card standings by 1 1/2 games.

It's the time of year, Orioles catcher Mark Parent said the other day, when you find out how hitters and pitchers adapt to each other over the course of the season. Left-hander Trever Miller made his first major-league start against the Orioles last weekend and pounded away at the corners of the plate -- fastballs in to right-handed hitters, changeups away, the same way Jamie Moyer beat the Orioles three times this year. Miller gave up only one run over six innings that game.

Last night, the Orioles' right-handed hitters made a major adjustment, looming over the inside half of the plate, so far that they easily could reach anything Miller threw on the outer half of the plate -- his changeup, for instance. They dared Miller to throw fastballs inside, and when you throw about 85-86 mph and you're facing one of the most prolific offensive clubs in history, pitching inside is a hard thing to do.

"We took away one half of the plate," said Orioles manager Davey Johnson.

Parent said, "These guys [the Orioles] have a lot of years of

experience, and they will make adjustments. I think if we had seen him another inning or two last time, we would've gotten to him."

The Orioles scored two runs in the top of the second to seize the early advantage, and with one out in the third, Roberto Alomar walked. Todd Zeile flied to center, but Palmeiro lifted a drive into the right-field stands, his 36th homer and his 131st and 132nd RBIs of the season.

With that homer, the Tigers tied the record of the '87 Orioles for homers allowed, and before Palmeiro could finish accepting high-fives in the dugout, Bonilla crushed a tremendous shot to left that cleared the wall -- in spite of a brisk crosswind whipping from left to right.

For the Orioles, it was the 15th time their hitters have bashed back-to-back homers, with the record of 16 held by the 1977 Red Sox and 1982 Milwaukee Brewers.

The Orioles were not finished toying with Miller quite yet. Anderson led off the fifth by lining a ball into the right-field stands, and after walking Zeile two batters later, Miller was gone. The Orioles adjusted well to Miller, and Erickson adjusted to the Tigers.

When Erickson pitched against the Tigers last weekend, Detroit hitters slapped his low fastballs to the opposite field for the first two innings. Parent and Erickson tried a different tack thereafter: Having played with the Tigers, Parent knew the Detroit lineup was loaded with good low-ball hitters. Erickson started throwing his fastball high in the strike zone, and no-hit the Tigers over his final 4 2/3 innings.

The Tigers slapped a couple of opposite-field singles in the first inning last night, and Parent and Erickson -- now 3-0 working as a tandem -- decided to throw inside more. It helped that Erickson was throwing his slider with more consistency, for more strikes, and he was throwing hard on a cool Midwest night. "He had great stuff," Parent said. "He had a ton of movement."

Erickson departed after seven innings, in his last start before next week's series against the Yankees, and Jesse Orosco and Alan Mills finished out the Tigers in the last two innings.

Nowhere in Tiger Stadium are out-of-town scores flashed, other than an occasional shot on the JumboTron. Johnson had no idea whether the Yankees were winning or losing. Was that hard, someone asked him after the game, not knowing?

"It's too early for that," Johnson said, and smiled, so that everybody knew that somehow, he made sure he knew all the scores.

Wild-card rules

How to determine the matchups for the first round of the American League playoffs:

The Central and West champions will have home-field advantage.

The better record of the Central and West champions will play the wild card.

If the wild card comes from the Central or West, it will play the champion not in its division.

The Central and West champions will not meet.

Scenarios

If the wild card is from the East, it would play the team with the best record between the Central and West champions. The East champion would play the other division champion.

If the wild card is from the Central, it would play the West champion. The East champion would play the Central champion.

If the wild card is from the West, it would play the Central champion. The West champ would play the East champion.

Pub Date: 9/14/96

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