Rare blend powers O's to 3-1 win Reboulet's first homer since '95 aids 2nd win in span by Kamieniecki

Twins are held to 2 hits

Rhodes strikes out 5 as O's win fifth in row

April 16, 1997|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

The Orioles further revealed the definition of a hot team last night. Completing a two-game sweep of the Minnesota Twins with a 3-1 victory, their starting pitcher gained his second win in 19 months by combining on a two-hitter with a fail-safe bullpen. Their offensive hero, a Twins castoff, crushed his first homer in the same span.

Three weeks ago, neither Scott Kamieniecki nor Jeff Reboulet figured to serve in a starring role. Kamieniecki backed into the starting rotation because of Rocky Coppinger's sore shoulder. Reboulet, a player his manager labels "just a down-and-dirty kind of guy," had a starting gig at second base only because of Roberto Alomar's five-game suspension.

Kamieniecki came through with five innings to earn the win. Reboulet singled and homered for two RBIs against a team that last winter thought him no longer relevant to its future. Go figure.

Including their current five-game winning streak, the Orioles' 9-2 start matches their second-best ever. The win also stretches their rush of success at Camden Yards to 20-7 dating to last season, 6-0 this year.

Middle reliever Arthur Rhodes flushed out the performance with a dominant three-inning performance that included five strikeouts and served as a setup for Randy Myers' sixth save in as many opportunities with a 1-2-3 ninth.

Reboulet, 32, makes no secret of the attachment he still feels toward the Twins. He spent 11 years with the organization, five as a role player for manager Tom Kelly, before management deemed him too expensive at $375,000 and refused to tender him a contract last winter. He signed for barely half that with the Orioles, but received a chance to contend as a bonus.

"The team doesn't want you. It was nice to do something to show you've still got it," Reboulet said. "There are a lot of good players over there. It's just a situation where I had to go. The Orioles have a chance to win. That's what I wanted, a chance to win."

Said Davey Johnson: "They made a mistake letting him get away. I know Tom Kelly misses him. He told me this spring."

The Orioles have so far shown themselves able to win in many ways. True, they received a pair of bases-empty home runs last )) night. But they no longer live and die with a softball mentality.

"That's a game that maybe this team wouldn't have won last year," Kamieniecki said. "But this year, this team can find ways to win. That's what we did tonight."

Johnson well remembers the Orioles began last season 9-1 before muddling through the next four months. But barring injury, this team has more starting pitching, more depth, a more complete bullpen and a more diverse offense.

"There's a difference between this year's start and last year's," said Johnson. "Last year I was worried. We had no competition for the rotation. I had a staff of guys who would give up five runs early. This year you've got some competition for the starters."

Unsightly in spots, Kamieniecki's five-inning start kept intact a run of positive outings by the rotation. After surrendering 26 hits and a 6.57 ERA in 24 2/3 innings covering the first five games, the starters have allowed only 29 hits and a 1.76 ERA in 41 innings over the last six games.

Making only his 10th start in the last two seasons, Kamieniecki was coming off a solid six-inning outing against Kansas City six days before. He received no decision for the effort but appeared in control for most of his 101 pitches, except for Jay Bell's two-run homer.

Before a crowd of 40,196, the Orioles were staked to a quick lead from a familiar source. Designated hitter Brady Anderson led off the home first with his second homer. The drive was reminiscent of last season's barrage of 12 leadoff homers, a major-league record.

Anderson still is bothered enough by a cracked left rib that

Johnson has yet to pencil him into the outfield. However, his offensive numbers refuse to wilt.

Besides hitting in nine of 11 games, Anderson has reached base 34 times, 19 by hit, 11 on walks and four on hit by pitches. Largely because of Anderson, the Orioles have scored in the first inning in three of their last four and six of their last 10 games.

Unlike the game in Kansas City, Kamieniecki found the strike zone elusive and plate umpire Durwood Merrill frustrating. He walked Chuck Knoblauch to begin the game, but was helped by Lenny Webster throwing out Knoblauch attempting to steal third. Kamieniecki sidestepped a pair of second-inning singles -- Minnesota's only hits -- breezed through the third, then nearly came undone during a hitless fourth.

Seeking his second win since Sept. 30, 1995, Kamieniecki thought he had struck out Terry Steinbach to lead off the inning. Squeezed on a 1-2 pitch, he eventually surrendered a walk. Kamieniecki then walked Matt Lawton on five pitches and Greg Colbrunn on four, loading the bases and sending the bullpen into motion. Rhodes hustled to warm while pitching coach Ray Miller tried to settle Kamieniecki.

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