ANAHEIM, Calif. -- B. J. Surhoff entered last night's game against the Anaheim Angels as the American League's hottest hitter. Never mind that his scalding stretch has come at a time when the Orioles have faced a spate of left-handed pitching.
"Look back on my career and lefties really haven't bothered me," Surhoff said. "A couple years ago I had my best year against lefties. Last year wasn't quite as good (.284, three homers, 21 RBIs), but I feel fine against left-handers.
"There are certain lefties that might get you out, but there are certain right-handers that are going to get you out. I've never really been a big believer in [platooning], for me. The biggest thing I've always had is the opportunity to face left-handers. I had managers play me early in my career."
Surhoff's career home run and RBI frequency are actually better against left-handers than right-handers. However, his career average entering the season stood at .222 against left-handers and .295 against right-handers.
Surhoff began his recent power surge with a fifth-inning home run Friday against Seattle Mariners left-hander Jamie Moyer. Surhoff has three homers in his past 24 at-bats, and last night he went 2-for-4 and drove in a run with a double.
"Right now it doesn't matter whether they're lefty or righty," said manager Davey Johnson. "He's going to hit it somewhere."
Rolling, rolling, rolling
The Orioles' rotation is brandishing a combined 21-5 record, including an 18-2 mark by the Big Three of Jimmy Key, Mike Mussina and Scott Erickson. Not surprisingly, the AL East standings reflect the success or failure of the rotations. The New York Yankees' rotation is 20-6, the Toronto Blue Jays 14-9, the Detroit Tigers 11-12 and the Boston Red Sox 9-12.
Before the season, Mussina was considered the unchallenged ace. Now he has competition from Key, the major leagues' first seven-game winner, and Erickson, who has the best groundout-to-flyout ratio in the AL.
"This is the first time I've been here that I've come to the ballpark every day knowing I was going to be out on the field after the game shaking hands," said Mussina, who got Tuesday's win despite spotty location and a nonexistent curve.
"I think with all good clubs you have competition among your five starters. First you have seven or eight starters competing for five. Then you get those five starters competing for who's pitching the best. All good clubs have that," said Johnson.
The beneficiary has been a well-rested bullpen. Though Arthur Rhodes has recently been susceptible to home runs, the group has been remarkably consistent.
Hammonds declares self fit
Jeffrey Hammonds has rediscovered the joy of running without pain as his abdominal muscle pull has healed sufficiently for him to return to the lineup.
Hammonds participated in a full-tilt workout early yesterday afternoon and convinced Johnson that he is almost back to 100 percent. However, hoping to avoid a repeat of last week when Hammonds' early return resulted in an aggravated injury, Johnson said he will likely wait until tomorrow to insert him back in the lineup.
"Today's the first day I've had the feeling he could go back and do everything," said Johnson. "But you'd like to be certain before you send him back."
Murray eases past 3,000
Angels designated hitter Eddie Murray played game No. 3,000 Tuesday night against the Chicago White Sox and celebrated with two hits, a run and an RBI in an 8-7 win. Murray becomes the sixth player in history to play 3,000 games, joining Pete Rose (3,562), Carl Yastrzemski (3,308), Hank Aaron (3,298), Ty Cobb (3,033) and Stan Musial (3,026). Murray debuted in the major leagues on April 7, 1977, with the Orioles. Last night's Orioles starting pitcher, Mike Johnson, was 18 months old.
Murray, 41, ranks fourth all-time on the Orioles' games-played list. His 1,884 games trail only Brooks Robinson (2,986), Cal Ripken (2,418) and Mark Belanger (1,962). Only Ripken has hit more homers as an Oriole than Murray's 343.
Angels left fielder Garret Anderson called Murray a "good guy" who "offers a lot of good information. He's definitely seen everything once or twice."
Murray went 0-for-4 last night, and is now in a 6-for-43 slide that had dragged his average to ..236. He has 10 RBIs in 106 at-bats.
"This is a dream I've had since I was 6 years old. I had no idea it would be for this long. But when you're having fun, sometimes things have a way of going on," Murray said after reaching the milestone.
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