Berroa's stock soars against R. Johnson June trade for slugger pays postseason dividend

October 06, 1997|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

As mischievous teammates such as Arthur Rhodes drenched "The Chief" with champagne spray, he broke into a wide grin.

Geronimo Berroa was contemplating the alternative to the moment.

"It's hard on any player to get traded in the middle of the season," he said. "But if I was still with Oakland, I'd be home [in the Dominican Republic] now. This sure beats that."

Berroa, brought here in a trade for minor-league pitchers Jimmy Haynes and Mark Seaver on June 27, is known as a have-bat, will-hit player.

And, against the most intimidating pitcher in baseball, Randy Johnson, he lived up to his reputation.

Yesterday, the Orioles' right-handed designated hitter homered for the second time in the series against Johnson and also doubled and scored to climax a two-run first inning.

He is the only player who was a member of two of the three teams to beat Johnson this season. On June 24 -- when Johnson struck out 19 Athletics but lost, 4-1 -- Berroa watched Mark McGwire tag the Big Unit for a 538-foot home run and contributed a run-scoring double himself.

L That was only three days before his playing address changed.

Unlike Game 1 of the Division Series, when Johnson labored from the start, he was on his game most of the day in Game 4. That's why Berroa's output was especially noticeable.

"I pitched my butt off today," was Johnson's assessment. "I thought I pitched as good a game as I did all year. I felt I did everything I possibly could have."

"My game is hitting," said Berroa, who had two of the Orioles' seven hits off Johnson. "Everything Randy throws is hard, so you go up there looking for that, a fastball or slider close to the zone. He never changes."

In the first inning, after Jeff Reboulet shocked the crowd with his homer, Berroa doubled into the gap in right-center and scored one out later on Cal Ripken's single.

"I don't know how I hit that fastball," he said. "At that time of day, there are a lot of shadows and you can't even see the ball. I got lucky."

The home run came after Johnson had struck out the first two hitters in the fifth inning, giving Mike Mussina a more comfortable 3-1 cushion.

"It was a tremendous feeling," Berroa said. "We knew there weren't going to be many runs in this game, so that was a big one."

Initially, the trade was not popular. Berroa is not an overly skilled defensive player, and he did not hit much when he first arrived.

"Everybody was waiting for me to start hitting," he said. "But I knew if they were patient, I was going to be a factor."

On July 6, Berroa launched an 11-game hitting streak, batting .341. Then, the home runs started coming from the free swinger, who was among the league leaders with a .358 batting average against left-handers.

"I just go up there and try to hit it," Berroa said. "I can't believe one team beat Randy all those times, but we did it."

With the Mariners throwing all left-handed starters, Berroa became a central figure in the Orioles' lineup in his postseason debut. He responded with a .385 series average and saved his best for Johnson.

Slugging standoff

The Mariners hit a major-league record 264 homers this year, breaking the 1996 Orioles' record of 257. But the Orioles, who hit 68 fewer homers than the Mariners in the regular season, matched them in the Division Series, 6-6. The breakdown:

Orioles .... Game ... Inn. .. On

Berroa .... .1 ... ...5th ... ..0

Hoiles ... ..1 .... ..6th .... .0

Baines ... ..2 ..... .2nd ..... 0

Anderson .. .2 .... ..7th .... .1

Reboulet ... 4 .......1st ......0

Berroa ......4 .......5th ......0

Mariners ... Game ... Inn. ....On

E. Marinez ..1 .... ..4th .... .0

Buhner .... .1 ..... .7th ......0

Rodriguez ...1 .......9th ......0

Buhner ......3 .......9th ......0

Sorrento ....3 .......9th ......0

E. Martinez .4 .......2nd ......0

Pleading the fifth

The next time Randy Johnson faces Geronimo Berroa with two outs in the fifth inning, maybe he should walk him. Here's what happened in games 1 and 4 when the two met in that situation:

Game 1: Berroa homered to right to give Orioles 5-1 lead;

H

Game 4: Berroa homered to left to give Orioles 3-1 lead.

Pub Date: 10/06/97

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