Gonzalez hates to be going, gone He praises Oriole Park after 4-homer spree

Sidelight

June 01, 1998|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Juan Gonzalez lived the dream of every home run hitter this weekend at Camden Yards.

Every time he walked up to the plate, the conditions were perfect for smashing the ball into the seats and wreaking havoc on the Orioles.

"I could see the ball great, the weather was nice and hot, the wind was blowing out," said Gonzalez, who is making a shambles of the American League RBI race with 71 just one-third of the way through the season. "And it's a great ballpark to hit in. I don't want to leave. Who knows how many homers I'd hit if I played here all the time? I've always loved to hit in this park under any circumstances."

The Orioles certainly have a clue to the kind of destruction Gonzalez is capable of in their ballpark after a two-day slugfest yesterday and Saturday.

He bashed Baltimore into submission in those two games with a power show that resulted in four home runs, nine RBIs, one single and five strikeouts in 10 at-bats.

Talk about a way to ruin a once-promising weekend for the Orioles and gain a four-game split for the American League West leaders.

"To win both games while I'm hitting all those home runs makes it all that much better," said Gonzalez. "Making today's game completely perfect was playing in the day here."

Texas manager Johnny Oates said of the amazing 71 RBIs racked up by Gonzalez, "It's unreal. But we're seeing a lot of things we haven't seen in baseball before. Mark McGwire has 27 home runs already and nobody has seen that before."

Oates said Gonzalez and McGwire are on such a tear that "people might start walking them with the bases loaded or maybe from the on-deck circle. But you can't do that, can you?"

The big strike in the two days for Gonzalez came in the third inning yesterday when he hit a grand slam on a towering fly ball to left that just eluded a leaping B. J. Surhoff.

The ball traveled only 354 feet but prompted Oates to compare Gonzalez's raw power to that of some former greats.

"At first I didn't think it had a chance to go out," said Oates. "But I know Juan can fool you in the outfield because he hits underneath the ball and it carries a long way, especially in the wind. His swing reminds me a lot of Reggie Jackson and Mike Schmidt. You always see guys catching the ball over their shoulders when those guys hit it because it has extra carry on it."

Oates said the Gonzalez slam would not have "been a home run in Arlington, but we weren't playing there today."

Gonzalez came back in the ninth inning yesterday to hit a bases-empty home run off Armando Benitez, giving him six career multi-home run games against the Orioles.

Four of those homer binges have come at Camden Yards.

The six multi-homer performances against Baltimore are part of 30 in Gonzalez's career and are the most against any team.

"It's not that I'm pumped up any more for the Orioles," said Gonzalez, who has 17 home runs this season and is hitting .316. "It's because of this great ballpark."

Juan big swinger

For Texas right fielder Juan Gonzalez, it was all or nothing the past two games against the Orioles, with four home runs and five strikeouts. His nine RBIs lifted his major-league-leading total to 71; Mark McGwire has 68 but Gonzalez's nearest AL pursuers are 24 behind. A look at Gonzalez's past two days:

Saturday

Inn. Pitcher .......... Result

2nd Munoz ............. Bases-empty HR

3rd Munoz ............. Three-run HR

5th Rhodes ............ Strikeout

7th Rhodes ............ Strikeout

9th Charlton .......... Singled

Sunday

1st Erickson .......... Strikeout

3rd Erickson .......... Grand slam

5th Erickson .......... Strikeout

7th Erickson .......... Strikeout

9th Benitez ........... Bases-empty HR

Pub Date: 6/01/98

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