Alomar, Ripken and Palmeiro do their parts O's 2nd baseman homers, gets 3 hits to earn MVP

July 08, 1998|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

DENVER -- Roberto Alomar spent a good portion of his two days here answering questions about his pending free agency and the Orioles' disappointing first half. Last night, in the 69th All-Star Game, he was left alone to play baseball.

Only for a short time, though. Alomar didn't exactly thin out the crowd at his locker, but at least the topic of conversation was more to his liking.

Making his ninth appearance in an All-Star Game, Alomar went 3-for-4 with a home run and a walk and was named MVP in the American League's 13-8 victory over the National League before 51,267, the largest crowd to watch a game at Coors Field.

"I was surprised. I didn't come here to win an MVP," Alomar said. "I came here to play baseball and have fun and try my best to help the team win. It's a great surprise.

"I was surprised I played eight innings, but I was ready for it."

Cal Ripken, in his record 15th consecutive start, had a two-run double in four trips before leaving after the sixth inning. The Orioles' other representative, Rafael Palmeiro, singled and scored in the eighth and had an RBI single in the ninth, making the most of being named a replacement for injured Mo Vaughn.

The Orioles' six hits were the most by teammates in an All-Star game since Cincinnati had seven in 1976.

Facing Atlanta's Greg Maddux in the first, Alomar beat out a bunt. Given the green light, he twice tried to steal on pitches that were fouled off. His third attempt kept the AL out of the double play on a bouncer back to the mound by Juan Gonzalez, but the effort was wasted when Maddux escaped a bases-loaded jam.

Left-hander Tom Glavine replaced his Atlanta teammate in the third inning. Hitting from the right side, Alomar popped up a 2-2 pitch with Kenny Lofton on first and none out. He walked in the AL's four-run fourth before Glavine was replaced by former Oriole Kevin Brown, and singled off Craig Biggio's glove leading off the sixth inning for his sixth All-Star hit in 23 at-bats.

Alomar also stole third base as part of a double steal with Jim Thome batting in the sixth, and scored the tying run on a passed ball. He now has five stolen bases in All-Star competition, one shy of Willie Mays' record.

Taking another shot at the thin Denver air in the seventh, Alomar worked the count full against San Diego's Trevor Hoffman before pulling a 375-foot homer into the seats in right field. It was Alomar's second All-Star homer.

"I'm going to give it to my mom," Roberto said about his trophy. "I think she's the one who deserves it. When we were young, she used to take us to the ballpark. Without her, we wouldn't be here."

Marie Alomar watched the game back home in Puerto Rico along with Sandy Sr., a major-leaguer from 1964-78. Sandy Jr., whose All-Star Most Valuable Player trophy is sitting near a gift shop in Jacobs Field, wasn't sure their mom had the space for yet another award.

"She doesn't have a lot of room," he said. "There's a lot of trophies at my mom's house -- from Little League, from American Legion, from early in our minor-league careers. She doesn't want them anymore."

As for his pending free agency, Sandy said: "I'm happy where I am. It's always been a dream to play on the same team as my brother, but we don't know what's going to happen."

Ripken, whose .258 average was the lowest among the All-Stars, had his own moment. He doubled off the right-field wall against Glavine in the fourth inning, bringing in two runs and erasing the NL's 2-0 lead. He then came home on a bases-loaded walk to Ken Griffey.

Ripken had hit into a double play against Maddux in the second inning, chasing the first pitch and sending a soft one-hopper to Biggio. Up again with two on and none out in the fourth, he reached for a pitch off the plate and missed a home run by about a foot, the ball hitting just below the yellow stripe in the right-field corner.

Rather than get his second All-Star home run, Ripken settled for his 11th hit -- tying Steve Garvey for 10th all-time in the midsummer classic -- and fifth and sixth RBIs.

"I expected the ball to kind of curve away. Maybe it's the light air here in Colorado. The ball kind of stayed straight," he said.

In the field, Alomar turned a double play in the second inning that wiped out Barry Bonds, who had drawn a leadoff walk. But in the third, after the NL loaded the bases with one out, Tony Gwynn sent a grounder toward the middle that kicked off the heel of Alomar's glove as he attempted a lunging, backhanded stop. The ball rolled into shallow center field and two runs scored.

Appearing to be a crucial play at the time, it became insignificant later, thanks in large part to Alomar, who was starting for the eighth straight year.

Earlier in the third inning, Ripken had charged Glavine's sacrifice bunt and thrown him out. He also caught a pop-up along the line from Larry Walker with runners on the corners and none out in the fourth, but otherwise wasn't challenged much at third base.

Pub Date: 7/08/98

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