O's are road hogs, roll, 14-3 7th consecutive win ties season high set during 10-2 April run

1st away win since June 12

Runs tie season best, hits (19) set '98 high

July 16, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Orioles made it official last night against the Texas Rangers. They are a scalding team. They won a road game.

Another breakout inning pushed the American League's most upwardly mobile team to a 14-3 win before 46,682 at The Ballpark. Not only did the Orioles pump their winning streak to seven, tying their season high, they also won away from Camden Yards for the first time since June 12 to shatter an 0-10 road slide.

Adhering to another encouraging habit, they blasted Rangers starting pitcher Rick Helling (12-5) for a five-run second inning.

No longer do the 45-50 Orioles grouse about their bad breaks, bad scheduling and bad calls. The big-swinging Rangers wilted under last night's 100-degree temperature while the Orioles scored eight runs the first three times through the order.

Making his shortest appearance this season, Helling suffered his second loss since June 4 and became the fourth 10-game winner beaten by the Orioles in the past six games.

"The guys we've been beating have been having pretty good years," manager Ray Miller said. "The guys with 10 or 12 wins have had things go well for them the first half. We certainly didn't have anything. Maybe things are evening out. It's kind of infectious, I know that."

The Orioles' rotation, recently a wasteland blamed for the club's disastrous first half, has again become productive. Sidney Ponson's win was the fourth by a starter in five games. It took the rotation 21 games to earn its previous four wins.

Motivation that eluded the Orioles for three months has surfaced. The more they win, the less likely a clubhouse purge appears.

The Orioles last won seven straight from April 1-7 during a misleading 10-2 start. That run was accomplished largely with dominant starting pitching. While the Orioles won the first three games of this streak with only eight runs, they have scored 41 in the past four. They've trailed for only one inning during those four games.

"We're hitting the ball and even though tonight's not a great example the starting pitching is keeping the score down early, giving us a chance to do something," Miller said.

The Orioles placed seven consecutive runners in the second inning. Five of them scored as Lenny Webster and Roberto Alomar contributed two-run singles.

First baseman Rafael Palmeiro, perhaps auditioning for a return to the same club that allowed him to leave in free agency five years ago, hit his 299th career home run in the fifth inning. Palmeiro has hit nine home runs at The Ballpark, tying Ken Griffey, Tim Salmon and Jose Canseco for the most by a visiting player.

Rather than rely on big nights from individuals, the Orioles spread the damage throughout their lineup. Six players had two RBIs apiece. B. J. Surhoff entered the game with hits in seven consecutive at-bats but left as the only starter without a hit. Every starter scored. The Orioles set a season high with 19 hits and tied their season high for runs. Surhoff, Palmeiro and Cal Ripken sat out the final innings.

"I think the offense the last couple of games has gotten hot," Webster said. "I don't care how well you swing the bats, you still need pitching. And we're getting pitching right now."

The offense was well-timed. For a second straight night, an Orioles starter labored but hung around long enough for a win.

The Rangers had crushed Orioles pitching for a .325 average and 45 runs in seven previous games. The staff ERA was 7.23 with 83 hits and 11 home runs allowed in 61 innings over that span.

Gaining his second win in a week, rookie right-hander Ponson (3-6) struggled to reverse the trend as the Rangers reached him for a first-inning run thanks to two errors and his ill-advised barehanded grab of a one-hopper to the mound. After stopping designated hitter Will Clark's shot, Ponson weakly palmed a high throw that pulled Palmeiro off first base. The shot stung his middle finger but did not necessitate his removal, though rookie Joel Bennett warmed hurriedly in the bullpen.

"I couldn't feel it for a while," Ponson said. "I was just trying to get the ball over the plate. I had to fight through it."

Protecting a 6-1 lead against a slumping lineup, Ponson performed damage control after allowing three consecutive singles to lead off the third inning. The Rangers scored only twice as Miller roused his bullpen for a second time.

Miller has repeatedly lamented an offense that too often stops after scoring early. Last night the Orioles kept coming against Helling.

Palmeiro has hit in 15 of the past 18 games. He hit his sixth home run in that span, and 28th this season, when he drove a Helling pitch into the Rangers' bullpen.

Having paid their bill, the Orioles have rediscovered the powerball. Palmeiro's homer was their 13th in seven games since the All-Star break. They managed only 12 in their last 14 games before the break.

Ripken drove Helling from the game after 4 1/3 innings. Charged with eight runs, it was Helling's worst outing since May 1994.

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