Palmeiro drives 9th win in row His 300th HR, 4 RBIs power O's, Drabek past Angels, 4-1

Starter's 1st win since May

Wild-card deficit suddenly is 9 1/2 games

July 18, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Few rhythms within the game are more flowing than Rafael Palmeiro's sweeping swing. Last night it again picked up the Orioles along with a powerful personal milestone.

It has become Palmeiro's daily routine: check for trade rumors, check the pitching matchup, check off another win.

The All-Star first baseman accounted for all his team's scoring with four RBIs, including his 300th career home run in the eighth inning, as another mark was added to the Orioles' second half of perfection. By beating the first-place Anaheim Angels, 4-1, before 34,618 at Edison International Field, the Orioles pushed their winning streak to nine games and closed within 9 1/2 games of wild card-leading Boston.

One of the Orioles' 11 pending free agents, Palmeiro also drew another swing closer to making his contract status a priority instead of a reason for dismissal.

Palmeiro's three hits complemented 5 1/3 efficient innings from starter Doug Drabek (6-9), who won for the first time since May 28. A bullpen that has developed into more than a punch line used four arms to get 11 outs.

The loss stuck to Angels Oriole-killer Jason Dickson (9-7); but Palmeiro's biggest swing came off reliever Greg Cadaret. With one on in the eighth, Palmeiro lofted a fly ball that scraped the right-field wall for his 29th home run. The blast leaves Palmeiro with 14 home runs and 33 RBIs in his last 34 games.

The Angels were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and lost for the 11th time in 14 games.

Drabek entered his 18th start clinging to his spot in the rotation for several reasons. Scott Kamieniecki and Jimmy Key are about two weeks from returning from disk and shoulder problems, respectively. Rookies Sidney Ponson and Nerio Rodriguez are holding jobs previously assigned to arms carrying $6.1 million in salary. Plus Drabek had struggled to carry a game into the fifth inning.

Winless in his last six starts and possessing only one road win in seven appearances away from Camden Yards, Drabek ranked among the league's most hittable pitchers. In his last six starts he had gone 0-4 with a 12.49 ERA. Nowhere numbers.

Except the Orioles rotation is going somewhere and taking the rest of the club along for the ride.

Drabek showed his best breaking ball this season as he allowed only one hit through four innings. Second baseman Roberto Alomar ended the second inning with a dazzling catch, jump and throw from behind the bag to nip Paco Martin.

Manager Ray Miller tried to nurse Drabek through the fifth inning in his previous start and nearly received a disaster in return. Working with a 4-0 lead, Drabek fumbled it while getting only one out. The bullpen created a 6-4 deficit, but the lineup came to the rescue with 11 runs against the Red Sox.

The fifth inning represented no hurdle this time as Drabek retired three right-handed hitters in order. He had faced only 17 hitters entering the sixth.

If Drabek's start reversed recent form, Dickson's was a sea change. He had won all three previous starts against the Orioles.

Dickson was hardly bludgeoned. Twice he confronted Palmeiro with two outs and a runner in scoring position. Twice Palmeiro won.

Hitting safely for the 19th time in his last 22 games, designated hitter Eric Davis began a first-inning rally with a two-out double down the left-field line. A passed ball advanced him to third.

Palmeiro's gaudy statistics have not included high impact with runners in scoring position. He imported an unimpressive .259 average and six home runs in such situations. But once reluctant to take an outside pitch to left field, Palmeiro contradicted the tendency with a line single to left field that put the Orioles up 1-0.

His detractors frequently claim Palmeiro enjoys inflated numbers because of Camden Yards' claustrophobic right-field wall. However, the accusation fades when weighed against a .326 road average, placing him among the league's top 10.

Another two-out rally found Palmeiro in the third inning. Brady Anderson replaced Alomar on base with a fielder's choice, then stole second. The base became critical when Palmeiro hooked a broken-bat double near the right-field line for his second RBI. The Orioles then fell silent for the next three innings against Dickson.

By then Drabek was one batter away from getting through the Angels' order a second time. Within a span of three hitters he had not only lost his shutout but was out of the game as Miller refused to repeat his mistake of last Sunday.

Angels shortstop Gary DiSarcina started the Angels' sixth with a single that halted a run of 16 consecutive outs for Drabek. DiSarcina then stole second, advanced to third on Darin Erstad's ground ball, and scored when Dave Hollins lined a single. Miller had seen enough and summoned Norm Charlton, who had torched last Sunday's game behind Drabek. Before Charlton retired the only hitter he faced, Hollins also stole second. Orioles opponents have now stolen 104 of 139 attempts.

Ineffective as a starter, Pete Smith followed with his third American League relief appearance. He stranded the tying run at second by getting Angels RBI leader Cecil Fielder to ground into a fielder's choice.

Inching forward

Last night Orioles starter Doug Drabek pitched into the sixth inning for the first time in six starts. A look:

D Opp .......... IP ... H ... ER ... Res

6/7 Atl. ....... 3 .... 9 ... 5 .... L 9-0

6/13 Tor. ...... 2 .... 5 ... 5 .... L 9-8

6/28 Mon. ...... 2 1/3 7 ... 5 .... L 8-4

7/4 NYY ........ 5 .... 8 ... 4 .... L 4-3

7/12 Bos. ...... 4 2/3 6 ... 5 .... ND

7/17 Ana. ...... 5 1/3 3 ... 1 .... W 4-1

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Anaheim Angels

Site: Edison International Field, Anaheim, Calif.

Time: 10:05

TV/Radio: Ch. 54, 50/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: O's Nerio Rodriguez (1-2, 7.30) vs. Angels' Jarrod Washburn (4-2, 4.06)

Pub Date: 7/18/98

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