O's take a walk past Angels, 7-4 4 walks push across go-ahead run in 9th in 10th win in 11 games

Davis homers tie it twice

9 1/2 back, 'you hope team is kept together'

July 20, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Aggressive offense and improved starting pitching have become the Orioles' second-half touchstone. Last night, in a game that meant the difference between a good road trip and an invigorating one, the streaking Orioles learned the power of patience.

Now they get to preach it to their own front office.

Four ninth-inning walks -- three straight with two outs -- and a two-run single by Cal Ripken gave the Orioles a 7-4 win over the Anaheim Angels and closer Troy Percival last night before 38,840 at Edison International Field. The Orioles have won 10 of 11 and returned within 9 1/2 games of wild card-leading Boston. They have made up six games on the Red Sox since the All-Star break and see no reason why a club rife with free agents should be taken apart.

Three of the club's 11 pending free agents drew the blueprint for the win. Eric Davis homered twice to erase a pair of deficits. Rafael Palmeiro accepted the fourth ninth-inning walk by Percival to force home the winning run. Reliever Jesse Orosco (4-1) retired five hitters on 12 pitches to earn his third win in 11 games.

"This is what we've been waiting for. We've been through two tough months that I'd just as soon like to forget," Orosco said. "Now we're on a roll. Let's enjoy this as long as we can. I think we deserve it. We're playing well. We're not lucking into anything. I think a lot of people have been waiting for this for a long time. Hopefully, not too long."

Those decisions will likely be made tomorrow during a meeting with majority owner Peter Angelos, his front office and manager Ray Miller. Leaning toward disintegrating the team two weeks ago, sentiment now exists for adding to, rather than subtracting from, a graying roster.

Tied at 4-4, the Orioles had a runner at second with two outs when Percival suffered a control breakdown. He walked Brady Anderson then fell behind Davis, 3-0. Ordered to take, Davis also received a walk to load the bases. Palmeiro then walked on four pitches to force home Jeff Reboulet, who played in place of injured second baseman Roberto Alomar.

Ripken followed with a single to stem a 13-for-71 skid. Two runs scored and the rest was left to Orosco and Armando Benitez, who got the last two outs.

Not only have the Orioles won 10 of 11, they have done so against four teams they must outrun for the wild card. Now they face an extended run against sub.-500 teams, clubs still like themselves.

"I think we're as good as any of them," Palmeiro said of the wild-card competition. "We just need to play better the rest of the way."

"If ownership wants to go in a certain direction and they ask your opinion, you don't say go this way or go that way because you're not the one paying the bills. But when they ask your opinion you have to be prepared to answer any question you're asked," said Miller, who intended to prepare himself on last night's five-hour flight home. "I think what you've seen the last 11 days is a damn good ballclub that's been besieged by pitching injuries all year."

Having already made his night's contribution, Davis declined the chance to lobby directly. "Only they can answer that. Our job is to play baseball and let them dictate what they want to do," he said. "You hope this team is kept together, but there's nothing you can do about it."

Davis said the difference was immense between a 4-1 cross-country trip and a 3-2 trip that ended with consecutive losses.

"It would have been difficult," he said. "People would've said, 'Here they go back the other way now.' But we didn't. It's extremely important to win that game."

Davis' season is quietly peaking. He has 21 RBIs in his last 24 games and is riding an eight-game hitting streak that roughly coincides with his being assigned full-time duties as designated hitter. The role fell to him for several reasons. His painful right elbow limits his time in the outfield and Harold Baines remains on the disabled list with a pulled hamstring. Davis last year struggled as a DH. This year he has embraced it.

"It's just happening. I'm not thinking about it. I'm just sitting there keeping myself loose," he said.

The Orioles crafted their nine-game win streak by mostly playing from ahead. Last night was a constant struggle as they trailed 1-0 and 4-2 before Davis' home runs. The win was only their fifth this season when trailing after six innings.

Davis' offense was needed to overcome some slipshod fielding that contributed to two unearned runs against Orioles starter Mike Mussina, who went 6 2/3 innings in which he allowed seven hits, no walks and received nothing more than a handshake for what should have been a winning effort.

Facing the much-traveled Omar Olivares, the Orioles managed a single in each of their first five innings but pushed only one runner into scoring position. Fighting a 5 o'clock shadow courtesy of a national telecast, the Orioles struck out seven times in the first five innings.

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