The soreness Eric Davis feels in his elbow and leg impose...

August 19, 1998|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The soreness Eric Davis feels in his elbow and leg impose certain restrictions on his game. He doesn't throw with the same ease, doesn't gamble as much on the bases. He will, however, continue to turn back the clock.

Davis reached for it again last night and gave it another spin.

Nearly kept out of the lineup, Davis homered twice and drove in four runs, and rookie Sidney Ponson combined with three Orioles relievers to fashion a 7-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins before 44,022 at Camden Yards.

A broken-bat single by Harold Baines with two outs in the sixth had produced a 2-1 lead. Davis then removed all doubt in the seventh with a three-run homer, the ball traveling 422 feet into the seats in left. He also had gone deep in the first inning against Twins starter Brad Radke for his fourth multi-homer game this season.

The night also included three hits and two RBIs from Roberto Alomar, and a perfect inning from reliever Arthur Rhodes in his first appearance since July 4. Jesse Orosco followed with his 55th appearance, kicking in the vesting option in his contract next season.

Amid all this, the Orioles (67-58) were assured of losing ground to Boston in the wild-card race. The Red Sox swept a day-night doubleheader from Texas, leaving the Orioles alone in second place for baseball's postseason consolation prize but seven games behind Boston.

They prefer to dwell on more favorable numbers. They've won six of their past seven, and 12 of 15, improving to 29-8 since the All-Star break. They're nine games above .500 for the first time this season, the previous best coming off a 10-2 start.

"What we have to do is continue playing good baseball and hope they hit a slow spot," manager Ray Miller said of the Red Sox. "We've just got to grind it out. I'm proud of the way the club's playing right now."

How could anyone in the organization be more proud of Davis? A year removed from colon cancer surgery and supposedly in the twilight of his career, he's enjoying one of his most torrid stretches. His club-record 30-game hitting streak ended Sunday night. He got started on another last night after taking the previous game off.

"I let my body and mind heal," he said.

He didn't cool his bat. By going 3-for-4 last night, Davis has hit in 33 of 35 games since the break, batting .385 with 13 homers and 40 RBIs.

"The most important thing is how well I've played has been indicative of how the team has done," he said. "There are times you get on a streak and the team doesn't play well. It's felt even better that when I got on my streak, the team picked it up and kept going."

Miller had considered not starting Davis, but decided to write his name in the lineup because he'll probably be sitting tonight against Tampa Bay right-hander Rolando Arrojo.

"I'm glad I didn't do it," Miller said with a grin. "He could hardly run [Monday]. His recuperative powers are tremendous."

Davis' three-run blast came after Alomar and Brady Anderson had singled with two outs. Davis laid off a high fastball from Radke to run the count full, then jumped on a changeup.

"He had thrown everybody a changeup but me," Davis said. "I wasn't looking for it, but I recognized it and gave it a ride."

The other half of last night's story involved Ponson (7-6). Just 21 years old and with only one start at Triple-A on his resume, he's gone 6-0 since July 2.

"Even though some people might have considered him immature, he's mature in other ways," assistant general manager Kevin Malone said. "He's very competitive, very aggressive. He has no fear."

He was brave beyond his years on a night when the Twins kept hounding him. After a quiet first, they put a runner in scoring position in the next five innings. Only once did they cash in, on an RBI single by Pat Meares in the third.

Ponson was removed after the sixth. He threw 119 pitches, four fewer than his career high earlier this month at Kansas City. He allowed seven hits, walked one and struck out two.

"People have to remember that he's still developing at the major-league level," Malone said. "You'll see flashes of brilliance, and sometimes he'll struggle. But the more experience and the more innings he pitches, the more consistency you'll see. There's no reason he can't be a 15- or 20-game winner next year. The best is yet to come."

A lead came to Ponson in the first inning. With two outs, Davis lined a 2-0 fastball into the first row of seats in right, his 23rd homer and the start of another hitting streak.

The Twins tied it in the third after Ponson had gotten two outs. Todd Walker, moved into the leadoff spot when Otis Nixon was scratched from the lineup, ripped a double into left-center field and scored on a soft single by Meares.

The Twins mounted another challenge in the fourth. This time, Ponson was up to it, retiring Terry Steinbach on a grounder to short and stranding two runners. A single and two-out steal by Walker in the fifth had Ponson squirming again, but he got Matt Lawton on a slow bouncer to short.

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