Have-not Twins say Orioles have good shot at wild card Second-half comeback matter of talent, they say

August 19, 1998|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

With a payroll of $69 million, anything is possible. Or so went the verdict among Minnesota Twins players regarding the Orioles' rebirth during the second half of the season.

"First of all, they have the payroll, but they're just doing what everyone expected them to do," Twins pitcher LaTroy Hawkins tTC said of the Orioles' 29-8 record since the break after last night's victory. "They're just doing it in the second half when they didn't do it in the first half. They got things together, and they're on a roll now."

That seemed to be the predominant prescription suggested by Twins players. Take $69 million, add water and, voila, you'll eventually win 29 of 37 games.

While players like Rafael Palmeiro (37 homers, 105 RBIs) and Eric Davis (24 home runs) hit their stride, the Twins' top RBI producer has 61 and their home run leader has 14.

"You have to have talent," said catcher Terry Steinbach, who won a World Series in 1989 with the Oakland Athletics. "If you're short, you won't make up for that."

According to Steinbach, good fortune must also be present. He cites Monday's game as an example. Though Scott Erickson had a strong performance, Steinbach recalls several hard-hit balls by the Twins that went right to people.

"You make your breaks, but you still have to have things go your way," he said.

Veteran Paul Molitor said that Palmeiro's power outburst during the early part of the second half, and Davis' 30-game hitting streak may have provided the team with a reason to stay interested.

"Sometimes, when someone's doing something outside of the club, like a hitting streak, that's so much better because that's getting a lot of the attention," Molitor said.

But others cited one factor in the Orioles' surge not available before 1995: the wild card.

Twenty-six and a half games out of the division lead at the break, the Orioles' playoff hopes would have been dead.

Instead, the 15 1/2 -game wild-card deficit left them only wounded, requiring the merely remarkable run to get back into contention, as opposed to the impossible run necessary for a division title.

"The wild card has helped a lot of teams keep motivated," veteran pitcher Bob Tewksbury said. "The wild card has its advantages and disadvantages, but it's given everyone in that locker room hope -- everyone in this city -- that Baltimore can make it to the postseason."

Pub Date: 8/19/98

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