Orioles are spoiling for September role 7 RBIs by Palmeiro, Davis trip Angels, 8-3

September 12, 1998|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

With little hope of pushing their season beyond September, the Orioles have been reduced to playing the role of spoilers. Last night, at least, it was a comfortable fit.

Beginning their final homestand of the year, the Orioles got a combined seven RBIs from Eric Davis and Rafael Palmeiro, including back-to-back homers in the third inning that erased a three-run deficit and pinned an 8-3 loss on the Anaheim Angels before 46,832 at Camden Yards.

Davis' blast, his 27th, came with two runners aboard and the count full to tie the score at 3. Palmeiro followed one pitch later with his 42nd, pulling another split-fingered fastball from Chuck Finley to the back of the flag court in right and ending his homerless streak at 11 games.

Davis added a two-run single off reliever Mike Fetters in the sixth and Palmeiro had four hits, allowing the Orioles (74-72) to continue making modest gains since becoming spectators in the wild-card chase. They've won three in a row and moved two games above .500 for the first time since Aug. 30. At that time they were going in the other direction, losers of 10 straight and forced to refocus their goals.

Now, they have the opportunity to wreck someone else's season. They've got two games remaining with the Angels, then two each with Texas and Boston before finishing with three against New York -- the only team that can't be hurt. After that, the Orioles make their last trip with stops in Toronto and Boston. The fate of the wild card could rest in their hands. It beats just playing out the string.

"The guys are going to play hard. We're not rolling over for anybody," Davis said.

"They've had a tough year. It's all over baseball," Angels manager Terry Collins said. "But they still have an outstanding team."

Every loss is critical for the Angels (80-66), who continue to lead Texas by two games in the AL West. The Angels scored three times off Scott Erickson in the third inning, then were limited to four singles and two walks thereafter, as the right-hander posted his league-leading 10th complete game. Two of the hits came leading off the ninth.

Working on extra rest because of Thursday's day off, Erickson retired the first eight batters before the Angels strung together five consecutive hits in the third inning. Gary Disarcina began the two-out rally by bouncing a single up the middle. Gregg Jefferies lined a single off Mike Bordick, and Randy Velarde reached after tapping the ball in front of the Orioles' shortstop and beating Bordick's wide throw to load the bases.

Jim Edmonds fell behind, 1-2, before lining a single into left field that scored two runs. Velarde stole third and raced home on another infield hit, this one by Tim Salmon on a slow roller that Cal Ripken fielded without a throw.

Three of the first five batters reached against Finley. None of them scored.

Brady Anderson singled with one out in the first, but was wiped out when Eric Davis grounded into a double play. Palmeiro and Ripken singled to open the second. Lyle Mouton struck out after failing to bunt the runners over, Lenny Webster lined to center and Jerry Hairston grounded to short in his first major-league at-bat.

The Orioles kept plugging away, getting a leadoff double by Bordick and a one-out walk to Anderson in the third. This time, they cashed in big.

Davis reached for a pitch off the plate and drove it over the scoreboard in right. Palmeiro, with only two RBIs in his past 46 at-bats, took Finley even deeper, his ball traveling 373 feet. It was the eighth time this season the Orioles had hit consecutive home runs.

Ripken followed with an infield hit, the eighth Oriole to reach out of 14 batters. But they didn't threaten again until the sixth inning, when Mouton led off with a double to center and pinch-runner B. J. Surhoff scored with two outs on a ground-rule double to left by Roberto Alomar. Finley hit Anderson in the right elbow, and Collins went to his bullpen.

It was the wrong place to go. Davis lined a two-run single to center, and Palmeiro increased the lead to 8-3 with a single to right, giving him seven hits in his past eight at-bats. All the runs were charged to Finley, who allowed 10 hits and lost for the first time since Aug. 18.

"Your three-four guys are obviously your run producers and they usually produce in bunches. If they didn't, they'd hit 75 homers and drive in 300," Miller said. "It's nice to have one or the other going, and every once in a while you get both of them going at the same time, and a lot of great things happen."

Home run race

Tracking the home run race between the Cardinals' Mark McGwire and Cubs' Sammy Sosa:

McGwire Sosa

62 .... 59

Games remaining

15 .... 14

Yesterday 1-for-4, 0 HRs 2-for-5, 1 HR

Pub Date: 9/12/98

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