O's trio aid 5-3 win, ponder home finale Palmeiro, Davis, Mills trip Yanks, unsure of uniform for their next Camden visit

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

Rafael Palmeiro, Eric Davis and Alan Mills will pause tonight for perhaps a final look around jam-packed Camden Yards. The view will be mixed with genuine appreciation, uncertainty and frustration. Unsure of whether they will be part of next year's Orioles, they settled for roles beside Sidney Ponson in yesterday's 5-3 win over the New York Yankees.

Palmeiro and Davis contributed two RBIs apiece and Mills added a ninth-inning bailout as the Orioles broke a four-game losing streak before 48,044. Rookie starting pitcher Ponson (8-8) provided the heavy lifting with 7 1/3 scoreless innings and denied Yankees starter David Cone his 20th win. The win also permitted the Orioles to fend off mathematical elimination from the AL wild-card race for another day.

Rather than savor a win, Mills admitted his disappointment over his possible departure.

Palmeiro acknowledged a bond with a place that has served as a comfortable stage for his left-handed swing.

Davis well, life goes on if it doesn't happen here.

"If anyone's not sure," said manager Ray Miller, "I'm sure it will be a semi-emotional day. It's a great place to play baseball, with the greatest fans in the world. It's a great facility and an exciting place."

The Orioles' bullpen made it too exciting yesterday. With Ponson's help, the Orioles had constructed a 5-0 lead before surviving a three-run rally in the ninth. Following back-to-back home runs by Tino Martinez and Chili Davis, Mills entered a two-run game and notched the final three outs for his second save.

With nothing now certain except the upheaval engulfing this franchise, Palmeiro, Davis, Mills and five fellow pending free agents may today make their final appearance at Camden Yards in an Orioles uniform. Jimmy Key, Doug Drabek, B. J. Surhoff, Roberto Alomar and Pete Smith remain unsigned beyond next weekend.

Alomar now anticipates his next career stop. Surhoff, considered close to agreement when the season began, remains unfinished business. While suggesting a clubhouse overhaul, the Orioles still search for its architect.

Palmeiro and Davis each had RBI singles during a two-run first inning. Davis added an RBI double followed by Palmeiro's RBI single in the fifth. Calvin Pickering topped the scoring with his first major-league hit, a home run in the seventh, Cone's final inning.

Appearing for the first time in 17 days, Ponson ran his string of scoreless innings against the Yankees to 14 while out-dueling Cone (19-7), who allowed a season-high 12 hits and suffered consecutive losses for the first time since May 1995, a span of 96 starts.

Ponson admitted having extra motivation. His girlfriend is from New York and once predicted if he ever reached the majors he would never beat her beloved Yankees.

"She said the Yankees were too tough," jabbed Ponson. "Maybe she's learned by now."

Mills, the most likely free-agent pitcher to be re-signed by the Orioles, hasn't received an offer. He interprets the absence of talks as a strong indicator he will be elsewhere next season.

"I'd like to be back here," Mills said. "I've had nothing but positive experiences here. If it's meant to be, it'll happen."

Miller described yesterday's save as "redemption" for Mills, who fed Friday's seven-run ninth inning in a 15-5 loss. Mills acknowledged the hurt of thinking that he could possibly bid goodbye to Camden on such a poor effort. "This worked out better," Mills said.

Insulted by a 2-month-old, three-year, $21 million offer, Palmeiro says he will pursue free agency regardless of what the Orioles do between now and the filing deadline. He hasn't had time for nostalgia, he insisted.

"I haven't thought about it much so far," he said. "Tomorrow I'm sure I'll think about it all day. I don't want to say too much because I'd like to think I still have a chance to be back here."

Davis, once considered a lock to return, hiked his salary demands when his production soared during August and an agreement lagged. He now seeks two years guaranteed for more than $8 million.

"I don't think about that," Davis said of today possibly being his last home game. "That's a negative thought."

More positive is that Davis now owns 84 RBIs, his most since 1990, and raised his average to .325, 11 points behind Bernie Williams' league-leading .336. Best of all, only eight games remain to a disappointing season.

"You don't want to be on a countdown," Davis said, "but unfortunately we are. That's how it goes."

Bronx bomber

Orioles rookie Sidney Ponson may be 8-8, but he's 2-0 against the American League's toughest team, the New York Yankees.

D ...... Res ..... IP ... H ... ER ... BB ... SO

6/16 ... W 2-0 ... 6 2/3 2 ... 0 .... 1 .... 4

Note: Neither hit reached outfield in his first big-league win

D ...... Res ..... IP ... H ... ER ... BB ... SO

ZTC 9/19 ... W 5-3 ... 7 1/3 6 ... 0 .... 2 .... 5

Note: Due to blister it was 17 days since his last start

Pub Date: 9/20/98

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