Orioles make outburst on field

Calm in clubhouse returns after offense jumps on Royals, 8-4

Win is 2nd in past 10

Surhoff goes 5-for-5, triple short of cycle

April 28, 1999|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

A sense of calm returned to Ray Miller's office last night. No punches were thrown, no challenges issued. The post-game meal was eaten rather than used to decorate the walls.

The only rumblings at Camden Yards came from an offense that vented as much frustration as Miller had two days earlier.

The Orioles sent nine batters to the plate in the third inning, scoring five times, then kept sending Mike Mussina to the mound. The combination proved too much for the Kansas City Royals, who were beaten, 8-4, before 36,682.

Fresh off a pre-game clubhouse meeting, where Miller discussed accountability but didn't apologize for his biting remarks following Sunday's defeat, the Orioles (5-14) jumped all over Royals starter Kevin Appier. By the time they let him up, they were bearing down on only their second win in 10 games.

B. J. Surhoff went 5-for-5, including his third home run, and came within a triple of hitting for the cycle. Charles Johnson belted his first homer as an Oriole. Willis Otanez continued to produce as Cal Ripken's replacement at third, doubling in two runs. And Miller even pulled off a delayed double steal, with Albert Belle scoring and Harold Baines swiping his first base in three years.

The rest fell upon Mussina (3-1), who took a shutout into the seventh and showed he had recovered from last Wednesday's pummeling in Tampa, when he allowed a career-high 10 runs and 11 hits in 3 2/3 innings. Back then, it was considered the low point of the season, though rock bottom keeps shifting on this club.

For one night, at least, it stayed put. And so did Miller, the subject of intense speculation regarding his job status.

"This is about the third time I've gotten to stand here and say I hope this is the beginning of something new, that hopefully this is the start of something positive," Mussina said. "The other two times it hasn't been. Maybe the third time is going to be the charm. But we have to come out and play with the same enthusiasm we had today. If we play with that amount of excitement and that amount of fire, then maybe we have a chance to have a positive week and start building from there."

Surhoff wouldn't credit the meeting with inspiring a win. "I don't think it had any profound effect on the team. I thought some guys were able to say some things and get things off their chests. Anytime you do that, no matter what the situation is, you feel better about it and you can move on," he said.

"The fact we got very good starting pitching was important, and in the third inning we got five runs with two outs. Many times when things aren't going well, you're not picking up two-out hits or you're giving up two-out hits. But five runs with two outs is a real good sign."

The only Oriole to hit a wall last night was Mussina, who was in control until loading the bases with none out in the eighth and being forced from the game. He was charged with four runs, two after he departed. Mike Timlin, who served up the three-run homer to Oakland's Tony Phillips in the ninth inning Sunday that led to Miller's explosion, got the last four outs for his fourth save, including Chad Kreuter to end the eighth after a throwing error by Otanez brought up the tying run.

"All this is about is putting yourself in a position to win," Miller said. "Nobody has the right to say you've got to win today, or today is the most important game. It's just on a consistent basis, for 162 games, putting yourself in position to win. Tonight we did that."

The game turned in the third inning, and for once, the Orioles were facing in the right direction.

The rally began innocently with a one-out walk to Brady Anderson. Mike Bordick grounded out, but Surhoff yanked a two-strike pitch over the scoreboard in right for a 2-0 lead. Appier never recovered.

Belle and Baines singled to put runners on the corners, and Miller put them in motion with a 2-2 count on Jeff Conine. Royals second baseman Carlos Febles took the throw on the run and fired to the plate, where Belle beat a chest-high tag from Kreuter for the club's first steal of home in three years. Conine walked and Otanez followed with a drive into left-center field that upped the lead to 5-0.

Johnson homered leading off the fourth, ending an 0-for-17 skid and providing his first RBI. It was only his second extra-base hit, and the last run Appier would allow. He didn't come out for the fifth, remaining without a victory over the Orioles since June 23, 1996.

He got into a little trouble in the first when Surhoff singled with two outs and took second on a wild pitch. With first base open and Baines on deck, Appier went after Belle, then in the throes of a 4-for-28 slump. Belle grounded weakly to short.

Mussina hit some turbulence in the second inning when Larry Sutton lined a one-out single past Conine at first and moved up on a wild pitch. Johnny Damon walked, but Mussina got a called third strike on Jermaine Dye and retired Kreuter on a grounder to short.

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