Palmeiro sticks it to O's again

Slugger's 3-run HR in sixth breaks tie, as Rangers roll, 8-1

Losing streak hits six

Guzman lasts 4 inn., leaves with stiff back

May 16, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Ask him if he enjoys punishing his former team and Texas Rangers designated hitter Rafael Palmeiro will deflect the issue. He needn't say a word. Last night the hobbled slugger's bat again exacted retribution from a team now numbed by its plight.

Palmeiro broke open a tie game with a three-run homer in the sixth inning as the Rangers rolled to an 8-1 win before 46,118 at The Ballpark. To those still counting, the Orioles have lost six straight and seven of eight to construct a 12-24 record. Now 3-15 on the road, their 2-7, three-city tour comes to a merciful close this afternoon with momentum again suggesting a move on manager Ray Miller as soon as tomorrow.

"It has never bothered me. It really hasn't. Because I'm a realist," Miller said of the possibility of his firing. "I get a little upset when I get second-guessed. Everything I'm doing is trying to get us back in a ballgame."

Palmeiro's blast off reliever Doug Johns (0-1) completed three days of payback. Still bothered by the aftereffects of two arthroscopic knee surgeries, Palmeiro enters today with six RBIs, five runs scored and two home runs against a team that offered him $50 million over five years but could not sign him last December. The Rangers mashed 14 hits against six Orioles pitchers, as Ricky Bones and Arthur Rhodes were the only relievers to escape the carnage.

"When you go to the bullpen it's not supposed to be a never-ending trip. When you bring them in, all you're trying to do is get people out," Miller said.

The Orioles actually held the game at 1-1 for five innings. However, starting pitcher Juan Guzman left after four innings due to lower back stiffness, the same malady that has afflicted Delino DeShields and Cal Ripken to different degrees.

Guzman's removal brought on Johns, summoned Friday night to take Doug Linton's spot in the bullpen. Johns survived only 1 1/3 innings, allowing three earned runs and four hits. The Rangers followed their three-run sixth inning with a four-run seventh, leaving the Orioles outscored 30-14 for the series and 53-29 during their losing skid. After entering last Saturday with the major leagues' longest winning streak, they now have the longest losing run.

"How many times can you say, `Let's go get them. Keep your heads up,' " Miller said. "Especially when people come out of the bullpen and walk people. I have to sit here and explain it every day. That's my job. But I'm running out of words."

Five games had passed since the Orioles had received a quality start. Guzman appeared poised to give them their first since last Sunday when his lower back grabbed him after the fourth inning. With little warning Johns was hustled into the game and allotted as much time to warm as necessary.

The Rangers represented a good opportunity for Guzman. Last year he had gone 1-1 with a 1.29 ERA against them, including a Sept. 14 appearance in which he received no decision for seven shutout innings.

Since receiving an additional day off following his April 28 start, Guzman had resembled a more confident, more focused pitcher. He had gone seven innings in two subsequent starts, earning a win at Camden Yards against the Chicago White Sox and suffering a tough loss last Monday in Cleveland. Guzman surrendered three leads while using 123 pitches.

Guzman fell behind 1-0 in the first inning after Tom Goodwin outran a grounder for an infield single. He stole second base on the third pitch to Mark McLemore, took third on a right-side grounder and scored when left fielder Rusty Greer pounded a double to right field.

The big-swinging Rangers did nothing more against Guzman, who has rediscovered the boring sinker that became his trademark with the Toronto Blue Jays. He faced the minimum 11 hitters in his last 3 2/3 innings, striking out four. Charles Johnson assisted by throwing out McLemore stealing to end the third inning.

The Orioles had little more success against Rangers starter Rick Helling (4-4), who won for the fourth time in five starts. Previously a pinata vs. the Orioles, Helling reversed a trend in which he had allowed 25 earned runs in as many innings in six earlier appearances against them.

B. J. Surhoff extended his two-week tear by doubling with two outs in the first inning but was stranded.

A celebration of Cal Ripken's return from the disabled list continued in the second inning. With one out and Jeff Conine at first base, Ripken drove a double into the right-field corner. While Roberto Kelly fumbled for the rebound, Conine circled the bases to give Ripken his fourth RBI in three games since coming off the disabled list Thursday.

Ripken, who owns as many extra-bases since his return as in the eight games before his departure, is no longer constrained by a contorted, stiff-legged stance.

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