O's drive home with 16-5 win

O's bats end 3-7 trip with bang of 24 hits, 5 homers vs. Rangers

Belle, Johnson HR twice

`Now we can go home and get some sleep'

May 17, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Orioles took no batting practice yesterday, their reward for surviving a 10-game road trip that had begun with promise before degenerating into a six-game losing streak.

Bench coach Eddie Murray brightened the lineup card by alternately writing the names in green, blue and red. Some were stenciled in a tooti-fruiti arrangement. Anything to reverse the darkening trend that threatened to send the Orioles home 0-for-Cleveland/Texas.

So maybe manager Ray Miller should give his coaching staff afternoons off this week and start investing in Crayola futures.

Taking out a week's worth of frustration on Texas Rangers starting pitcher Aaron Sele (3-4), the Orioles bashed a season-high 24 hits and scored eight runs before Rangers No. 5 hitter Todd Zeile even came to the plate en route to a punishing 16-5 win before 39,508 at The Ballpark in Arlington.

Right fielder Albert Belle and catcher Charles Johnson contributed two home runs apiece, shortstop Mike Bordick matched his career high with four hits, left fielder B. J. Surhoff produced a multi-hit game for the fifth time in six days and rehabilitated third baseman Cal Ripken produced his fifth and six hits of the four-game series.

Starter Sidney Ponson (3-3) benefited the most. He went to the mound with a 5-0 lead in the first inning and left after seven innings with a 10-3 advantage.

The 13-24 Orioles finished their three-city road trip 3-7 and are only 4-15 on the road this season. If not for an eighth-inning loss in Cleveland and some curious late-inning tactics Friday night, the Orioles might have crafted a break-even trip. Instead, they needed yesterday's bludgeoning to end a six-game skid that resurrected speculation about Miller's job security.

Miller did not feign satisfaction. After beginning the trip with two wins in Detroit, his team labored against two division leaders.

"I'm disappointed," Miller said. "We got off to a pretty good start. I knew Cleveland was going to be a tough series, and I figured if we pitched halfway decent we might take a couple here, but that didn't happen and we managed only to get one."

The Orioles will have to satisfy themselves with today's first day off in three weeks. No Cuba exhibitions. No clubhouse meetings. No travel.

"We got a win, now we can go home and get some sleep," said Miller, who also may receive a call from majority owner Peter Angelos.

For at least one day the Orioles' clubhouse received a break in the bleakness that has followed them around the league. Every starting position player managed at least two hits and Ripken was the only starter held scoreless. The hits were the second most in Orioles history, trailing only a 26-hit spree against the California Angels on Aug. 28, 1980. The Rangers tied their 2-year-old club record for hits allowed and surrendered four innings of three runs or more.

"You can't say guys aren't trying. They're just not getting the job done," said designated hitter Harold Baines, who contributed three hits, including an opposite-field, three-run homer in the second inning that hiked the lead to 8-0. "Today we got the job done."

Belle finished the series 9-for-17 with three home runs. He entered this weekend's series having been humbled in Cleveland but left for Baltimore yesterday having suggested a turnaround in his frustrating first six weeks.

The fourth of five consecutive hitters to reach base, Belle gave the Orioles a 4-0 lead when he took a Sele fastball 407 feet to center field. The next inning Belle singled, giving him a streak of five hits in as many at-bats.

"It all depends on who hits behind Albert," insisted Baines, who has batted behind Belle the past nine games. "If they're swinging well, they have to pitch to him. If they're not hitting well, pitchers are going to make him get himself out. They have to throw him strikes when the guys behind him are hitting the ball well."

"He can carry a team. Everybody knows that," said Johnson, the last Orioles starter to hit safely when he drove the first of his two home runs to open the eighth inning. "He can dictate a ballgame. I think we all know it's just a matter of time before it happens."

Making his first appearance since being scratched from a start last week because of the flu, Sele surrendered 11 hits, four walks and nine earned runs while getting only seven outs. For a change an opposing manager wore a trail between the dugout and mound. "There are a lot of pitchers who have missed one start and come back and pitched well. It just wasn't his day," said Rangers manager Johnny Oates. "He missed location time and time again. We've been playing pretty good baseball and you hate to have a game like this."

Reprimanded after his previous start (an 11-6 loss in Cleveland) for poor game management, Ponson gave a more mature effort while protecting a monstrous lead. If not for a second-inning lapse, he would have carried a shutout through seven innings.

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