Baines' HR powers O's past A's

DH's three-run shot caps four-run eighth, sparks 7-5 victory

O's wipe out 5-0 deficit

Bullpen provides six scoreless innings

May 30, 1999|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

OAKLAND, Calif. -- For five innings the Orioles were held to one hit by Oakland Athletics starter Gil Heredia and found themselves trailing 5-0. Their answer was one of the most convincing this season.

Battering one of the league's better bullpens with 11 hits and consecutive home runs during the next three innings, the Orioles rallied for seven unanswered runs to reward solid relief work by Doug Johns (1-1), Jesse Orosco and Arthur Rhodes. The uplifting result was a 7-5 reversal before 26,247 at Network Associates Coliseum. Fireworks, the crowd was promised. Fireworks, it got.

The Orioles chipped away at the five-run deficit with one run in the sixth inning and two more in the seventh against Heredia. A combination of Buddy Groom and T. J. Mathews (5-1) couldn't stop the two-out breakout in the eighth as designated hitter Harold Baines turned the outcome with a three-run homer -- the 358th of his career -- immediately before B.J. Surhoff broke an 0-for-12 skid with a pinch home run.

Not only did the win give the Orioles their third victory of the season when trailing after six innings, it resuscitated a free-swinging lineup that had tumbled into a collective slump.

The Orioles have won three of their last four and seven of their last 12, nothing spectacular but a marked improvement over the terrible April.

Last night's six innings of scoreless relief represented a high point for a bullpen, which had been scored upon in 14 of its last 17 games. For the second time in three wins, Rhodes was allowed to close the ninth inning with Mike Timlin standing on a bullpen mound.

Yet nothing was as surprising as their eighth-inning rally. With two outs, Will Clark singled, and Mathews was brought in. Belle singled, and Baines followed with his third home run in four games, a drive that easily cleared the 12-foot wall in left-center field. Surhoff followed Baines with his eighth homer.

The A's are a poor man's contender. Actually, the A's are a poor man's everything. Last night they were a rich team's foil.

The win lifted the Orioles to 19-29 and averted their fifth trip to 12 games below .500.

Boy, if only these Oakland A's could only hit.

Limitations on offense are all that have kept the $23 million A's from grabbing the AL West lead as they entered yesterday's game against the Orioles batting a major league-low .237.

By the second inning those numbers were obsolete. With as many hits in the first three innings as they managed in eight the night before, the A's opened a 5-0 lead against Orioles fifth starter Jason Johnson, who labored with pitch location and some troubling outfield defense.

For the first time on their 3-2 road trip the Orioles were almost out of a game before it began -- but it didn't matter. The A's routed Johnson for five runs, four earned, in three innings.

The Orioles entered hitting .202 for the trip and needed more than five innings to solve Heredia, who was pounded for 15 earned runs and 16 hits in his previous two starts covering 9 1/3 innings. Heredia faced the minimum 15 hitters through five innings before three consecutive hits brought the Orioles within 5-1.

Belle doubled to lead off the seventh inning -- his first double since the season's fifth game April 10. Rookie catcher Tommy Davis singled during the sixth-inning rally for his first major-league hit.

The Orioles finally chased Heredia two hitters into the seventh inning and might have had more if not for two outstanding plays by the right side of the A's infield. Belle doubled and scored when Jeff Conine greeted reliever Doug Jones with a single over second base. Down 5-2, Cal Ripken brought the tying run to the plate and ricocheted a ball off Jones. Second baseman Tony Phillips charged and underhanded the ball just in time for the out.

Delino DeShields followed with a chopped grounder that Olmedo Saenz gloved. Jones broke too slow toward first, leaving Saenz to dive headfirst to beat DeShields as Baines scored.

The A's broke through against Johnson with three consecutive hits to open the second inning. Saenz, responsible for Saturday's game-winning RBI against Mike Mussina, began the rally by lifting a towering fly ball to the center-field warning track.

Playing too shallow, Brady Anderson retreated while looking into the sun. He turned twice and lunged at the twisting fly ball, which bounded over the fence for a ground-rule double.

Left fielder Ben Grieve immediately converted the hit into a run by singling to right field. Rookie third baseman Eric Chavez followed with another single, which grew into a second-and-third situation after Ryan Christenson's sacrifice.

Hitting .185, catcher and No. 9 hitter A. J. Hinch broke open the inning with a double to right-center field, scoring Grieve and Chavez.

Orioles today

Opponent: Oakland Athletics

Site: Network Associates Coliseum, Oakland, Calif.

Time: 4: 05 p.m.

TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: O's Scott Erickson (1-6, 6.02) vs. A's Mike Oquist (5-3, 4.31)

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