Anderson, Belle swap O's heroics

Trade-talk duo teams for 6 hits, 6 RBIs in 8-2 victory over Expos

Wrist injury KO's Ripken

Ponson gains AL-high 4th complete game

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

Hanging over the Orioles like a two-week promise, the July 31 waiver deadline already has created a convenient alliance. Brady Anderson and Albert Belle, the club's No-Trade Twins, combined to overwhelm the Montreal Expos last night before 43,016 at Camden Yards. No matter what changes usher the Orioles into August, their act will likely continue.

The 37-51 Orioles opened the second half with an 8-2 romp primarily because of the two outfielders' offensive exploits. Anderson slashed three singles, stole three bases and scored twice, and Belle produced his first four-RBI game since May 16 with three hits, including his 19th home run, plus an eighth-inning sacrifice fly. The two combined for six of their team's nine hits and six RBIs as the Orioles won at Camden Yards for the first time since June 22.

Starting pitcher Sidney Ponson (8-6) benefited for his first win since June 16, completing his third game in his past seven starts. He has completed four of his last five wins to lead the American League.

But the night wasn't without loss. Third baseman Cal Ripken left shortly after being hit on the right wrist by struggling Expos starter Mike Thurman. X-rays were inconclusive, team officials said. Ripken will be examined further today when it will be determined whether he requires his second stay on the disabled list this season. Ripken may be suffering from bone chips in the area, which could add to the injury's severity.

Manager Ray Miller preferred to speak about the club's purpose. He conducted a pre-game meeting, then watched his controversial right fielder take control with three RBIs in four innings as the Orioles grabbed a 7-2 lead.

"You can say whatever you want about Albert, but at the end of the season he's going to be 100-plus [in RBIs]," Miller said. "He's an offensive load. Albert Belle works hard. He's the first one here and takes 14 sessions in the cage. He takes ground balls in the outfield. He stretches. He studies film. That's why he's a productive player."

Anderson's three singles and three steals helped him to score twice during the first four innings. Like Belle, he enjoys veto power over any prospective trade.

"It's something you expect to happen anytime a team is struggling. It's a compliment any time teams are interested in you, especially contenders. Sometimes it's just media speculation and nothing happens; sometimes something does happen. I'm not going to worry about," Anderson said.

Anderson enjoyed his third consecutive three-hit game to lift his average to .279. His three steals left him with 20 for the seventh time in eight seasons. His press for 100 runs received a boost as he left with 64.

Unlike many within the Orioles' clubhouse, Anderson can almost enjoy the speculation swirling around a team likely to undergo significant changes in the next two weeks. As part of the five-year, $31 million contract he signed before last season, Anderson has veto power over any deal. While refusing to categorically dismiss the possibility of his approving a deal, Anderson insists he does not foresee his exit from Charm City.

"It doesn't really bother me. It's something I really wanted to have control over. It was a huge part of my contract to get a no-trade. When you're on a team that's struggling, it can become a distraction. But when you have control, it's not a distraction," he said.

Atlanta is among those teams who have shown interest in obtaining Anderson as a leadoff hitter/left fielder. Anderson briefly contemplated the Braves' offer as a free agent in 1997 but ultimately returned to the place where he hopes to finish his career.

"I've always said whether the Orioles are playing great or whether we're struggling, I want to be here. I'm not looking to get out," he said. "I'd rather stick it out and wait for things to turn around."

Miller tried unsuccessfully to mask his satisfaction at dominating a team that swept his in Montreal last season and then downplayed the feat due to the Orioles' perceived lack of motivation.

"We played aggressive. I wanted to be aggressive, especially against this club," Miller said.

The small-market Expos historically have been one of those teams the Orioles love to hate: aggressive base runners, strong fundamentals, live young arms. But these Expos are relatively toothless. They entered last night last in the major leagues in runs scored, next-to-last in the National League in stolen bases and home runs and among the bottom third in team ERA and strikeouts.

Worse, they they mistook the game for a World Cup qualifier, kicking away three errors.

Thurman (3-6) was asked to interrupt a run in which Expos starting pitchers had not produced a win since June 25. He failed.

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