O's turn right on Detroit exit, 11-4

Faulted parts of lineup produce on last visit to Tiger Stadium

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

DETROIT -- A day after their frustrated manager complained of a recent slump by the middle of his lineup and a season-long absence of production from its bottom third, the Orioles received significant contributions from both sectors to pound the Detroit Tigers, 11-4, in their last game as guests at Tiger Stadium.

The win couldn't salvage a losing road trip against two of the major leagues' losingest three clubs. Nor could it cloak a growing schism between manager Ray Miller and general manager Frank Wren. But at least several players could leave the corner of Michigan and Trumbull avenues clutching career mementos.

Less than 20 hours after his promotion from Triple-A, rookie outfielder Eugene Kingsale slapped a second-inning double for his first career hit.

Barely one week after scraping bottom at Camden Yards, rookie catcher Mike Figga enjoyed the first three-hit game of his brief major-league career. The moment capped a 3-4 road trip that also included Figga's first major-league home run, Wednesday in Kansas City.

Right fielder Albert Belle mashed a career-high four doubles on four consecutive plate appearances during a five-inning span, as the Orioles broke open a 3-2 game after the fifth inning.

Belle scored three times and drove in three runs, leaving him with more RBIs (87) than walks (86) for the first time since April 21. His day, which gives him 15 RBIs in his past 25 games, was tainted only by an eighth-inning ruling that left him with a ground-rule double and cost him a fourth RBI.

His team ahead by five runs, Belle argued only briefly.

Jason Johnson (5-7) put together consecutive wins for the first time as an Oriole by clearing 6 2/3 innings with only five hits and no walks. Johnson might have lasted longer had three of his hits not gone for home runs, two by Tigers second baseman Damion Easley.

Combined, second baseman Jeff Reboulet, Kingsale and Figga were 4-for-11, scored once and reached base in eight of 15 plate appearances. The middle of the order -- B. J. Surhoff, Belle and Jeff Conine -- contributed a 7-for-15 day, including six extra-base hits.

Conine's first-inning, two-run homer off fill-in Tigers starter C. J. Nitkowski staked Johnson to a 3-0 lead.

"The bottom of the order got on base," Miller said. "We were able to get the bit hitters to the plate and drove in the runs."

Johnson, a road winner for the second time since June 20, endured a blister on his pitching hand that caused him pain after each inning. However, he was able to maintain command of all his pitches and in one stretch retired 12 consecutive hitters. Johnson was within one out of reaching his sixth seven-inning appearance when Easley's second homer led Miller to replace him with Al Reyes.

Having established himself as a member of the Orioles' rotation of the future, Johnson said he still has one significant goal left for this season.

"I would like to throw a complete game before the season is over," he said. "I want to go out there and cut down on the number of pitches I throw, get a complete game, and definitely win the game."

The Tigers closed to 3-2 and 8-4 but were finally undone by a bullpen that surrendered nine hits and seven walks in five innings.

The 58-72 Orioles, held to seven runs in their previous three games, scored on a passed ball, wild pitch and a bases-loaded walk and sent a combined 17 hitters to the plate in the seventh and eighth innings.

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