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Tigers' 3-deep 5th lowers Oquist and O's to 7-6 defeat

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Both teams had three entrants in the home run-hitting contest last night, but the Detroit Tigers won with style points and held on to beat the Orioles, 7-6.

Cecil Fielder, Kirk Gibson and Junior Felix homered for the Tigers, and Harold Baines, Leo Gomez and Mark McLemore connected for the Orioles. The difference was that the Tigers scored more runs with their power display, and used much less elapsed time.

All three of the visitors' homers came off Mike Oquist in the fifth inning and produced five runs that broke a 2-2 tie. What made the destruction so devastating is the fact it took place after there were two outs.

Fielder got the power display started with a two-run shot, followed immediately by another homer by Gibson. After an important, but overlooked walk to Mickey Tettleton, Felix finished off Oquist.

"When you look back at the comeback we made, that's what makes me feel the worst," said Oquist, who was making his first major-league start.

"Even if I'd been able to come back after Gibson's home run, we probably would've won the game. I'm sure I'll look back at this game and see some things I probably should've done different."

Making the loss even more difficult to digest was the performance of Mark Eichhorn. After relieving Oquist following the home run by Felix, the sidearming right-hander blanked the Tigers on two hits the next 4 1/3 innings, his ninth straight scoreless outing (14 innings).

The Tigers' explosion came so suddenly, there wasn't time to make a pitching change until after three runs had crossed the plate on the home runs by Fielder (12) and Gibson (10) and Tettleton had drawn his walk. "Eichhorn was ready for Felix," said Orioles manager Johnny Oates, "but I liked the matchup with Oquist better."

Oates went into the game with Eichhorn as his only available long reliever and had committed himself to going with Oquist as long as possible.

"If those two were going to have to split the game, Oquist was more suited to go five or six."

In retrospect, Oquist admitted to a bit of self second-guessing. "The pitch to Fielder was a hanging curveball," he said, "and the one to Felix was a fastball that might've had too much of the plate, but it wasn't up too high. He just went down and got it."

The pitch Oquist questioned the most was the one he threw to Gibson. "It was a changeup," he said, "and I look back on it now and think I probably would've been better off to stay with the fastball or curve.

"I felt like I lost it a little bit right there," said Oquist. "I'm sure frustration had something to do with it, but I think maybe I didn't concentrate enough. I was just thinking about getting an out to end the inning. The walk ended up being very important. If I had made him put the ball in play, I would've had a chance."

The win was the second straight for the Tigers in this four-game series and their fifth in a row over a two-year period at Camden Yards -- where they had lost their first 10 games. The loss was the fourth in five games for the Orioles and dropped them six games behind the division-leading New York Yankees.

Oquist (1-1) had double trouble early, but managed to hold his own through four innings, when the score was 2-2. Four of the Tigers' first five hits went for two bases before they went for twice the fun in the fifth.

Before Eichhorn could come to the rookie's rescue, the Tigers had hit homers to all sectors of the park to give Mike Moore (5-4) a 7-2 lead. The veteran right-hander barely lasted long enough to claim the victory, leaving after giving up eight hits and four runs in 5 1/3 innings.

He was followed by five relievers, with Mike Henneman pitching an eventful, but scoreless ninth inning to claim his seventh save. Both Brady Anderson, who had three hits and extended his career-high hitting streak to 13 games, and Rafael Palmeiro hit long fly balls that appeared to have a chance to leave the park, but fell short.

Anderson didn't waste any time extending his hitting streak, drilling a double to the left-center-field gap to lead off the first inning. Mike Devereaux followed with a single to drive in the game's first run.

The Tigers tied the score in the second, when Fielder led off with the first of four doubles surrendered by Oquist and went to third on Gibson's infield roller. Tettleton was given an intentional walk, Felix was hit by a pitch and Chris Gomez walked to force in the tying run before Dan Bautista grounded into a double play.

Two innings later, the Tigers doubled their pleasure as two-base hits by Tettleton and Gomez provided a 2-1 lead that lasted only briefly. The next Gomez to be heard from was Leo, who homered to center to tie the game, 2-2.

But the Tigers, who had four hits the first four innings, were just starting to get loose. Oquist retired the first two hitters he faced in the fifth, getting Tony Phillips on a liner and Lou Whitaker on a grounder, both to second baseman Tim Hulett.

The rookie faced five more batters without getting the out he needed.

Fryman doubled into the corner and scored when Fielder crashed his 12th homer of the year deep into the left-center-field seats. When Gibson followed with his 10th homer to right-center field, the next activity was in the Orioles' bullpen.

Tettleton interrupted the homer barrage briefly by drawing a walk, but Felix stepped up the ball giveaway by depositing his fourth home run into the center-field seats to give the Tigers a 7-2 lead.

The Orioles rejoined the home run derby in the sixth inning. Following a walk to Palmeiro, Baines drove a 2-and-0 pitch beyond the left-center-field fence.

Cal Ripken threatened to duplicate the Tigers' back-to-back act, but his deep drive to left swerved in front of the foul pole.

A Gomez single turned out to be the finishing blow for Moore.

Chris Hoiles greeted ex-Oriole Storm Davis with a wicked one-hop liner that shortstop Chris Gomez turned into an inning-ending double play, temporarily preserving the Tigers' three-run lead.

Those would be the only outs recorded by Davis, who surrendered a bases-empty homer to McLemore (No. 2) and a bloop single to Hulett in the seventh inning. Left-hander Buddy Groom got the next call and he gave up Anderson's third hit.

The Orioles managed another run when Hulett scored on Palmeiro's sacrifice fly to cut the deficit to 7-6. They had another opportunity in the eighth, when Kurt Knudsen sandwiched walks to Ripken and Hoiles around a flyout by Gomez.

Joe Boever replaced Knudsen and McLemore's drive to the warning track in left-center was hauled in by Phillips for the second out and Hulett struck out to end the threat.

O'S WOES

After completing a three-game sweep of the Blue Jays on May 11, the Orioles were flying high. Since then, however, the Orioles have been feeling low. Here's where they stood then and now:

Date .. ..W-L .. .. ..Pct. .. ...Pos .. .. ..GB

5/11 .. .21-10.. ... .677 .. .. ..2 .. .. .. . 1/2

5/31 .. .27-21.. ... .563 .. .. ..3 .. .. .. .6

ORIOLES TONIGHT

Opponent: Detroit Tigers

Site: Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Time: 7:35

TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Tigers' Tim Belcher (2-8, 7.14) vs. Orioles' Mike Mussina (7-2, 2.58)

Tickets: About 400 scattered singles remain, not including 183 bleacher and 275 standing-room tickets that go on sale when the gates open.

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