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O's putting stamp on power game


Hardly anyone can say exactly what Bobby Brown has done in almost 11 years as American League president, but with less than a month to go in his tenure, the Orioles are certainly getting fans better acquainted with his autograph.

Brown's signature appears on each league baseball and the Orioles have deposited more than a few of them in the outfield seats in the last three weeks.

Two days after a six-homer barrage that helped tie a major-league record for most home runs by two teams in a game, the Orioles launched three more yesterday in their 10-3 win over the California Angels.

The biggest, a grand slam by Cal Ripken in the third, came after a nearly two-hour rain delay and was the centerpiece of a six-run inning.

"It's a funny thing about baseball. Sometimes, the ball bounces your way and sometimes it doesn't," said Ripken. "While it's bouncing your way, you happily accept it."

The ball is certainly bouncing, or, more accurately, flying the Orioles' way of late. Baltimore hitters have hit home runs in 18 of their last 19 games, and had put together a team-record 17-game streak that was interrupted by Mark Langston's three-hit shutout Saturday night.

In a 27-game span, the Orioles have connected for 45 homers, the most in baseball during that time, and, with 103 homers, are behind only Detroit (113), Seattle (113) and Cleveland (106) in the majors.

"It's more of a happening than anything. It's like everyone's kind of on the page that we were supposed to be on in spring training," said catcher Chris Hoiles, whose third-inning bases-empty homer -- his 15th -- gave him club leadership over Rafael Palmeiro.

Indeed, on a club with Ripken, Hoiles, Palmeiro and Harold Baines, who between them hit 110 homers last season, the ball figured to jump out of Camden Yards or anyplace else -- juiced or not.

But it didn't, at least not in the early going, and the Orioles had streaks of five and four games this year where they did not hit a homer.

"It took awhile for it come out, but right now it's coming out and this is the way we should be hitting the ball," said Hoiles, who has hit seven homers in his last 16 games.

Said Ripken: "When one guy starts hitting and driving the ball, it has a way of relaxing the rest of the offense. When you're relaxed, it allows your natural abilities to come out."

Ripken, who had an early season power shortage, with only two in his first 41 games, has hit 10 in his last 37 games, and has homered in three of his last four games.

"I didn't feel like I was popping the ball and driving it like I'm capable," said Ripken. "You just stay at it and develop an attitude where you just go to drive the ball and hope the doubles and extra-base hits will come."

The grand slam -- a shot to right-center -- was Ripken's first since July 13, 1989 against Oakland's Tim Conroy at Memorial Stadium, and the first by an Oriole this season.

"It was no consolation giving up that home run to a guy like Ripken," said California starter Brian Anderson. "I went 3-2 on him, so I came at him with my best stuff. He must have been looking outside because he went that way. I know he has done that to a few guys in his time. I just did not want to be one of them."

Perhaps Anderson can be consoled by the knowledge that he has helped some Oriole fan get better in touch with the legend of Bobby Brown.

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