ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Somebody had better check the IDs on these guys wearing the Baltimore uniforms this week. They resemble nothing like those lame Orioles who couldn't hit earlier this month.
The Orioles are, relatively speaking, very hot. They beat on California Angels left-hander Mark Langston last night in an 11-2 victory, and already the O's have scored 47 runs in the first eight games of this 10-game trip.
This from a unit that totaled 18 runs on a miserable seven-game trip through New York and Boston the second week of August. Rafael Palmeiro and Mark Smith hit three-run homers, and Smith, Jeff Huson and Bret Barberie had three hits apiece. Scott Erickson bounced back to pitch a six-hit complete game over the top scoring team in the major leagues.
The Orioles have won five of the eight games on this trip, and last night's win pulled them within six games of the Texas Rangers in the wild-card standings.
"We're hitting the ball like we should hit it," Orioles manager Phil Regan said. "Like we expected to hit it after we got [Bobby] Bonilla."
Brady Anderson, who had three hits and knocked in two runs, acknowledged the increased offense.
"We're obviously not going to score 10 runs a game, but this is obviously a good sign. This is better than getting shut out, isn't it?"
The Orioles hit Langston early and often.
The Angels' J. T. Snow may be the best defensive first baseman in baseball, lithe in his movement and exceptional in making quick decisions. But in the third inning, Huson pulled a sharp grounder to Snow, a couple of feet off first base, with Anderson at first.
Snow could've moved a foot or two, stepped on first and thrown to second. But he threw to second for a force on Anderson, and when shortstop Damion Easley couldn't get off a clean return to first, the Angels lost their chance at the double play. Snow realized his mistake, and he stood by the base, staring at the ground in frustration.
He could not have known that the play would lead to a five-run inning. Cal Ripken walked, putting runners at first and second. Then Bonilla pulled a ground ball just inside third base, down into the corner. A double, Huson scoring and Ripken stopping at third.
Rafael Palmeiro, who had swapped places in the batting order with Ripken last night with the Orioles facing a left-hander, was next. He had homered Tuesday and Wednesday in Seattle, and Thursday he couldn't explain his tendency to hit homers in bunches this year. Palmeiro hit a homer a day May 5-7, on back-to-back days June 14-15, five in seven days after the All-Star break, three in three days Aug. 13-15.
"To be honest with you," he said, "I have no idea why. It's just happened that way."
Langston would probably like an explanation. He threw a curveball on his first pitch, and Palmeiro pulled it over the five-foot fence down the right-field line. For Palmeiro, his third homer in four days, his 29th overall and RBIs No. 80, 81 and 82.
The Orioles stayed on the attack. Chris Hoiles walked, and after Jeff Manto struck out, Smith lined a single to left. Barberie singled and Hoiles scored the fifth and final run of the inning.
The way the Orioles' season has gone, it would not have been surprising if the Angels had come right back, and it appeared they would do just that. California got three straight singles to start the bottom of the third -- Easley, Greg Myers and Jose Lind, Lind collecting his first RBI since May 14.
The Orioles' bullpen began to stir; Erickson, after all, had lasted only 1 2/3 innings in his last start. Pitching coach Mike Flanagan walked slowly to the mound, serving the dual purpose of settling down Erickson and buying time for the bullpen.
But after falling behind in the count to Tony Phillips, Erickson struck out Phillips, enticed Jim Edmonds to ground into a fielder's choice, and retired Tim Salmon on a fly ball to right.
The Orioles added to their lead in the sixth inning. With one out, Barberie drove a fly ball to the opposite field, into the right-field corner. The ball skipped on the dirt and bounced into the crowd, a double.
Anderson then shot a single up the middle, and Barberie rambled home. Anderson has had a productive week, in the face of some tough left-handed pitchers. He had two hits in Seattle Monday against Randy Johnson, and owns three of the nine hits by left-handers against Johnson this year. Anderson extended his hitting streak to 11 games Wednesday, before going hitless Thursday. Then last night, he had two singles and a walk against Langston, a pitcher who had previously held him to just three hits in 29 at-bats.
Anderson drove in another run with a double in the eighth inning, followed by an RBI fly ball by Huson.
Erickson, by then, had worked himself into a ground-ball groove, the Angels beating his sinkers into the dirt. Two groundball outs in the fourth, three in the second, one in the sixth, three more in the seventh. Through the first seven innings, Erickson had racked up 13 ground-ball outs (two on double plays) and four strikeouts.
"He's [Erickson] has a tendency to pitch well every other game," Regan said. "We've got try to get him going three or four games in a row."
Opponent: California Angels
Site: Anaheim (Calif.) Stadium
TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Kevin Brown (5-8, 4.20) vs. Angels' Brian Anderson (6-5, 5.23)