MILWAUKEE -- He is one of the few active players in the majors whose number has been retired, yet Harold Baines never takes anything for granted. He wouldn't talk about his 300th career homer until he actually hit it. Too presumptuous.
Baines can talk all he wants now. He hit No. 300, and Cal Ripken hit No. 326 and drove in five runs, helping the Orioles pummel the Milwaukee Brewers, 10-3, last night.
The Orioles would have to win their remaining seven games to finish .500. Unlikely, but they're making a run at it, with three straight victories. Kevin Brown, pitching in shirt sleeves in temperatures that would dip close to 40 degrees, threw 6 2/3 innings to even his record at 9-9. Rafael Palmeiro hit his 38th homer, a career high and the most by any Oriole since Frank Robinson hit a club-record 49 in 1966.
Baines nearly hit No. 300 in Detroit on Thursday, hammering a 435-foot drive to dead center. It would have been out in any stadium in the majors, other than Detroit, where the center-field fence stands 440 feet from home plate. The ball bounced off the warning track and over the fence, and Baines stood at second and stared out at the fence.
He was back in the lineup last night, despite the fact that the Brewers were starting a left-hander, Brian Givens. Orioles manager Phil Regan said he would play Baines as much as possible until he hit No. 300.
By the time Baines batted in the sixth, the Orioles led comfortably, 6-2, and Givens was gone, replaced by right-hander Mark Kiefer. "Think he'll get No. 300 this time?" Orioles public relations director John Maroon asked aloud.
RTC Yes. At that moment, Baines hit another 435-foot drive, except at County Stadium, the center-field fence is 402 feet from home.
"That's a pop fly in Detroit," joked Baines, who traded an autographed bat to a fan for the ball. "I'm glad I'm out of Detroit."
Baines is a line-drive hitter and never considered 300 homers something he could attain. But before this season, he realized he could achieve a mark that only 68 players had accomplished before.
"It means a lot," Baines said. "This wasn't one of my goals, to get 300 homers in my career."
Jeffrey Hammonds, who pinch-hit for Baines in the ninth in his first at-bat since July 17, said Baines reached 300 "with style. He crushed that ball. Then the next time up, he gets an opposite-field hit against a lefty. He plays the game the way it's supposed to be played."
In recent weeks, Baines and Ripken had gone head to head in the record book for career RBIs, one passing the other. Before last night, Baines led, 1,258 to 1,256. But even on the night Baines reached 300 homers, Ripken passed him in RBIs.
After he had three hits Thursday, Ripken brushed off any suggestion that his slump was over. Wait and see what happens tomorrow, he said.
This is what happened: Ripken kept hitting. Brady Anderson reached second base in the first inning, on a single and a steal, and Ripken hit a single to left; Anderson scored with a slide across home. Bobby Bonilla pulled a two-run homer over the left-field fence, the first of four by the Orioles.
Mark Smith and Jeff Huson singled to lead off the second and Ripken, after taking a two-strike pitch just out of the strike zone, blasted a three-run homer, his 16th of the year. His five RBIs give him 82 for 1995. It was his most RBIs in a game since May 24, 1994, when he had six in Milwaukee.
Brown, pitching with a lead of more than five runs for the first time since May, went after the Brewers aggressively, and an Orioles starter again pitched deep into the game. Orioles starters have pitched 43 2/3 out of a possible 53 innings over the past six games, including two complete games.
"I tell you what," said Regan, "they're having fun right now."
Better late than never. Just ask Harold Baines.
Opponent: Milwaukee Brewers
Site: County Stadium, Milwaukee
TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Jimmy Haynes (1-1, 1.88) vs. Brewers' Ricky Bones (10-10, 4.06)