ARLINGTON, Texas -- The connection had become clear to Brady Anderson's teammates. He led off Thursday's game with a homer and the Orioles lost. Another homer to start Friday's game, another defeat. He led off Saturday's game with a homer and, naturally, the Orioles lost.
Alan Mills warned Anderson against another leadoff homer before yesterday's game. Don't do it again, Mills said, smiling. But David Wells, the Orioles' starting pitcher, was undaunted. "Whatever you did the last three games," Wells said to Anderson confidently, "do it again. All we need is one [run]."
Sure enough, Anderson opened yesterday's game with a homer, his fourth leadoff shot in four days -- but the Texas Rangers pounded Wells for six earned runs and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings and the Orioles lost, 9-6. The Orioles and Pavlov's dog, one and the same. Rangers third baseman Dean Palmer had two homers -- one a grand slam -- a triple and single and six RBIs yesterday.
"Boy, did I eat my words," Wells said afterward.
Everything that was going right for the Orioles as they started 11-2 is going wrong now, in this four-game losing streak. The Orioles have stopped hitting in the clutch, stopped turning double plays, and their pitching has been awful. In sweeping the Orioles in a three-game series for the first time since 1988, the Rangers hit 10 homers and scored 43 runs.
"They hit the heck out of it," said manager Davey Johnson. "They did everything right in this series, and we couldn't get anything going. . . . Any time you give up nine runs, you're definitely getting out-hit."
Past the first inning, anyway, after Anderson's first at-bat. The Orioles center fielder acknowledged that before yesterday's game, he thought about his streak of leadoff homers. "But that was good," he said, "because then I was able to put it out of my mind."
To continue his string of homers, Anderson would have to try to pick up the ball in tough conditions, heavy winds swirling through The Ballpark in Arlington ahead of a coming storm. All day, funnels of
dust occasionally rose from the ground and chased the hitters and home plate umpire Ted Hendry away from the batter's box.
As Texas starter Darren Oliver threw his second strike to Anderson in the first inning, his hat fell forward over his eyes. But tTC Anderson came back on the count, to full, and Oliver threw a fastball.
At that moment, Orioles media relations director John Maroon was on the phone, as part of his effort to determine whether three leadoff homers in three games is a major-league record. He already had called Elias Sports Bureau and other record-keepers, to no avail. Anderson turned on Oliver's fastball and pulled it over the right-field wall, and Maroon stood up, feeling confident enough that nobody had ever hit four leadoff homers in four games.
"That," Maroon said aloud, "is a record."
As Anderson reached second base, his eyes focused on the Orioles' dugout, and could see Mills motioning to his teammates to give him the silent treatment and not to congratulate him for something that seemed to jinx the team. "So I headed on into the dugout," said Anderson, shrugging.
Bobby Bonilla reached out with a helmet in his right hand and thumped Anderson in the side, playful admonishment. Besides that, Anderson received little acknowledgment for his feat (the Orioles have received calls from unaffiliated baseball historians saying Anderson has set a record, but Maroon has been unable to confirm this officially).
But the script remained the same. An Anderson homer leading off, an Orioles loss.
"He better hit a double instead of a homer," said pitching coach Pat Dobson.
Anderson, who already has eight homers and leads the AL in slugging percentage, has no explanation for his power binge. "I'm swinging the bat well," he said. "I'm trying to stay consistent . . ."
His voice trailed off, and he remembered his last at-bat of the game. "Look, I just got through striking out 10 minutes ago," he said, smiling slightly, "so you better stay away from me."
Bonilla said: "He's just crushing the ball. . . . I've never seen him like this."
Cal Ripken added: "When he gets on a little bit of a roll, he can do some things. He does have the ability to get hot."
Anderson has hit in 10 of the last 11 games, with 13 runs, three doubles, eight homers and 14 RBIs, with 19 hits in 42 at-bats. And the Orioles keep on losing.
Orioles catcher Chris Hoiles homered in the second inning yesterday, and Wells had a two-run lead, one more than he thought he needed. But he walked Mickey Tettleton with two out and two on in the third, and Palmer hit a fastball low and away for a grand slam.
Wells allowed another run in the fourth, two in the sixth, and the Orioles were finished; they eventually would fall behind 9-3, before Rafael Palmeiro's three-run homer in the ninth. "The bats didn't wake up for us," Wells said, "but the pitching didn't either."
Texas manager Johnny Oates said: "This is not our destination, it's only part of our journey," after his Rangers improved to a major-league best 13-4 record. "You can always find something to get better on, but if a manager had to sit down and write a script, this would probably follow pretty much to form."
After Bonilla grounded out to end the game, Johnson walked over to the stands and got a hug and kiss from Flo Johnson, his 78-year-old mother who lives in San Antonio.
After the way the Orioles performed in three days in Texas, the manager probably needed that.
The Rangers didn't just sweep the Orioles in their three-game series, they crushed them. The scores and some of the statistics from the weekend series in Arlington:
Game 1: Rangers 26, Orioles 7
Game 2: Rangers 8, Orioles 3
Game 3: Rangers 9, Orioles 6
Stat .. .. .. .. Rangers .. Orioles
Runs .. .. .. .. .. . 43 .. .. . 16
Hits .. .. .. .. .. . 40 .. .. . 28
Doubles .. .. .. .. .. 8 .. .. .. 5
Triples .. .. .. .. .. 3 .. .. .. 0
Home runs .. .. .. . 10 .. .. .. 6
Walks . .. .. .. .. . 21 .. .. . 11
Total bases . .. .. . 84 .. .. . 51
Left on base ... .. . 16 .. .. . 20
Team ERA . .. .. .. 5.33 .. . 15.75
Opponent: Cleveland Indians
Site: Jacobs Field
TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Scott Erickson (1-0, 3.50) vs. Indians' Charles Nagy (2-0, 3.320)
Pub Date: 4/22/96