Blue skies finally smiled on the Orioles yesterday. Their makeup game was delayed by rain for 33 minutes at the start, but the weather broke and provided a surprisingly pleasant backdrop for a 3-2 victory over the Texas Rangers.
The game wasn't bad either. Brady Anderson and Rafael Palmeiro homered in the third inning to put the Orioles in front and left-hander David Wells threw a strong 7 1/3 innings to earn his first victory since May 20.
If only anyone had been there to see it. Though an official crowd count was not immediately available, it clearly was the smallest crowd in the 4 1/2 -year history of Camden Yards, estimated at about 5,000. The count was difficult to ascertain because tickets from Wednesday night's rain-drenched doubleheader were honored and the rest of the seats were sold on a $5 general admission basis.
The Rangers, held over by unpopular demand, were happy to get out of town and the Orioles were happy to see them go. The victory was only the Orioles' second in 10 games against the American League West leaders, and it wouldn't have been possible without a spectacular two-way performance by Anderson.
The home run was his 25th of the year -- tying him with Albert Belle for the major-league lead -- and he made a terrific throw from center field to cut down the potential tying run at the plate in the eighth inning.
Texas right-hander Kevin Gross also pitched a solid game under very difficult circumstances, but a couple of bad pitches in the third would be enough to do him in. He had come back Wednesday night on three days rest to pitch an inning before heavy rains forced the game to be replayed yesterday afternoon. So he braved another rain delay to start all over again, and gave up three runs over 6 2/3 innings of work to take the loss.
Anderson got a fastball on the outside part of the plate and pulled it over the flag court for his fifth homer in the last 10 games, catching up with Belle after a quad (thigh) strain had temporarily derailed him.
"After he pulled away from me, I figured he was probably gone for good," Anderson said. "It's nice to catch him even for one day. There are some amazing home run hitters in this league and I'm not one of them, but to be among them for even one day is great."
The homer tied the game and Palmeiro came up two outs later to launch one into the bullpen behind center field and put the Orioles in front. It was his 16th home run of the year and it raised his team-leading RBI total to 60.
Wells, who battled back from a five-run first inning last Saturday to pitch through the eighth, gave up a first-inning home run to Dean Palmer yesterday before settling down to give up just one more run over the next 6 2/3 innings, but he came very close to leaving without a decision.
He gave up a base hit to Kevin Elster to lead off the eighth inning and found himself in an instant jam when the ball skipped past a charging Mike Devereaux for an error that allowed the potential tying run to reach second base with no one out. Darryl Hamilton followed with a single up the middle that figured to tie the game, but Anderson scooped up the ball on the run and fired a strike to catcher Gregg Zaun for the out.
"You know it's a big play," Anderson said. "From where I was, a lot depends on how quickly you can get the ball."
So was that a bigger thrill than the home run?
"I think so," he said. "A play like that fires up the fans. You get less chances to do that, and it gave me a chance to show off my cannon."
Manager Davey Johnson went to the mound at that point and pulled a reluctant Wells off the mound. Roger McDowell finished the eighth and Randy Myers pitched a scoreless ninth to record his 14th save.
The game was played in a surprising 2 hours, 23 minutes, partly because not a single walk was issued by either pitching staff.
"The good thing is we have started to get good pitching again," Johnson said. "If it stays, we should be able to put something together the rest of the way. They [the Rangers] are the best hitting team in the league and we put together three good starts."
Johnson was particularly excited about the performance of Wells.
"He's controlling the game again," Johnson said. "I think he has been relying too much on the catchers. He's a great athlete, and he has great baseball instincts, but he was not reading hitters. They were putting down the fingers and he would throw it."
Wells wasn't happy to be removed from the game, but Johnson made all the right moves. He brought on McDowell to get the last two outs of the eighth and called on Myers to open the ninth against Rangers slugger Juan Gonzalez, even though it might have seemed logical to let the right-handed, sinkerball specialist McDowell start the inning.
"It crossed my mind," Johnson said. "But it's a little premature to think about that. You open up a whole can of worms if you do that prematurely. If Roger gives up a hit or a home run, you've got total disarray. You've messed up two roles. I might do that if Randy was struggling, or he had worked a lot, but that's a little premature."
Myers got Gonzalez to pop out, then struck out the final two batters to close out the game. It was that kind of day.
Pub Date: 6/21/96