MILWAUKEE -- The Orioles hit the road last week and baseball is fun again. They're scoring runs at a shocking rate, they're getting good pitching, and they're enjoying themselves.
The Orioles thrashed the Milwaukee Brewers, 12-2, last night, and assumed control of County Stadium: Before the game, left-hander David Wells climbed into the giant mug that sits high over center field, taking the high ground from Bernie Brewer.
His teammates pelted Wells with balls thrown from the field, and once the game began, the Orioles' hitters tried launching balls into the Brewers, with several near-misses. Jeffrey Hammonds, Roberto Alomar and Rafael Palmeiro hit homers for the Orioles, who have a total of 174, second-best in the majors this season. Orioles starter Scott Erickson (6-10), who pitched a complete game, won his first game since July 2.
The Orioles limped out of Camden Yards on July 28, with club executives weighing the possibility of breaking up the team by trading Bobby Bonilla and Wells. But they've been revitalized on this two-week, four-city road trip through the Midwest, sweeping three games from Minnesota, splitting four games in Cleveland and taking the first two games of the current three-game series with Milwaukee. Seven wins in the first nine games, and even if the Orioles lose the final four games of this road trip, they'll have won more than 50 percent of the games on the trip.
Some of the problems that have hurt them all year are still evident, the failure to advance runners, the lack of bullpen depth. But they are overpowering opponents on this trip.
They scored 16 runs on 17 hits against Minnesota July 30 and scored nine runs the next day. In Cleveland on Saturday, the Orioles blasted 14 hits for nine runs, and two days later, totaled 21 hits -- the highest single-game total at Jacobs Field -- and 13 runs. Ben McDonald and four Milwaukee relievers gave up 15 hits and 13 runs to the Orioles Tuesday night.
When the road trip started, the Orioles were hitting .273. They had improved that to .277 before last night's game, scoring 51 runs in eight games, an average of 6.6 runs per game. Alomar scored 10 runs in the first eight games; Cal Ripken had 15 hits in 31 at-bats.
The Orioles resumed the beating last night.
The Brewers have a doubleheader tomorrow and will need their bullpen. So once the Orioles hammered Scott Karl early and established an overwhelming lead, Milwaukee manager Phil Garner didn't replace Karl, or bother warming up anybody in the bullpen. He left Karl on the mound, and the Orioles teed off.
The Brewers took the lead with a run in the bottom of the first. B. J. Surhoff singled to start the top of the second for the Orioles, and Eddie Murray grounded to shortstop Jose Valentin for what looked to be a double play. Valentin flipped to second baseman Mark Lorretta for the first out, but as Lorretta tried to throw to first, he was upended by Surhoff, and Lorretta's throw bounced in front of and then away from Kevin Seitzer, who couldn't catch the short hop. Murray hustled into second base.
What appeared to be a basic mistake became a turning point for Karl. Chris Hoiles doubled to score Murray, and Hammonds scored Hoiles by slamming his homer into the left-center field stands. Bernie Brewer, Milwaukee's mascot, sat sullenly in center field.
Following Hammonds, Alomar pulled a homer inside the left-field foul line. Karl walked Mike Devereaux, the second drawn by Devereaux since July 19. Then Ripken bashed a line drive between center fielder Pat Listach and left fielder Marc Newfield, and Devereaux scored. It was the 2,499th hit of Ripken's career.
Palmeiro grounded out, but Bonilla, the ninth hitter of the inning for the Orioles, hit a double to left, Ripken racing home with the sixth run of the rally.
The Orioles were pounding Karl, and there was no relief in sight. Murray doubled to lead off the third. After Hoiles singled Murray to third, Hammonds flied deep to right, scoring Murray with the Orioles' seventh run.
Palmeiro homered in the fourth, and the Orioles added four more runs in the eighth inning. It was the 22nd time this year the Orioles have reached double figures in runs.
Erickson may be erratic, he sometimes may get frustrated and start flinging the ball. But he's proved this: There is nobody better on the Orioles at pitching with a lead, and once the Orioles scored all those early runs, Erickson shut down Milwaukee, holding the Brewers to 10 hits over nine innings.
Opponent: Milwaukee Brewers
Site: County Stadium, Milwaukee
Time: 2: 05 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Rocky Coppinger (6-3, 5.04) vs. Brewers' Jeff D'Amico (3-4, 5.11)
In the past five games, the Orioles have been battering the ball, accumulating 75 hits and 12 homers. A game-by-game look:
Date .. Opp. .. H .. HR .. Result
8/3 ... Cle. . 14 ... 2 .. W 9-4
8/4 ... Cle. . 11 ... 2 .. L 14-2
8/5 ... Cle. . 21 ... 2 .. W 13-10
8/6 ... Mil. . 15 ... 3 .. W 13-3
8/7 ... Mil. . 14 ... 3 .. W 12-2
Pub Date: 8/08/96