OAKLAND, Calif. -- It was only a few months ago that the Orioles were beginning to think the long-term contract given to Chris Hoiles last year was a monumental mistake. Now, they cannot be so sure.
Hoiles, who struggled badly both at the plate and behind it in the first half of the season, has become one of the cornerstones of the rejuvenated Orioles offense that has carried the club back into playoff contention.
"Chris has been really hot for about a month now," manager Davey Johnson said between games of yesterday's doubleheader sweep. "He and Eddie [Murray] have really stepped it up."
Hoiles arrived in Oakland in the midst of a career-high 11-game hitting streak, and he has stepped it up from there. He had four hits and a pair of home runs in Thursday night's 18-run output and followed that with a three-hit, three-RBI performance that included his 21st home run in the first game yesterday.
He has been on base eight times in his last 10 at-bats with seven hits and a walk. Through the course of his 13-game hitting streak, he's batting .458 with 14 runs scored, five homers and 17 RBIs.
Nevertheless, Johnson gave him the rest of the day off, starting reserve catcher Cesar Devarez in the nightcap.
A's hit 200 HR mark
Despite being swept, the Athletics also made history of a positive variety. They set a franchise record when Geronimo Berroa hit their 199th and 200th home runs of the year in the first game, though it was hard to celebrate the record-breaker in the ninth inning, with the Orioles 11 runs ahead and the Oakland bullpen in shambles.
"It's nice, but I'd rather win ballgames," Oakland manager Art Howe said of the record.
Berroa added his third homer of the day -- and 34th of the season -- in the ninth inning of the second game and has eight home runs in the past five games.
Mike Mussina left the Orioles yesterday to attend a memorial service today in his hometown of Montoursville, Pa., for the local victims of TWA Flight 800.
Twenty-one students and teachers from Montoursville High, where Mussina coaches in the off-season, were killed when the plane exploded off Long Island last month.
Looking for help
General manager Pat Gillick and the Orioles scouting department continue to scour the major leagues for help, especially now that the club has lost two more veteran players, Roger McDowell and Jeffrey Hammonds, to injury. But Johnson is not holding out a lot of hope for outside assistance, especially pitching.
"The price still is pretty high," he said. "If you're in [the race], you've got to pay more and I don't think we have the depth to pay it."
Gillick was asked between games yesterday if any more roster moves were imminent. "Nothing I'm willing to talk about," he said.
Bel Air native Jay Witasick (UMBC) faced the Orioles in the late innings of Thursday's series opener, giving up three runs on four hits in an inning of work. He may remember that performance for the opportunity to pitch to -- and strike out -- fellow Harford Countian Cal Ripken.
Yesterday, Witasick was optioned to Triple-A Edmonton and pitcher Bill Taylor (pulled groin muscle) was placed on the 15-day disabled list as Oakland recalled pitchers Bobby Chouinard and Paul Fletcher.
Around the horn
Rafael Palmeiro's eight-RBI day moved him from seventh to second place among RBI leaders in the AL, trailing only Albert Belle of Cleveland, who has 112. . . . The Orioles have scored 37 runs against the A's in three games, 30 of them after the sixth inning. . . . Atlanta claimed outfielder Luis Polonia off waivers from the Orioles. . . . In Oakland, the Orioles are 21-8 since 1992 and 103-51 all-time.
Pub Date: 8/17/96