Hitless Bonilla has no answers, but still has place in lineup Johnson won't disarm 'one of our big guns'; ALCS notebook; AL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Orioles right fielder Bobby Bonilla remains mired in a series-long slump after last night's 0-for-5 performance.

Bonilla does not have a hit in the ALCS (0-for-16) and is 0-for-21 dating to Game 4 of the Division Series, when he homered in the second inning.

"I've just been [terrible]," Bonilla said. "Just write it. I have nothing else to say."

Bonilla's hitting problems date to the regular season. He is 4-for-49 in his past 14 games with two homers and four RBIs. All four RBIs came on a grand slam in Game 1 of the Division Series.

Manager Davey Johnson said he is not thinking of sitting Bonilla today, despite his slump.

"He's been one of our big guns, and if I sit him down, who do I play?" Johnson said. "Bobby is just awful anxious. He was anxious like that earlier in the year. When he does get a good pitch to hit, he's missing it. He's swinging and trying too hard. But you still want him in there."

A shuffling success

The New York Yankees shuffled their lineup last night for the second straight game.

Tim Raines, the regular left fielder, was given the night off and Darryl Strawberry was given the start. Right fielder Paul O'Neill was reinserted into the starting lineup despite a sore hamstring. Strawberry played right field in Game 3.

"You try to get as many people involved in a short series, so when you call on them, they work," said Yankees manager Joe Torre. "I want to get Paul O'Neill back in the lineup, and Strawberry had some good swings [Friday] night."

He had some great swings last night, hitting two home runs and driving in three runs. O'Neill also added a two-run homer, making Torre look smart.

"I feel like I owe it to the people who have helped us get where we are right now, to play," Torre said.

Torre also returned third baseman Wade Boggs to the lineup after two games on the bench, but the six-time batting champion went 0-for-5, stretching his playoff slump to 1-for-22.

Rivera eager to end it

Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera said the Yankees came into Baltimore looking to wrap up the series at Camden Yards.

Rivera's performance last night went a long way toward helping the Yankees realize that dream. Rivera allowed three straight singles to start the eighth inning with the Yankees leading 8-4, then promptly retired the next three Orioles.

"We have big confidence," Rivera said. "It's got to be today, not the next day. We have to close it [today]."

Records going, going

A bounty of ALCS home run records were set or tied last night.

The Yankees hit four homers, becoming the fourth team in ALCS history to hit that many in a game. The 1971 Orioles also share that distinction.

The Orioles and Yankees have combined for 13 homers in the first four games of the series -- an ALCS four-game record. They combined for five homers last night, tying an ALCS record.

Ratings on the rise

Friday's telecast of Game 3 supplanted Wednesday's Game as the most watched sports program of the year in Baltimore.

Game 3, seen on Channel 11, drew a 35.9 rating and 54 share of the audience, and was viewed in nearly 360,000 homes in the Baltimore metropolitan area. Wednesday's game got a 31.1/54.

National and New York ratings were not available.

Slumping Hoiles homers

Orioles catcher Chris Hoiles is having a rough postseason, but he homered in his first at-bat and added a single last night.

Hoiles entered the game with just one hit in 13 playoff at-bats (.076). He did not have an RBI before his bases-empty homer, and was in an 0-for-9 slump with four strikeouts.

"I'm putting some good swings on the ball," Hoiles said before the game, "but right now it just seems like it's one of those things where there are 30 fielders out there and you can't get anything by them. To me, I had one real bad game and that was [Game 4 of the Division Series] in Cleveland when I struck out three times."

Hoiles said he's sticking with his normal routine and feels fine physically, and the rigors of catching through a regular season and playoffs are not hindering him.

"I don't know what it is," Hoiles said. "There's no pressure there. Early in the year, I felt terrible, I felt lost, I felt a lot of things. But now I feel comfortable and confident."

Taking his medicine

Orioles third baseman Todd Zeile could have dodged the media after his Game 3 fielding blunder in the Yankees' four-run eighth inning, but he answered questions at his locker and made himself available to the media before last night's game.

"I knew I was going to have to talk about the play last night," Zeile said. "If I would have hit the game-winning home run [which he had going into the eighth inning], I would have had to talk about it. It's part of your responsibility as a player."

Close counterparts

Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro and last night's Yankees starter Kenny Rogers are good friends, dating to their years together with the Texas Rangers.

Whenever the Orioles and Yankees play, their families are waiting for the players together after the game. Palmeiro said his wife and Rogers' wife have become good friends, too.

"We're still pretty close," Palmeiro said. "When my son was born, Kenny was always around. He was like a second father to him."

Boss is behaving

Torre said Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, known for his meddling ways, has been surprisingly hands-off.

"I have not heard from George as many times as people said I would," Torre said. "We've had meetings, and he comes down to visit, but as far as second-guessing, he hasn't done that."

Watching is fun for Krivda

Orioles left-hander Rick Krivda isn't getting to play, but just sitting in the dugout is a thrill for him.

Krivda is not on the playoff roster, but Johnson asked him to stick around in case relievers Arthur Rhodes or Alan Mills got hurt. So, Krivda continues to work out and dresses for each game.

"It's been a great opportunity for me, just being with the guys," Krivda said. "Nobody from my town [McKeesport, Pa.] has ever done anything like this, so I've got a lot of stories to tell when I go home. I feel really comfortable in the clubhouse, and it's great talking to the guys about certain pitchers or hitters."

Palmeiro praise

Several Yankees have marveled at Palmeiro's dexterity with the bat.

Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez said Palmeiro's power begins with his hands.

"His hands are so quick that he can take balls that are middle-away and turn on them and hit it out of the park to right field," Martinez said. "He doesn't have to go the other way, because he gets the bat in the zone so fast."

Around the horn

The Yankees led the entire game yesterday, the first time they've done so in the postseason. Hoiles' homer was the first in the AL playoffs by an Orioles catcher since Andy Etchebarren in Game 4 of the 1973 ALCS against Oakland. Bernie Williams has hit safely in 12 of 13 career postseason games for the Yankees, including all eight in 1996. Derek Jeter also has hit in all eight this year. No Orioles team has ever won a postseason series after dropping two of the first three games.

Pub Date: 10/13/96

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