ARLINGTON, Texas -- They've cracked his ribs and cracked his bat, but give Brady Anderson a crack at creating havoc and the Orioles become something dangerous.
Handicapped by a three-walk, four-run first inning, the Orioles recovered late for a second straight night to rally past the Texas Rangers, 5-4, at The Ballpark in Arlington.
Once hopeful for intervention from the weatherman, the Orioles were instead saved by their irrepressible designated pest. Anderson, who went 4-for-5, scored the Orioles' first run and then drove in two during a three-run seventh inning.
The turnaround came against a team that beat them 10 out of 13 games last year.
More accurately, Anderson served as co-conspirator to the resilience of starting pitcher Scott Erickson and the Rangers' bumbling defense, which allowed the Orioles six outs in the pivotal seventh.
Two days after opening the season with three hits, Anderson came back for four more. While his cracked left rib may have robbed him of some power, Anderson has eight singles in 12 at-bats.
"I was swinging the bat pretty well this spring. That was a big part of my decision to stay off the disabled list," he said. "You've got to get in a frame of mind where you're playing every day and getting in a routine of swinging the bat. I didn't want to mess that up."
Erickson initially looked poorly prepared for his first start but left the game in the seventh inning having pitched past Rangers starter John Burkett, who began the sixth with a 4-0 lead.
From there, manager Davey Johnson employed another rapid-fire effort by his bullpen to hold the game. Alan Mills and Jesse Orosco carried the game to a dominating Armando Benitez, who claimed the save by striking out five of the last six Texas batters.
Johnson moved quickly to defuse any hinting at a hidden meaning. "I've got a great closer in Randy [Myers, who closed the first two wins]. But when Armando did what he did in the eighth, there might be times I let him go," he said. "Nothing against Randy. I have the utmost confidence in Randy."
With a powerful offense to accompany a deep bullpen, the Orioles have wasted no time impressing their manager.
"I like this ballclub. I said this spring that I liked this ballclub," Johnson said. "We're not running on all cylinders. [Mike] Bordick's pressing. The guys aren't swinging like they're capable. But the pitching's been there. Starters are giving us innings and the bullpen has been outstanding."
Anderson found himself in the middle of the every offensive uprising. He singled and scored in the Orioles' two-run sixth and tied the game an inning later. Bordick's double-play grounder scored the winning run.
For a second straight night, the first inning went badly for an Orioles starting pitcher. Like Thursday, this one was eventually remedied, as the Rangers' Burkett left the game to his ruinous defense. A breaking-ball specialist who began sharp, Burkett allowed only one runner into scoring position through five innings.
Erickson walked three in the first. He got his first out against No. 5 hitter Lee Stevens after forcing home a run on a walk to Dean Palmer. A leadoff walk to Mark McLemore, a single by Ivan Rodriguez and another walk to Rusty Greer set the inning in motion.
Erickson got ahead of Palmer 0-and-2 before forcing in McLemore. Erickson clawed within one pitch of escaping the mess before ex-Oriole Mike Devereaux drilled a bases-clearing double inside the third base line to give the Rangers a 4-0 lead.
Rather than implode, Erickson steadied, saving a second consecutive raid on the Orioles' bullpen. He walked only one once clear of the first inning and the Rangers were unable to push another runner to third base.
"I thought it was going to be a horrendous night the way it started," Johnson said. "The first inning was awful. He was all over the place. But he did settle down. About the third inning he was throwing exceptionally well. He gave us a chance to come back. He gave me the innings we needed and the bullpen helped."
A leadoff walk to Jeff Reboulet in the sixth was followed by Anderson's broken-bat single. After a flyout, Rafael Palmeiro destroyed Burkett's shutout with a single. Eric Davis then scored Anderson on a sacrifice fly.
Asked if his injury has altered his technique, Anderson quipped, "Well, I'm hitting right-handed now, I don't know if you noticed."
The Rangers gave the game away in the seventh with ham-fisted fielding and bizarre decision-making. Without clearing the infield, the Orioles loaded the bases with none out.
Facing reliever Danny Patterson, Jeffrey Hammonds beat out a grounder to shortstop Benji Gil, who quickly compounded the lapse by immediately kicking Chris Hoiles' double-play grounder. Reboulet then sacrificed, but Patterson wheeled toward third rather than accept the out. His throw was too late to catch the speedy Hammonds, allowing the lead run to reach.
Anderson exacted the heavy toll. No longer looking to overpower the ball, he one-handed a single into right field to score Hammonds and Reboulet. His four hits matched a career high accomplished seven times.
Opponent: Texas Rangers
Site: The Ballpark in Arlington
Time: 8: 35 TV/Radio: Chs. 13, 50/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: O's Shawn Boskie (12-11, 5.32 ERA in '96) vs. Rangers' Darren Oliver (14-6, 4.66 ERA in '96)
Pub Date: 4/05/97