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McNally's place in books is preserved by 'B' team


There they were, defending the honor of Dave McNally.

Tony Tarasco and Jeffrey Hammonds. Jeff Reboulet and Lenny Webster. And now, starting at first base, Chris Hoiles.

The rumored and the injured, the neglected and the converted.

The huddled masses capable of breaking free -- yes, even against Randy Johnson.

Orioles 13, Mariners 3.

Not bad for a lineup right out of a spring-training split-squad game, a lineup that handed "The Big Unit" his first loss since the (Phil) Regan administration.

The Orioles got a little help from Mother Nature. They got a little help from the umpires. And they got a lot of help from their latest Lou Gehrig clone, Hoiles.

The Mariners grew so frustrated, reliever Bob Wells hit Hammonds in the eighth inning and also threw inside to Webster, prompting warnings to both benches.

Who's pitching tonight, Chris Bosio?

Actually, here's the question of the day:

Will Hoiles become the next first baseman to get more All-Star votes than Rafael Palmeiro?

The former catcher had two huge two-out hits against Johnson -- a two-run double and three-run homer -- then another homer off Wells to match his career high with six RBIs.

He certainly hits like a first baseman.

Heck, he looked like Wally Pipp out there.

And so, McNally stayed in the record books for most consecutive victories by an American League pitcher (17), a mark he shares with Johnny Allen.

Two of his former teammates -- Orioles manager Davey Johnson fTC and bench coach Andy Etchebarren -- plan to reach him today in Billings, Mont.

"I know McNally's going to be happy," Johnson said.

And if the Orioles had lost?

"He'd have gotten all over me."

But it wasn't going to happen -- Etchebarren had a hunch.

"I had a good feeling about tonight, I really did," he said. "I thought Mussina would pitch a good ballgame. I thought he'd get up for it.

"I said, 'Davey, we're going to call McNally. We're going to get his number and call him.'

"We saved his butt."

It was the least they could do.

Over the winter, McNally jokingly chided Johnson for allowing Mussina to break his club strikeout record.

Last night, Mussina returned to the mound after a 57-minute rain delay, a show of fortitude that demonstrated his growth as a No. 1 starter.

"I felt bad about breaking his strikeout record so I thought I'd do the best I could to help him hang onto his other record," Mussina said.

"Actually," he added with a smile, "I didn't feel too bad breaking the strikeout record."

Ah, but imagine what McNally would have said about Johnson's makeshift lineup if the Orioles had lost.

No Palmeiro. No Roberto Alomar. No B. J. Surhoff. And no Eric Davis.

It was the best Johnson could do. Alomar is still nursing a bad ankle. Davis is out with a mild hamstring strain. Palmeiro is 1-for-21 lifetime off Johnson and 0-for-19 in his past four games.

Johnson could have played Surhoff, but with the Orioles due to face three straight left-handers in this series, he probably didn't want to risk putting one of his hottest hitters in a slump.

So, the "B" squad it was.

Palmeiro walked into the clubhouse, took one look at the lineup and muttered, "I might play. I just might play."

But when he asked Johnson for the chance, the manager smiled, put his arm around the first baseman and told him to take the night off.

So, Palmeiro became part of a $15.5 million bench so deep in left-handed hitters, the Orioles could have broken off trade talks for Darren Daulton.

But actually, the lineup was better than it appeared.

The Orioles who took the field had a combined .244 lifetime batting average against Johnson -- almost 70 points higher than the league average this season.

Last night? They went a respectable 6-for-22 -- and never mind those nine strikeouts, eight in a span of 11 at-bats.

It was enough to Save Dave.

Oh, and is it still raining?

Before the delay, during the delay, after the delay.

McNally got a little help from above.

And from the Orioles official advising the umpires, groundskeeper/weatherman Paul Zwaska.

"If the groundskeeper wants to sit in front of a radar screen, he should go to the airport," Seattle manager Lou Piniella said.

Johnson also returned after the delay, even though he had thrown 102 pitches. Apparently, he was intent on tying the record.

But Hoiles' three-run homer -- the third homer of his career off Johnson -- gave the Orioles a 5-1 lead in the sixth, and the 6-foot-10 left-hander did not return for the seventh.

Hoiles played first base at Eastern Michigan and in the Detroit Tigers' farm system. But last night was his first start at the position since June 8, 1991 -- and, yes, he even threw out a runner.

It was that kind of night for the Orioles.

It has been that kind of season.

What, Dave McNally worry?

Pub Date: 5/09/97

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