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In rare start at first base, Hoiles in swing Six RBIs tie career high; defensively, his night is mostly uneventful

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Pitching coach Ray Miller walked through the Orioles' clubhouse about an hour before last night's game and rounded up the players he needed in a meeting. "Pitchers, catchers and temporary first basemen," he shouted.

Chris Hoiles was in for some ribbing as he made his ninth career appearance at first base, including six games in 1990 and two in 1991 -- the most recent on June 8 of that year. He hadn't committed an error, but he hadn't carved out a career there, either.

Last night, he tore into the Seattle Mariners, homering twice and tying a career high with six RBIs to lead the Orioles' 13-3 victory at Camden Yards. He also got through the defensive portion unscathed, though there was one tense moment when he booted a grounder into foul territory before recovering and throwing to pitcher Mike Mussina covering first for the out.

Hoiles had bragging rights over many of the Orioles when it comes to facing Seattle's Randy Johnson. Before last night, he was 6-for-24 (.250) with two homers and four RBIs. After last night, those numbers had ballooned.

He ripped a two-run double down the left-field line in the first inning to give the Orioles the lead for good and a three-run homer to left in the sixth to give them some breathing room. He gave reliever Bob Wells the same treatment, leading off the eighth by clearing the scoreboard in right.

"I wasn't sitting on anything. It's just seeing the ball and putting a good swing on it," he said. "I'm just glad I could contribute some way. We had some key guys out."

Lineup shuffles along

Manager Davey Johnson was doing the lineup shuffle before the game, which seemed to stack the deck against the Orioles. But he had little choice.

Right fielder Eric Davis, the American League's leading hitter at .395, couldn't play because of a strained right hamstring, giving Tony Tarasco his first start since April 30. Rafael Palmeiro's 0-for-19 slump and career .047 lifetime average against Mariners starter Johnson took him out of the lineup and put Hoiles at first base. Second baseman Roberto Alomar's left ankle, sore enough that he may also miss tonight's game, kept his .216 lifetime average against Johnson on the bench in favor of Jeff Reboulet, who batted second.

Jeffrey Hammonds, who has been out for more than a week because of a pulled abdominal muscle, started in left field in place of B. J. Surhoff, who had just two hits off Johnson in 12 at-bats. Surhoff would have given the Orioles an entirely left-handed hitting outfield.

Brady Anderson started in center field even though his left leg was bothering him after sliding Wednesday. A .296 average against Randy Johnson, including seven RBIs, and Anderson's persistence made his inclusion a no-brainer. His two-run homer off Wells made it perfect.

"I know Surhoff wanted to be in the lineup," said Davey Johnson, "and I know Brady probably shouldn't be in the lineup. I think he hyper-extended one of his legs. But I didn't want to have to fight him. I just left him in there.

"Raffy's not swinging the bat too good, and I figured I'd let him step back. He's struggling, but he's also 1-for-25 [actually 1-for-21] off Randy. He's been struggling, but his is a little more mental. To me, he can hit anybody. In his case, it's more of a change of pace."

Davis said his hamstring wasn't too bad, but added, "It could be a day, it could be two days. I don't know. I haven't lost any strength or anything like that. It's just real tight."

Hammonds was playing for the first time since April 29, when he aggravated a pulled abdominal muscle. "It hurt. I'm not 100 percent," he said.

He wasn't happy about getting hit on the left arm by a Wells fastball on the next pitch after Hoiles' second homer, but accepted it as part of the game. "It's not an issue," he said. "You've got to play the game. I get hit, I score a run."

Palmeiro loses case, sits

Palmeiro tried to talk his way into the lineup, but to no avail.

He caught up to Johnson in the clubhouse after finishing batting practice and asked once more if he could play. Johnson placed an arm around Palmeiro's shoulder, smiled and said, "You need it [a rest]. Back off."

Johnson is used to players resisting a night off. It's a pleasant problem -- but a problem just the same.

"I don't want people fighting me every time I turn around. There are enough guys fighting me every time I don't put them in the lineup," he said.

"That's fine, I love it. But I'm still going to put the lineup out there that I think would be the best that day, and help whoever's not in the lineup be better tomorrow. That's my job. It's not up for discussion, really."

Walton ready, willing

Jerome Walton isn't just itching to get back on the field. "I'm dying to have a healthy season," he said.

It's too late for that, but Walton (strained left hamstring) is eligible to come off the disabled list tomorrow, and the Orioles need his right-handed bat. He would have played first base last night if he had been available.

Asked if Walton will be ready to play after tomorrow, Johnson said, "I believe he's ready, even though I haven't done a whole lot of research other than read the medical reports every day and see him running around. He seems to be running better."

"I'm ready," said Walton, who's 11-for-25 this season. "I've been running the last four or five days and my hammy feels good. But this is the time to be careful."

Parade warning

Because of tomorrow's Preakness Parade from 10 a.m. until noon, fans are encouraged to leave early for the Orioles' 1: 35 p.m. game and to use alternate routes to avoid downtown, especially Pratt Street.

Pub Date: 5/09/97

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