Orioles outfielder B. J. Surhoff had two chances to make someone a millionaire yesterday, but he happily settled for one of the biggest offensive performances of his career and a 9-5 victory over the Seattle Mariners before 47,451 at Camden Yards.
Surhoff had an RBI single, a home run and a three-run triple in his first three at-bats, putting him within a gapper of hitting for the cycle for the first time in his career. He had two more at-bats -- either of which could have meant a cool million for Lin Bauernschub of Ellicott City, yesterday's participant in a television promotion that rewards a fan with just less than the average major-league salary if an Oriole hits for the cycle.
But he struck out both times and had to settle for a six-RBI performance that carried right-hander Scott Erickson to his sixth victory and helped salvage a split of the four-game series with the team that many have designated as the favorite to represent the American League in the World Series.
"It would have been nice to get it," said Surhoff, who raised his average to .340 with the 3-for-5 performance. "I had an opportunity to do it in Milwaukee and had a ball go just foul that could have been a triple. You don't get that opportunity very often.
"I'm happy, but I'd have been more happy if that lady had won a million bucks. Now, she's probably throwing darts at my picture."
Former Orioles starter Dennis Martinez might be tempted to do the same. He gave up all three hits to Surhoff, who drove in the first six Orioles runs and delivered the big blow -- the bases-loaded triple -- in the five-run fifth that broke open a close game.
"I had men on base the first three times up," Surhoff said. "When you're swinging well, you're going to get guys in. Earlier this year, I wasn't getting them in, but I'm feeling really good at the plate right now.
"It's a long season. You go through periods where you don't get a lot of opportunities with men on base. Today, Robbie [Alomar] had three hits and Raffy [Palmeiro] was getting on base, and I was in a position in the lineup where I feel real comfortable."
Alomar's performance was just as uplifting, but more because of the long-term implications. He had singles in each of his first three at-bats and stole his first two bases of the year, an indication that he is regaining strength in his sore left ankle.
"It was good to see that," manager Davey Johnson said. " When Robbie's running, that just sets a whole new tempo in the ballgame."
Erickson continued his early-season roll. He has never been known as a fast starter, but he joined teammate Jimmy Key and five other major-league pitchers with six victories.
It was not his most overpowering performance of the year, but he worked six innings and gave up two runs on five hits. Relievers Arthur Rhodes and Shawn Boskie combined to give up three bases-empty home runs in the late innings, but the victory never was in serious doubt after the Orioles batted around in the fifth.
Though Erickson clearly is enjoying his early-season success, he isn't taking anything for granted. He has been a plus-.500 pitcher since he was acquired by the Orioles two years ago, but he has not had a really big season since he won 20 games on the way to a world title with Minnesota in 1991.
"It's early," he said. "You take it one game at a time, and hopefully you can stay in a groove and keep your mechanics and muscle memory locked in."
The four-game series brought together two teams that are considered favorites in their respective divisions, and both entered the long weekend in first place. The Orioles defeated Mariners ace Randy Johnson in the opener, but did little against left-handers Jamie Moyer and Jeff Fassero in the next two games.
No one is going to attach too much significance to any series this early, but the Orioles did not want to drop three of four at home with a three-game series against the Mariners coming up next weekend at the Kingdome.
"We know we can play with them," Erickson said, "and, hopefully, we'll see them down the road."
Johnson just hopes to have a healthy ballclub when he sees them next weekend. The Orioles have been playing with a short bench because of injuries to outfielders Eric Davis, Jeffrey Hammonds and Jerome Walton.
"We were feeling each other out, and the feeling wasn't very comfortable," Johnson said. "I'm sure that feeling is mutual, because we both have pretty good teams. I just hope I get Eric back by the time we get to Seattle.
"We've had a rough spell. We've got to get healthy. We have to go to the West Coast, and then go out to play Cleveland and New York. Those are some clubs we need to be healthy for."
The road trip begins tonight in Oakland, where the Orioles play a two-game set against the Athletics. They go on to Anaheim for two before closing out the weeklong trip in Seattle.
It is a particularly tough schedule, because the club comes home for just two games against the Detroit Tigers before embarking on another weeklong trip to Cleveland, New York and Detroit.
Opponent: Oakland Athletics
Site: Oakland (Calif.) Coliseum
Time: 10: 05
TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Jimmy Key (6-0, 1.93 ERA) vs. A's Steve Karsay (0-3, 3.43)
Orioles outfielder B. J. Surhoff became the fourth Oriole this year to drive in six runs in a game, and all four of those big performances took place at Camden Yards:
April 23: Outfielder Eric Davis drove in six runs with a run-scoring single, a sacrifice fly and a grand slam against the Chicago White Sox.
April 26: Second baseman Roberto Alomar hit three home runs and added a sacrifice fly to get his half-dozen against the Boston Red Sox.
Thursday: Catcher Chris Hoiles had a two-run double, a three-run homer and a bases-empty shot in the series opener against the Mariners.
Yesterday: B.J. Surhoff singled in a run in the first inning, added a two-run homer in the third and hit a three-run triple in the fifth to lead the Orioles to a 9-5 victory in the series finale.
Pub Date: 5/12/97