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O's turn on power, light up Tigers 8-1 victory is built on 3 two-run homers, Key/Boskie 7-hitter; Left-hander improves to 9-1; East lead is 8 games after 9th win in past 11

DETROIT — DETROIT -- The Orioles and Detroit Tigers got together last night for some vintage ball, 1996 style. Even nostalgia is breaking the Orioles' way.

For at least one game, the new-and-improved, better-rounded Orioles resembled the heavy-lifting, bullpen-breaking team of last season, minus the dicey pitching and whiny designated hitter.

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The Tigers, acclaimed as the game's most improved team this season, reverted to Team Pinata, surrendering extra-base hits by the gross and looking up from a six-run deficit before their second at-bat.

So give this one to the throwback Orioles and starting pitcher Jimmy Key. Tigers starter Brian Moehler certainly did, as the Orioles pounded him for seven hits, including three two-run homers, in only 1 2/3 innings.

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Before the Orioles' second trip through the order, Roberto Alomar, Brady Anderson and Rafael Palmeiro had homered. The 13 hitters who faced Moehler accumulated 18 total bases, five extra-base hits and six runs.

The early pounding allowed Key (9-1) to cruise despite his least-efficient outing this year.

The Orioles pushed to 19 games over .500 for the first time since Sept. 5, 1992, and tied the best 49-game start in franchise history, set in 1969 and 1970.

Paired with the New York Yankees' win over the Toronto Blue Jays, the Orioles grabbed an eight-game lead in the American xTC League East, their largest since Sept. 21, 1983, when they led by 8 1/2 games.

"This team scores a lot of runs. They scored a lot of runs last year. They're going to score a lot this year," said Key, who had been backed by only 13 runs in his previous four starts. "We kind of got in a lull for a little while. Now it seems like we're lighting it up again. Like I say, you ride a wave as long as you can."

The win was the Orioles' ninth consecutive over the Tigers, tying a franchise record. Key allowed six hits in six innings and dropped his ERA to 2.30. It felt better than it looked.

"There were a couple of innings when I had to get some outs to keep runs from being scored, but I was a little shocked I had that many pitches," said Key, whose pitch count (119) was the staff's second highest this season. "I felt good. Physically, that's a good sign when I can throw that many pitches and I feel good."

Key also was encouraged by a club that played solidly after sweeping an emotional two-game series in New York and then arriving in Detroit at 3 a.m.

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"I was concerned about it a little bit because having been on a lot of teams coming out of games and series like that, it [complacency] can show up," he said. "But our players showed they're approaching every game the same way. I didn't think we got up that much for New York. We just went in and played like we did here. That's a good sign."

Added manager Davey Johnson: "We're a tired ballclub. I was a little bit worried that we'd be half asleep out there. But we saw the ball well and did some pretty good hitting."

Almost as good a sign for the Orioles was the rehabilitation of Shawn Boskie. Using a mechanical adjustment patterned after four-time Cy Young Award winner Greg Maddux, Boskie pitched three scoreless innings for his first professional save.

"Boskie really came through," Johnson said. "Our bullpen was a little used up after playing the Yankees, so we needed that."

The Orioles (34-15) have won nine of their past 11 games and bumped their major-league-best road record to 17-8. They also continued an offensive binge that has brought them 40 runs in their past five games. It is the club's most explosive five-game span this season.

If the Orioles were looking for offensive symbolism, last night's was perfect. Alomar and Anderson have seen their power diminished by injuries, and Palmeiro has waited for the weather to turn.

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There was no waiting against Moehler. Anderson walked to begin the game and trotted home when Alomar pulled Moehler's first pitch off the facing along the right-field roof for a 2-0 lead.

Suddenly masters of the monster inning, the Orioles put together a four-run, five-hit second inning. Tony Tarasco led off with a single, took second on a wild pitch, then scored on Anderson's sixth home run.

Anderson has used the road trip to revitalize his run-production numbers. He has eight RBIs and two home runs in the six games while demonstrating greater flexibility at the plate.

Rather than drop the rally at two runs, Alomar singled. Palmeiro immediately followed with another two-run shot, into the upper deck in right field. The homer was Palmeiro's third of the road trip.

"I'm still not as consistent as I'd like to be, but for the last 15 or 16 games I'm hitting around .350. I feel good," Palmeiro said.

Cal Ripken added further historical significance to a mostly bland night. His second-inning double tied the franchise record for total bases (4,270) held by Brooks Robinson.

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Ahead 6-0, Key slogged through. The Tigers managed runners in each of the first six innings but were unable to bunch hits. Through five innings, Key induced 11 ground-ball outs and one strikeout.

Tiger Stadium has rarely been so kind. Key entered with a 12-13 lifetime record against Detroit, including 4-7 at Tiger Stadium despite a 3.15 ERA.

The Tigers' only run came in the third inning. Jody Reed singled and stole second, advanced on Phil Nevin's groundout, then scored on Key's wild pitch.

"Jimmy probably didn't get to sleep until 6 a.m., like the rest of us," Johnson said. "But, still, take away one pitch and he's working on a shutout."

Key's counterpart, Moehler, fell to 3-4 and failed for the first time in 10 starts to last five innings.

"Brian has had several good outings in a row for us, but he just had a little control trouble tonight," Tigers catcher Brian Johnson said. "I guess it just shows he's human."

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Orioles today

Opponent: Detroit Tigers

Site: Tiger Stadium, Detroit

Time: 1: 05 p.m.

TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Mike Mussina (6-1, 4.26) vs. Tigers' Tim Pugh (1-1, 5.00)

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Supporting cast

Jimmy Key leads the Orioles with a 9-1 record, but the hitters also have done their part, scoring 71 runs in his 11 starts, an average of 6.5 per game:

Date, Opp., Runs, Result, Key

4/2, K.C., 4, W, 4-2, W

4/7, K.C., 5, L, 6-5, ND

4/13, Tex., 9, W, 9-0, W

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4/20, Bos., 11, W, 11-1, W

4/26, Bos., 14, W,14-5, W

5/2, Oak., 7, W,7-1, W

5/7, Ana., 3, W,3-0, W

5/12, Oak., 5, W,5-1, W

5/17, Sea., 4, W,4-3, W

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5/23, Cle., 1, L, 6-1, L

5/29, Det., 8, W, 8-1, W

Pub Date: 5/29/97



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