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Expos buck O's 6-4, for 10th in row Low-budget team sees early 5-0 lead pay off in interleague debut here; 'They've got a good club'; Boskie's rough start reopens No. 5 debate

The Montreal Expos don't have the best starting rotation in the National League. They don't have a brand-new stadium. They don't have a TV mogul and an Oscar-winning actress in the owners box. They don't even have a representative payroll.

They do, however, have a solid team and a ton of momentum. That much was evident in their 6-4 victory over the Orioles in the first interleague game played at Camden Yards.

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The Orioles were just starting to like this interleague stuff. They just swept three games from the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field to make the biggest splash of the first interleague weekend -- only to come home and run into the hottest team in baseball. The Expos outpitched them, outhit them and outflanked them on the way to a major-league-high 10th straight victory.

Right-hander Dustin Hermanson pitched a solid six innings to get the victory. Catcher Darrin Fletcher drove in runs in each of his first two at-bats and second baseman Mike Lansing hit a decisive two-run home run in the fourth as the Expos built an early five-run lead and hung on for dear life in the late innings.

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"They've got a good ballclub," Orioles manager Davey Johnson said. "They have a great-hitting lineup and some good arms. They really aren't surprising a whole lot of people. We knew they had a good ball-club. We played them umpteen times during spring training."

Still, it certainly didn't take long for a weekend's worth of euphoria to wear off. The Expos came to Baltimore on a roll and quickly established that this is not your average $16 million team.

Of course, they didn't draw the cream of the Orioles' pitching staff. The top three starters pitched against the Braves, leaving the first interleague home game in the hands of fifth starter Shawn Boskie, who hasn't exactly had a chance to settle into a routine.

He was making only his second start since early April and he was not at his best. The first three Expos batters hit safely in the first inning, and Boskie was fortunate to get back to the dugout with only one run on the scoreboard.

Hermanson (3-4) was even more fortunate. He walked the first two batters he faced in the bottom of the first and -- incredibly -- was out of the inning just four pitches later.

Though Hermanson was struggling with his control, Rafael Palmeiro jumped at the first pitch and grounded out to second base. Cal Ripken was a little more patient, but he pulled a 1-1 curveball to shortstop for an inning-ending double play.

It didn't seem like a critical offensive lapse at the time, because Hermanson looked hittable, but he settled in to retire the side in order in the second and carry a shutout into the fifth. Chris Hoiles finally broke that up with his eighth home run of the year, but by that time the Expos had built a comfortable lead over a club with more than three times its payroll.

"He [Hermanson] gave us a chance early by being wild and we couldn't get a hit," Johnson said. "There were also some other opportunities, but we couldn't get that one big hit off him."

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The Expos scored twice in the third when shortstop Mark Grudzielanek doubled home a run and scored on a bloop hit by Fletcher.

The lead grew to five when Lansing lined a two-run homer to left with two outs in the fourth. The Orioles would stage a couple of late-inning rallies, but hot-hitting rookie Ryan McGuire added a bases-empty home run in the eighth to make life a little easier on the Montreal bullpen.

Boskie eventually gave way to rookie Mike Johnson, who he just replaced in the starting rotation. Johnson pitched well in relief, but figures to remain in the bullpen, where he has looked nothing like the pitcher who struggled to a frightening 13.87 ERA in four starting assignments. His ERA as a reliever is an impressive 2.08 in six appearances after giving up one run over three innings last night.

The future makeup of the rotation remains unclear. Boskie likely will get at least a couple more chances to establish himself in the fifth slot before the club considers bringing up Triple-A left-hander Rick Krivda, who had his nine-game winning streak broken last night against the Norfolk Tides.

"I've been around long enough not to panic," said Boskie (3-3). "I'm definitely better than I've been. It's been frustrating at times, but I have a solid enough foundation under me to know I can pitch to my capabilities. Although it hasn't happened yet, I feel it will happen."

Hermanson worked into the seventh, but gave way to former Orioles farmhand Anthony Telford after B. J. Surhoff opened the inning with a home run and Jeffrey Hammonds broke an 0-for-12 slump with a well-placed fly ball to short left.

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Telford, who pitched briefly in the majors with the Orioles in 1990, '91 and '93, came into the game with a string of 19 2/3 scoreless innings, but struggled with his control and was fortunate that the streak survived the three batters he faced. He surrendered a long fly ball out to Tony Tarasco, then walked Hoiles on four pitches and fell behind 2-0 to Mike Bordick, almost hitting him with a pitch before getting the shortstop on a line drive to left.

The Orioles picked up a run later in the inning when Brady Anderson singled off left-hander Omar Daal, but it was charged to Hermanson. Right-hander Dave Veres finally got out of the inning by striking out slumping Pete Incaviglia with the potential tying run on base.

There was plenty of managerial maneuvering in that inning, the most quizzical the decision by Johnson to pinch hit Incaviglia for second baseman Roberto Alomar, who was 2-for-2. Johnson went with the right-handed hitter against the left-handed Daal, but Expos manager Felipe Alou countered with Veres, who had little trouble extending Incaviglia's 1-for-25 slump.

Alomar's ability to hit right-handed has been restricted by a shoulder strain, but he batted .343 on the just-completed 11-game road trip and has hit left-handed against some left-handed pitchers.

Johnson explained afterward that he was doing it more to protect Alomar than to gain any advantage with Incaviglia.

"I'm not going to let him hit left-handed against every left-hander," Johnson said. "Nobody wants to take Robbie Alomar out of a game, but I don't want to risk him not being able to get out of the way of a pitch because he's lunging out over the plate. I'm going to be careful."

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The Orioles threatened again in the eighth. A Palmeiro single, Grudzielanek's error on a Surhoff popup and Hammonds' single made it 6-4 with two on and one out. But Tarasco flied out and, after a wild pitch, Hoiles struck out to end the inning, and the Orioles' comeback hopes.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Montreal Expos

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 7: 35

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)

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Starters: Expos' Jim Bullinger (4-5, 6.08) vs. Orioles' Scott Kamieniecki (4-3, 3.96)

Tickets: Day-of-game bleachers and standing room only.

Pub Date: 6/17/97


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