KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Four days after splitting a doubleheader without hitting, the Orioles proved they could do the same last night without starting pitching.
What might have been a nightmare ended as a break-even experience when the Orioles battered the Kansas City Royals for 15 hits in a 12-9 win before collapsing in the second game, 9-2, against Ricky Bones. There was no technical merit to the day; however, the Orioles at least put another half-game between themselves and the New York Yankees, who tumbled 5 1/2 games off the AL East lead.
Scott Kamieniecki and Esteban Yan were pounded mercilessly by a tepid Royals lineup. The two starting pitchers surrendered 19 hits and 15 earned runs in a combined 7 2/3 innings. Only a staff-saving four-inning effort by Terry Mathews (3-2) in Game 1 averted a run through the Orioles' bullpen.
The breakdown made a hero of Royals rookie second baseman Jed Hansen, who finished with six RBIs and four hits for the night.
Held to seven hits -- three in the ninth inning -- in a listless nightcap, the Orioles looked to Game 1 for their heroes.
Catcher Lenny Webster contributed four RBIs and had three hits along with Rafael Palmeiro. Webster's fifth homer gave the Orioles an 8-2 third-inning lead. Palmeiro followed in the fifth with his 26th. Every starter for both teams hit safely in a game featuring 27 hits.
The opener extended several favorable streaks. The Orioles had won four straight, 17 of their past 22 overall and 15 of their past 19 road games. They climbed to 35 games over .500 for the first time this season. They now have nine winning streaks of four games or more, but haven't lost consecutive games in more than a month.
The mess represented the second time in four games the Orioles won despite allowing nine runs, but at least it provided a change of pace for a team branded as over-reliant on its starting pitching. This time, the offense rescued a pitcher in distress.
"If you stay one way, we'll bop you. And that's what we did tonight," manager Davey Johnson said.
The Orioles took an 8-2 lead after 2 1/2 innings against Royals starter Tim Belcher (11-12), then recovered after the Royals blasted fatigued starter Kamieniecki for seven runs in 3 1/3 innings. Unable to go the requisite five innings for the decision, Kamieniecki was appearing on three days' rest for the first time this season. Worse, he had thrown a season-high 115 pitches Friday against Seattle.
Few games this season have been more unsightly. Belcher was allowed to go 5 1/3 innings despite allowing nine hits and 10 runs, six earned. Kamieniecki, who needed 70 pitches against 19 hitters, couldn't throw strikes warming in the bullpen. He never rediscovered his control.
The Royals jumped to a 2-0 first-inning lead as Kamieniecki started the rally with consecutive one-out walks to Johnny Damon and Jay Bell. Singles by Chili Davis and Jeff King scored both.
Early struggles are nothing new for Kamieniecki. Ample run support is. He entered the game with the league's second-worst run support. Given two runs in the second inning and six more in the third, he didn't know what to do.
There were extenuating circumstances. Able to out-duel Randy Johnson in his previous start, Friday's doubleheader forced him to start on three days' rest for the first time in his major-league career. He hadn't thrown since Friday and the rust was impossible for him to shake.
"I warmed up terrible and took it into the game," said Kamieniecki, who had allowed a total of three runs in his three previous starts. "I couldn't throw strikes. Everything was up in the [strike] zone. I was fortunate we scored some runs early. I could have made it easy for us but I made it tough for us."
The bottom of the lineup bought Kamieniecki his tie in the second inning. With two outs, Webster singled home Palmeiro. Jeff Reboulet followed by scoring Harold Baines with the first of his two hits.
The Orioles followed with a six-run, five-hit breakout that was helped by third baseman Dean Palmer's through-the-legs error. Webster juiced the inning with a three-run, two-out shot to center.
Webster drove in the winning run in Sunday's 10-inning win and finished last night's opener a triple short of the cycle. Originally a bit player, Webster now stands as a summer giant. He is hitting .440 this month and has batted .316 in his past 45 games.
Kamieniecki immediately began to buckle. The Royals clawed within 8-4 in the third inning on Bell's one-out single and Palmer's two-out hit. Kamieniecki has previously wriggled from similar troubles. This time he repeatedly looked into the Orioles' dugout, searching for help that didn't arrive until he'd absorbed his worst beating of the year.
Mathews appeared in an unfamiliar role, but rescued the game. Called upon with one out in the fourth, Mathews pitched four innings, his longest appearance since June 25, 1995, while with the Florida Marlins.
There was no saving the second game as Bones (3-4) improved his career record against the Orioles to 3-9. While the Orioles labored to push just one runner past second base through eight innings, the Royals pounded Yan in his first major-league start for 11 hits and eight runs in 4 1/3 innings.
The Royals scored in four consecutive innings against Yan as Chili Davis hit the first of two home runs in the third. They came back for four more in the fifth inning on a series of blooped hits.
"I wanted to go six or seven innings, but I never got the chance," said Yan, who was 11-4 with a 3.00 ERA at Triple-A Rochester. "I tried, but I didn't get there."
Said Johnson: "Our No. 5 and 6 starters have got to get started. I can't get waffled like that every time out. I've got to get more than three or four innings."
Davis added a bases-empty homer in the eighth off Alan Mills. The Orioles averted a shutout in the ninth inning on Reboulet's fourth home run.
Opponent: Kansas City Royals
Site: Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.
TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Jimmy Key (13-7, 2.89) vs. Royals' Glendon Rusch (5-8, 5.75)
Raffy moves up
Last night Rafael Palmeiro moved into sole possession of ninth place on the Orioles' all-time home run list:
1. Cal Ripken, 367
2. Eddie Murray, 343
3. Boog Powell, 303
4. Brooks Robinson, 268
5. Frank Robinson, 179
6. Gus Triandos, 142
7. Brady Anderson, 135
8. Chris Hoiles, 134
9. Rafael Palmeiro, 127
10. Paul Blair, 126
Catcher Lenny Webster has been swinging a hot bat, hitting .440 in his past seven starts with a .600 on-base percentage:
Date, Opp., H/AB, RBI, BB
8/19, K.C., 3-5, 4, 0
8/17, Ana., 2-4, 1, 1
8/15, Sea., 0-2, 0, 1
8/12, Oak., 2-3, 1, 1
8/9, Ana., 1-3, 0, 0
8/6, Sea., 2-5, 0, 0
8/1, Oak., 1-3, 0, 1
Totals, 11-25, 6, 4
Pub Date: 8/20/97