Palmeiro Claims Four Hits, 5 RBI

By Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 19, 2005

KANSAS CITY, Mo. Reprinted from yesterday's late editions

-- He promised it would come, the type of flurry that has come to define his probable Hall of Fame career. One stroke of the bat wouldn't do it. It would take a collection of hits to put back on track a career many thought had faded. So he stepped into the batter's box each game, hoping the day was at hand. Before games, he paced in the clubhouse with a bat in his hand, antsy to get himself right at the plate.

Often this season, he was not able to do so. He would send harmless grounders to second base and high fly balls to shallow right. He never worried, or at least never showed any concern while critics whispered perhaps that at age 40, Rafael Palmeiro was finished.

One night won't end his slump, but perhaps it is the start of one of those flurries. Palmeiro did not celebrate any of his four hits or five RBI in the Baltimore Orioles' 12-8 win against the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night. He knew at some point they would come.

"I've always been a good hitter," he said. "I know eventually I will figure it out. Tonight everything just felt good. With a game like this you try to carry it on to the next game, and beyond that. Yeah this was a great confidence builder."

Certainly others didn't have that same confidence. Yet in the past seven games, Palmeiro is 8 for 23 with three home runs. It's his best streak of the season, and it came on a night when Baltimore needed every one of those RBI. With the win, the Orioles are 12 games over .500 for the first time this season.

Baltimore trailed 8-2 after the second inning, but mounted a rally worthy of a first-place team. Baltimore's six-run fourth inning was capped by Palmeiro's RBI single, scoring Melvin Mora to give the Orioles a 9-8 lead. His two-RBI single in the first had given Baltimore a 2-0 lead. His home run in the fourth, his first at-bat of the inning, began the rally against Kansas City starter Jose Lima. His RBI single in the seventh provided a cushion.

"The power has always been there over the last 15 years," Palmeiro said. "It's never gone away. It's not the lack of power. It's the lack of mechanics, maybe the confidence not being there because of the lack of success. But when you have confidence, everything happens."

Palmeiro's night was so spectacular, he had more RBI (two) in the fourth inning than he had in any other game this year. His average rose from .222 at the beginning of the game to .246 by the end of the night. The last time Palmeiro had four hits in a game was Sept. 28, 2001. The last time he had five or more RBI was on July 28, 2003.

"He's a guy that's been through the ropes," Orioles Manager Lee Mazzilli said. "I guess it took him longer to get better. This is a great confidence builder. This was a big game for him. The balls he hit were rockets."

Baltimore's remarkable comeback had not appeared so remarkable by the seventh, when the Orioles continued to pound Kansas City's pitching. Baltimore hit four home runs, and had 15 hits.

The offensive show saved Sidney Ponson from an embarrassing loss. No Baltimore pitcher has benefited more from the Orioles' outstanding lineup than Ponson. In his eight starts this season, the Orioles have scored 62 runs (7.75 per game). The Orioles have won six of Ponson's eight starts even though the Aruban has a 5.94 ERA.

"It was just a bad day, I had nothing," said Ponson, who pitched just 1 1/3 innings, allowing eight runs -- two earned. "I'm not making any excuses. I threw like crap today."

Palmeiro's four-hit night had not gained him any respect. In the eighth with a man on second, the Royals walked Miguel Tejada to get to Palmeiro. The move made sense. Palmeiro does not hit lefties well and Royals southpaw Andy Sisco was on the mound. But logic did not rule this night.

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