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He nevertheless has worn the mantel of Baltimore Oriole shortstop of the furture. No question about it, barring some unlikely trade; there is nobody being primed behind him in the organization.
He is Kiko Garcia, he turns 26 Sunday and the future has arrived.
A week ago, the barrel-chested Californian set an American League championship series fielding record by handling 11 chances errorlessly in the second game of the conquest of the Angels.
Tonight, Alfonso Rafel (Kiko) Garcia belted his name into the World Series record book and slugged the Pittsburgh Pirates with it: First inning, two-base hit. Third inning, base on balls, run scored. Fourth inning, three-base hit, three runs batted in, run scored. Fifth inning, one-base hit. Seventh inning, one-base hit, RBI.
On base five consecutive times, with four hits for eight total bases. The path smoothed for the 8-4 Oriole victory behind Scott McGregor for a 2-1 series lead.
Not a bad way to head into one's 27th year, and baseball maturity.
Not a bad way to move into the lineup for Mark Belanger, who played short for the Birds the first two games of this Series, leaving Garcia to make one appearance as a subsittute and strike out. Until this night and, morning.
Manager Earl Weaver used Garcia 417 at-bats' worth over the course of the season to 198 for Balanger. But he opted this night for the younger shortstop nicknamed by all too many of little faith in his fielding:
Make it kiko -- "My grandmother gave me that name. it's just a term of affection. Like Pele."
The rugged Garcia who contrasts vividly to "Blade" Belanger, led the Orioles with nine triples this year. Nole was bigger, naturally, than the bases-loaded three-bagger he sent to the far rght-center reaches of sodden Three Rivers Stadium in the fourth inning off John Candelaria to give Baltimore the lead, 5-3, for keeps.
In reaching base safely those five times, Garcia became the sixth player to accomplish the feat in World Series annals. One of the other was Brooks Robinson of Baltimore against the Pirates in 1971.
"I was psyched, I was ready." said Garcia. "I wasn't disappointed that Mark started the first two games because he sets the tone for the defense.
"I had what I considered an off-year so i'm glad that I had another chance."
Was he thinking about hitting for the cycle -- adding a home run? "Not seriously." Garcia never had had a four-hit game in the majors.
Garcia, kissed off by some around the American League as a dopey Latin, actually is a rather hip fellow. He goes for Rolling Stone as prime reading. He let his hair grow, rock-star fashion, when he became the Oriole regular, but as his play deteriorated, he shortened his locks.
Frank Robinson, the Oriole coach, said that when he first watched Garcia in the minors, he was "this close" to Belanger in overall ability. The organization felt Garcia might have rusted a bit after coming up to back up Belanger in 1977 and '78. But here, the rust turned to glitter.
Winning pitcher McGregor said, " got eight runs for the second game in a row (having beaten the Angels, 8-0, in the playoff finale) and that helps. You can go right after the hitters."
As for the 67-minute rain delay that interrupted his night's work after he had been rapped for three runs in two innings, Mcgregor recalled, "It's happened to me three or four times (rain holdups), and I've come back stronger.
"As to why, i'm not real sure. Maybe it's the extra warmups. Maybe I just need three or four innings to get going."
When McGregor faltered a bit in the fifth and sixth, giving up two doubles, a single, three fly outs that fell just shy of the fences -- but only one run -- pitches were hanging high, Dempsey said. "You got to get it down," the catcher told the pitcher. So much for any Bucco resurgence.
Dempsey spoke respectfully of the Pittsburghers: "Strongest team I've played against. More power than the Angels and Kansas City. And everybody runs. And better pitching than anybody in our league."
Pirate catcher Steve Nicosia said his left-handed starter, Candelaria, returning to work with a 3-2 lead after the rain, "looked as if he was throwing about the same, but the ball wasn't running away from the right-handed batters the way it should." wham, five runs, with Garcia's triple the big one.
Nicosia said McGregor "went right after us. He made us put the ball in play. He did a good job. He got us out when he had to."
Said Pirate captain Willie Stargell: "we haven't played our game for the whole Series, the explosiveness we usually have. But things go in streaks."
With pirate things going in a streak of fumbled grounders muffed flies, wild throws, bonehead base running and whatnot unbefitting National League champions, there was this comment from Pirate Dave Parker:
"This rain delay didn't help and we played bad. Tell everybody else so they won't ask me:
"WE PLAYED BAD."