Were you to close your eyes and hear the following quote read aloud, you might think it came during the 2018 Baltimore Orioles season: “I always felt, from the beginning, we had the players here to win, but we haven’t put it together, and it’s hard to understand why we haven’t. This is the low point in the season right now.”
Rafael Palmeiro uttered those words on this day in Orioles history, July 26, 1996, after the Cleveland Indians pinned a 14-9 loss on the Birds to drop the team to 50-51 on the season. Unlike the 2018 Orioles, who would have trouble identifying the definitive low point in their season, the 1996 team figured things out and ultimately made the postseason.
Mike Mussina allowed an uncharacteristic eight runs in only 3.2 innings of work in his late-July start to drop his record to 11-8. Four of those runs came in the top of the first inning and included Jim Thome‘s 440-foot two-run homer that landed on Eutaw Street. It was the 10th Eutaw Street home run in Camden Yards history.
Albert Belle also went deep – his homer came off of Jimmy Haynes in the fourth inning – because that’s what Thome and Belle did back then. Who could have imagined then that both sluggers would play in Baltimore before their careers ended – Belle starting in 1999 and Thome in 2012?
By the way, how stacked was that late-’90s Indians lineup? Cleveland had Kenny Lofton leading off and Manny Ramirez batting behind Thome and Belle with Brian Giles at DH. There wasn’t room in the everyday lineup for Jeromy Burnitz, who pinch hit in this game and went on to become a 30-plus home run guy in Milwaukee.
The Orioles’ not-so-lovely totals versus the Indians at least had some highlights at the dish with the first four batters in the lineup – Roberto Alomar, Brady Anderson, Cal Ripken, and Palmeiro – all homering. It’s fair to say the O’s lineup was pretty stacked, too.
These teams would meet again in the American League Division Series as the resurgent Orioles upset the Indians, whose 99 wins were the most in the majors that season. The O’s closed out the regular season with a 38-23 record following the game that put the O’s below .500 and that Raffy described as the team’s low point.
Read more about Jim Thome’s Eutaw Street Home Run home run in The Eutaw Street Chronicles.