Orioles sweep Rangers for 5th straight win Mesa strikes out 9 in 3-hit, 9-2 victory

August 16, 1991|By Kent Baker

The rout finally ended -- thanks to the schedule.

And the Texas Rangers limped out of town last night, the victim of a four-game sweep by a Baltimore Orioles team that had been laboring to win at home.

When Jose Mesa finished his complete-game, 9-2 victory, the Orioles had outscored Texas, 31-14, in the series to take a five-game winning streak on the road.

That is the Orioles' hottest surge since last September.

Mesa was practically unhittable after allowing a second-inning home run to Kevin Reimer. He established a career strikeout high with nine and rolled behind the big offensive splurge in his first win as an Oriole since May 11.

"He threw hard the entire nine innings," said manager John Oates. "That's as well as anyone has thrown for us all year, stuff-wise."

Mesa was winless in nine starts (0-5, 8.29 ERA) when he was optioned to the Class AAA Rochester Red Wings on June 28.

But whatever he adjusted in the minors worked in a performance that fueled additional optimism for the future of the young starting rotation.

"Before, I was all over the place," said Mesa. "Now I have much more control and I'm throwing strikes. If they're not swinging the bat, you're not going to get them out."

After the home run, Mesa retired 14 in a row before walking Rafael Palmeiro with two out in the sixth inning. He went on to the team's first complete-game win since Ben McDonald stopped the California Angels on May 17.

The Orioles offense chipped in with 14 hits off Oil Can Boyd, the most ever surrendered by a Rangers pitcher in a game.

Boyd was in an untenable situation with Texas in the midst of two doubleheaders in four days. He had to stay in the game to save the bullpen for a doubleheader tonight in Cleveland.

"They hit him up for two big innings and he couldn't regroup," said Texas manager Bobby Valentine. "I thought I had him settled down, but I think he shook off some pitch selections that he is regretting."

The Orioles raked Boyd for all nine of their runs, and rookies Leo Gomez and Chito Martinez led the way. They both homered and combined for seven RBI.

Martinez now tops major-league rookies with a .333 batting average and Gomez has the American League rookie home-run lead with nine.

"I'm just going up there trying to hit the ball hard," said Martinez. "I guess I'm in a good groove. I don't know what else to say."

A two-run shot by Martinez in the second inning started the surge and Gomez, who had tripled, later scored on Mike Devereaux's single for a 3-1 Orioles lead.

Then after a run scored on Martinez' fielder's-choice grounder in the third, Gomez socked a three-run homer for a 7-1 cushion for Mesa, who kept making smart pitches.

"I know of three or four situations where he struck out guys with 3-2 breaking balls," said Oates. "Earlier in the year, he would miss with those pitches. And he only walked two guys."

In his only previous appearance against Texas, Mesa lost, 1-0, in April to Nolan Ryan on Palmeiro's sacrifice fly.

Mesa said he "got my head straightened out" in the minors "by working hard to come back here. My pitches are working pretty (( good right now."

He wants to keep his temporary locker for the moment because "it's pretty good" and credited a new haircut -- close shaven around the temples -- for his recent success.

"I'm going to keep that up, too," he said.

The four-game sweep was the first by the Orioles since July 22 of last year against the Chicago White Sox, and it salvaged a 6-6 record on the homestand. They are batting .292 during the streak and have a 3.06 ERA.

They are 42-14 at home against Texas since August 1982.

The Rangers, who led the AL West at the All-Star break, are in sixth place and have lost seven of their past eight.

Boyd hasn't helped. He is 0-4 in five starts since being acquired in a trade with the Montreal Expos.

Whether the Orioles can continue to surge is uncertain. But they have a start.

"You start on the ground floor and try to build momentum," said Oates. "We can't really get too excited because there are more important games ahead of us."

+ Orioles-Rangers scoring Rangers second: Reimer homered to right on 0-0 count. Buechele popped out to shortstop C.Ripken. Palmer popped out to second baseman Bell. Rodriguez grounded out to shortstop C.Ripken. 1 run, 1 hit, 0 errors, 0 left on. Rangers 1, Orioles 0.

Orioles second: Milligan walked. Martinez homered to right center on 0-0 count, Milligan and Martinez scored. Gomez tripled down the left field line. Hoiles struck out. Bell grounded out to HTC second baseman Buechele. Devereaux singled to left, Gomez scored. Anderson grounded out to shortstop Hernandez. 3 runs, 3 hits, 0 errors, 1 left on. Orioles 3, Rangers 1.

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