The Orioles waited out a 77-minute rain delay last night, then took out a week's worth of frustration on the Milwaukee Brewers pitching staff.
Fill-in catcher Jeff Tackett drove in a career-high five runs with a -- home run and a bases-loaded double to help the Orioles break a three-game losing streak with a 12-3 victory at Camden Yards.
Tackett's fifth home run ignited a 16-hit attack that carried right-hander Rick Sutcliffe to his 10th victory. It also carried the Orioles back to within a game of the first-place Toronto Blue Jays, who lost a 16-13 slugfest to the Texas Rangers at SkyDome.
Sutcliffe (10-6) gave up two runs on eight hits over seven innings, but his performance was overshadowed by an offensive extravaganza that featured five players with three hits or more:
* Tackett homered, doubled and singled to raise his average to .291. He is batting .321 with two homers and eight RBI since he replaced injured Chris Hoiles in the starting lineup.
* Brady Anderson also homered, doubled and singled to raise his average to .282. He walked and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in two other plate appearances.
* Mike Devereaux had two singles and a two-run homer, driving in two runs to raise his team-leading RBI total to 49.
* Joe Orsulak had four hits, all of them singles, to raise his %J average to .278.
* Glenn Davis had two singles and his fifth home run.
Strangely enough, the other four slots in the lineup went hitless, including that of Cal Ripken, whose 17-game hitting streak ended with an 0-for-5 performance.
Brewers starter Ricky Bones (3-4) had dominated the Orioles in his first start against them, combining with relief stopper Doug Henry on a five-hit shutout Thursday at County Stadium. But he was not quite so tough to figure out last night.
He worked his way out of a first-and-third, no-out situation in the first inning, but gave up four runs on back-to-back home runs in the second.
The big blow was delivered by Tackett, who hammered a high fastball into the left-field seats to give Sutcliffe a three-run lead. 11 Tackett's home run was a mood swing of significant proportion.
"After we didn't score in the first, we were really flat," manager Johnny Oates said. "That home run really picked things up. I think Jeff had a lot to do with what happened after that."
Talk about an unlikely scenario. The season has not even reached the halfway point and the Orioles have 19 home runs from two catchers who came into the season with a combined total of 12 at the major-league level. Tackett is just one home run short of matching his season-high at the minor-league level.
"You lose your leading home run hitter and one of the leading RBI guys in clutch situations, you could say, 'Well, here we go,' " Oates said, "but Jeff has turned his game up a notch and he has really helped out."
Tackett apparently thinks that unfamiliarity breeds success. He is new to the league, and he is taking advantage of the thin scouting reports that other clubs have on him.
"I haven't seen them [opposing pitchers] and they haven't seen me," he said. "I think that's got a lot to do with it. Every series is a whole new set of pitchers. They don't know how to pitch me. I've gotten some pitches to hit, and I haven't missed them."
He certainly didn't miss many last night, but the first cut was the deepest.
Anderson followed with a shot into the right-field seats for his 13th home run. He already has three more this year than he had in his other four major-league seasons combined.
Bones was not long for the game. The memory of his five-hit performance last week was snowed under an eight-hit assault that sent him packing with no one out in the third inning. Anderson, Devereaux and Orsulak all were working on multihit performances by the time he left.
Sutcliffe needed the help, even if it wasn't apparent by the lopsided score. He was working behind in the count throughout the early innings and had runners all over the place. The lengthy rain delay apparently had an effect.
"You know, I had a really easy game in Milwaukee," Sutcliffe said. "I know I lost, but I threw only about 90 pitches. At about 7:15 tonight, I felt really good. It was going to be fun."
The trouble was, the game didn't start until 8:52, and by that time Sutcliffe didn't feel quite so sharp.
"I didn't feel good at all," he said. "I took everything out there -- cutter, sinker, curveball, you name it. But after we got the four runs, I felt pretty good. I didn't have real good stuff, but the way our defense is, in a game like that you just have to keep it in the park and don't walk anyone."
With a little luck, he might be leading the American League in victories and have his ticket already punched for the All-Star Game in San Diego. He had not won since June 10, but he left his June 15 start with a two-run lead and lost a 1-0 duel with Bones last week.
There would be no suspense last night. The Orioles scored six times in the third inning to turn the game into a blowout. Tackett delivered another big swing, driving home two runs with a bases-loaded double off long reliever Dan Plesac.
Devereaux got right back on a roll after a brief 2-for-14 slide, hitting safely in each of the first three innings. He topped off the third-inning rally with a line drive into the left-field seats for his 12th home run.
The Orioles have been getting big run-production stats from the most unlikely places in the lineup, and last night was no exception. By the end of the third inning, the No. 9-1-2 hitters (Tackett, Anderson and Devereaux) were a combined 7-for-7 with nine RBI.
Anderson also pumped up his run-production stats. He has 48 RBI and figures to combine with Devereaux for more than 100 before the season is half over.