The frustration that had built from an extended period of offensive failures and a shrinking lead in the American League East came pouring out of the Orioles in one inning last night. And it buried the same team that had helped bring them to a boiling point.
The Orioles equaled their most productive inning of the season by scoring six times in the seventh to defeat the Toronto Blue Jays, 9-5, before 47,042 at Camden Yards, rewarding the stingy work of reliever Terry Mathews and ending a six-game losing streak.
In the process, they began paying back the Blue Jays for a four-game sweep at Camden Yards late last month that began a 5-10 slide. Plus they picked up ground in the standings for the first time in 10 days as New York lost to Cleveland in 10 innings to fall 5 1/2 games back.
And all it took were five singles, two sacrifice flies and Geronimo Berroa's second home run as an Oriole to break a 3-3 tie.
Brady Anderson, playing on two sore legs and mired in an 8-for-56 slump, came within a triple of the cycle. He also robbed Joe Carter of an eighth-inning homer with a leaping grab against the fence in left-center field.
But back to the seventh inning, which produced more runs than the Orioles (56-33) scored in the previous four-game series here with the Blue Jays.
Toronto starter Robert Person (3-6) got two quick strikes on Cal Ripken leading off the inning, then was victimized by a ground single to right. After running the count full, B. J. Surhoff also singled to right, moving Ripken to second. Jeffrey Hammonds then laid down a bunt on the right side that Carlos Delgado turned into an infield hit by looking to third and throwing late to first. Second baseman Carlos Garcia dropped the ball as Hammonds streaked across.
Bases loaded, none out, tie game. The situation screamed for a clutch hit, something that had fallen on deaf ears during the Orioles' slide.
This time, the message rang in loud and clear.
tTC Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston walked to the mound to the usual chorus of boos, but stayed with Person. Bad idea. Tony Tarasco, batting for Lenny Webster, lined a two-run single to right field, making him 3-for-4 with two walks and four RBIs coming off the bench.
"I've been in that situation before," he said. "I was basically a pinch hitter when I was in Atlanta my first year. It's nothing new to me. I know how to prepare for it all game; just make sure I stay in the batting cage and make sure I'm loose and stay prepared."
Manager Davey Johnson sensed that once Tarasco's ball fell in "everybody felt better."
Mike Bordick kept the feel-good inning going with a sacrifice fly ,, that upped the lead to 6-3. Left-hander Dan Plesac was summoned from the bullpen, and Anderson greeted him with a single to right, driving in his second run of the game.
Anderson moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on Roberto Alomar's sacrifice fly. Berroa then drove a pitch deep into the seats in left for his 18th homer, and the shackles were off.
Soon after, the division lead was up to 5 1/2 games.
"You could tell when the team came in today, it was a little bit different atmosphere," said Mathews (2-1), who contributed 2 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Scott Kamieniecki. "Next time a losing streak happens, hopefully it will be one or two games, and not six."
"Anytime you stop a losing streak, there's a sense of relief," Anderson said. "But that's why you play 162 games. There's going to go through some bad times. You just try to minimize them."
Person had tied the Orioles in knots in a June 27 game at Camden Yards, rationing them to one run and three hits over 7 2/3 innings to earn the win.
The Orioles got to him early last night.
Anderson led off the first with a double off the wall in left-center, advanced to third on a long fly ball by Alomar, and trotted home on Berroa's sacrifice fly -- his fifth RBI in 13 games with the Orioles.
Three batters, and the Orioles had their first lead since the first inning of a July 6 loss in Detroit that sent them staggering into the All-Star break.
It held up until the fifth inning. Benito Santiago singled with one out, and Garcia lined an off-speed pitch from Kamieniecki into the second row of seats in left. The ball was down and in, and Garcia turned it into his second homer of the season, the other also coming at Camden Yards last month.
Kamieniecki, winless since June 22 in Toronto, walked two in the first inning but didn't allow a hit until one out in the fourth, when Delgado singled down the right-field line. But Person also regrouped after the first, striking out six over the next three innings.