The latest round of lineup shuffling by manager Ray Miller again had the deck stacked in the Orioles' favor yesterday.
The tinkering began at the top, where he went with different leadoff and No. 2 hitters, and included some alterations in the lower portion of the batting order. He sat two of his marquee players, then watched his club complete a sweep of the Detroit Tigers with a 6-3 victory before 40,967 at Camden Yards.
The win was the Orioles' fifth straight after an Opening Day loss to Kansas City. It also enabled them to get off to a better start than their wire-to-wire finish of a year ago, though it took more ninth-inning bullpen maneuvering from Miller to make it official.
With two outs, Miller pulled Armando Benitez after he issued his second walk, bringing in left-hander Jesse Orosco to face pinch hitter Pete Incaviglia. The former Oriole walked to load the bases, but Orosco struck out Tony Clark on three pitches, the last a changeup, for his first save since 1995 and the 134th of his career.
"You do want to see the guy who's in there be successful, but if he's not, that's what our bullpen is about this year," said Orosco, who turns 41 later this month. "I'm glad I came through for us. This gives Ray that confidence that he can continue to do that during the season."
Mike Mussina gave the Orioles (5-1) seven strong innings, and they finally gave him some offensive support, scoring four times in the fifth inning to break a 2-2 tie and knock out Tigers left-hander Justin Thompson.
Rafael Palmeiro had three hits and three RBIs, two coming on a bloop single in the fifth that shattered his bat and finished Thompson. The hit followed a throwing error by Tigers third baseman Joe Randa on an attempted force at second that enabled Jeffrey Hammonds to score and set the table for Palmeiro. But the catalysts of the four-run inning were the two bottom feeders, Jeff Reboulet and Mike Bordick.
Reboulet, the club's last position player to make a start, singled to center field and advanced to second on Bordick's sacrifice bunt. Hammonds singled to right, putting runners on the corners, and B. J. Surhoff gave the Orioles' a 3-2 lead when he reached for a pitch down and away and poked it into left field for his second hit.
With the Orioles trailing 2-1 in the second, Reboulet moved two runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt -- the "little ball" style of play that Miller placed so much emphasis on during spring training -- and Bordick brought in the tying run with a grounder to second.
Reboulet's contributions weren't limited to offense. He also stemmed a Tigers rally in the eighth by racing into foul territory near the seats in right field to catch a fly ball from Damion Easley, spinning and throwing home to nail Clark trying to score Detroit's fourth run.
"I just wanted to get over there and catch the ball. I wasn't trying to get myself in position to throw," Reboulet said. "He's at least going to attempt to go down the line, whether or not he's going to try to score, so I tried to make an accurate throw through [Palmeiro] so he can cut it if [Clark's] not going, or let it go home if he is. I guess he decided to run and it turned out good for us. I wasn't trying to do anything spectacular."
It just worked out that way.
Reboulet was in the lineup because Miller wanted to give Roberto Alomar a day off. He moved Surhoff into the No. 2 hole, and the left fielder responded with a double and an RBI single. Miller also gave Brady Anderson his first extended rest by putting Hammonds in center field and atop the order, and he singled twice to raise his average to .400.
"There's kind of a premise that no matter who you are, if we're struggling and we've got to get something going, we're going to do it," Miller said. "Obviously, with the bottom of the lineup, it's a little bit easier to do because you get more handle-the-bat kind of guys."
Mussina (1-1) lasted 116 pitches, allowing eight hits and two second-inning runs, and again not walking a batter. He retired nine in a row until Easley reached on an infield hit in the sixth, the only way to keep the Tigers from running wild. They stole five more bases yesterday, giving them 11 in the series.
The Tigers collected four hits in the second, including an RBI double by catcher Raul Casanova and a run-scoring single by former Oriole Bill Ripken. Mussina had thrown 50 pitches heading into the third.
"I didn't have my personal clicker going, but I knew it was a lot because there were guys all over the place," he said. "You've just got to make better pitches. After the second inning, I made the better pitch when I had a guy in a situation where I could get him out."