6 Ripken hits pace 22-1 rout

Iron Man has 2 HRs on club record night

Braves yield 25 hits


ATLANTA -- Winning their most decisive decision in franchise history, the Orioles last night completed a three-game sweep against the Team of the Decade, walloping the overmatched Atlanta Braves, 22-1, at Turner Field. Cal Ripken celebrated the first six-hit and five-run game in franchise history, Mike Mussina (8-3) savored unprecedented support and the Orioles bashed away for 25 hits and multiple runs in all but two innings.

The last time Atlanta looked this bad Sherman had just left town and was headed toward Savannah. The last time the Orioles scored this much was never.

The Orioles' 11 extra-base hits tied the franchise record and included three doubles and a home run by first baseman Will Clark; two home runs, a double and six RBIs from Ripken, who became the first player in franchise history to produce six hits in a game; three hits by right fielder Albert Belle; and two hits worth three RBIs for Mussina.

For at least one remarkable evening, the 25-36 Orioles were unstoppable, piling indignity atop embarrassment against 1996 NL Cy Young

Award winner John Smoltz and the game's best bullpen.

Six times the Orioles have walked into the Braves' baseball theme park and six times they have left winners. It happened two years ago during the team's wire-to-wire romp to the American League East title and it happened this weekend with the Orioles just trying to escape punch-line status.

By winning last night's nationally televised game they constructed their first four-game road winning streak since last Aug. 12-15. The three-game sweep was their first on the road since last July 28-30. While hardly riding a tsunami, the Orioles are 9-9 during a brutal 24-game stretch that includes 18 on the road.

Hey, Bud, can we talk realignment?

The Orioles have become an Atlanta fixture just like a grease dog at The Varsity, a tour of the Cyclorama, an iced down Coke, shooting the 'Hooch or cruising Buckhead on a Saturday night.

Who cares if the Braves enter the weekend with the National League's best record? Give the Orioles three days at the Ted and they crawl out of last place for the first time since April 10 when they were 2-3. They outscored the Braves 33-3 for the weekend.

Three days of trading places left the Braves' vaunted starting rotation bruised beyond recognition. Smoltz's earliest exit in more than a year left the firm of Maddux, Millwood & Smoltz with a collective ERA of 10.67 and 25 hits in 14 1/3 innings. The Braves led for two innings the entire weekend. The Orioles' nine first-inning runs came on 9-for-16 hitting, including four home runs.

Mussina's three RBIs gave Orioles starting pitchers four RBIs for the series, one more than the Braves' team total.

This was no typical beating. The Orioles scored 20 for the first time in their 46-year history, eclipsing the 19 runs against the Cleveland Indians Aug. 28, 1967, 15 months before Mussina was born.

Undermined by their starting pitching for much of this season, the Orioles rolled through this series behind Sidney Ponson, Juan Guzman and Mussina. Ponson and Guzman provided the Orioles' first consecutive complete games since September 1995. Mussina's methodical seven-inning start extended a run in which the rotation has allowed a 1.93 ERA over the last eight games.

Recipient of only three runs in his last three starts -- none of them wins -- Mussina received five before taking the mound last night. The Orioles led 11-0 before the Braves broke through on Ryan Klesko's sacrifice fly to shallow center field in the fourth.

Smoltz, 20-3 in his previous 28 starts, needed 30 pitches to escape a five-run first inning. Each of the first six hitters reached against him, though he picked off Brady Anderson for the first out.

With runners at first and second, Belle extended his post-benching surge with the first of his three hits -- a flared two-strike single that scored Mike Bordick for the first run and proved a bridge to Clark's first double and Ripken's first home run.

The beating continued in the third inning when Belle and Clark smacked back-to-back doubles, Ripken singled and Delino DeShields beat out a chop between the mound and first base. The Orioles led 7-0 and suddenly found themselves beating on a fatigued bullpen featuring Justin Speier and Kevin McGlinchey.

Where to start?

Clark produced the first three-double game of his 14-year career. A sixth-inning home run to center field left him with 10 total bases.

Belle's three hits gave him five in two games since being benched on Friday.

Before getting his sixth hit in the ninth inning, Ripken had the fifth five-hit night of his career but the first since May 5, 1985; his two home runs marked his first multi-homer game since Sept. 15, 1996.

The breakout raised Ripken's average from .298 to .328 -- the first time he's broken .300 since April 28, 1998. Ripken has hit in 11 of his last 13 games and has three homers in the last eight days after managing only four previously.

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