Rapp, O's make Jays blue finally

Starter's solid 7, Orioles' 6-run 3rd end 2-year hex, 8-3

AL East leaders sloppy

Belle's 2 RBIs give him record 37 in June

July 01, 2000|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Details usually don't get in the way for Pat Rapp, an easygoing guy who'll tinker with his delivery in the bullpen prior to a start or playfully offer tips to first baseman and fellow Louisiana native Will Clark on how to generate power at the plate. As long as he's pitching every fifth day, Rapp is willing to live and let live, count his runs and go home.

Something silly like the Orioles' two-year losing streak against the Toronto Blue Jays isn't going to bother Rapp. Just give him the ball and see what comes out.

Following up on last Saturday's impressive start in Seattle, Rapp received another substantial early lead but this time made it stand up in an 8-3 win before 40,412 at Camden Yards. The win was Rapp's second in 12 starts since April 25 but, more significantly, ended the Blue Jays' 13-game winning streak over the Orioles dating to April 10, 1999.

Mike Mussina pitched a 1-0 shutout in the Orioles' last win over the Jays. Rapp wasn't as precise, but he didn't need to be.

"I just remember something about [the losing streak] from when we played them last time," said Rapp. "I didn't think about it tonight and I didn't hear about it until after the game. I've pitched against Toronto in the past and done pretty well. I like it when they hit balls at guys," said Rapp, 3-1 in his last five starts against Toronto.

The Blue Jays didn't look like a team that walked into last night's game with a three-game lead in the American League East, the first time they've led the division after April since 1993.

A fitful 2 2/3-inning start by right- hander Roy Halladay (3-5) only began the Blue Jays' difficult night. They surrendered a run on a wild pitch, allowed another on a dropped relay and failed to tie the game in the third inning when a runner forgot to tag on a fly ball.

The Orioles won for the third time in four games by receiving Clark's third home run and manufacturing six runs on four hits in the third inning.

Right fielder Albert Belle completed his record month of production with a two-run double to break open the game, leaving him with 37 RBIs in June. The number shattered the previous Orioles' record for RBIs in a month (32) set by Mike Young in 1985.

Harold Baines contributed a two-run single to bump the lead to 6-0 before reliever Lance Painter's wild pitch scored Charles Johnson for a 7-0 game.

Such leads haven't been fail- safe this season, but last night Rapp and Alan Mills prevented even a scent of late suspense. If the Orioles are capable of a graceful win, this was it.

"We combined pretty much all facets of the game today. We had hitting early, pitching throughout and played sparkling defense," said Clark. "If we can keep that up, we'll be beating quite a few teams."

Until last weekend, Rapp (5-5) had gotten poor results with a stale delivery that had him use little or no hand movement. Without it being suggested, Rapp put his hands in motion in Seattle and was rewarded with better command. Rapp has walked four in 14 innings over his past two starts after walking 13 in 16 innings covering his previous four starts.

"I tried to make it as easy as I could ... change my mechanics just a little bit, throw more strikes," said Rapp. "It seems I'm staying in the zone a little better and getting the outs when I need them."

"He was probably better his last outing than this outing," said manager Mike Hargrove. "When Pat stays down in the strike zone and throws strikes, he's golden."

The break from the past wasn't limited to the Orioles' man from Sulphur. Given diving plays by left fielder B.$J. Surhoff and shortstop Mike Bordick, the Orioles' only blatant misstep came when the heavy-footed Charles Johnson was trapped off second base after rounding it too far on a wild pitch.

The now-deceased losing streak represented a comedy of errors for the Orioles. Last season they lost three consecutive games to the Blue Jays on the final swing. Three days in a row they helped make a winning pitcher of reliever John Frascatore. Ray Miller once splintered an office chair there, bloodying and almost breaking his hand. Rapp, safely removed in Boston, witnessed none of it.

Last night, Rapp pitched like a man without a memory. Not only did he have little recollection of the Orioles' disaster films vs. the Blue Jays, he didn't flinch with a lead.

"I'm not one to sit around and think about it for four days after I pitch," said Rapp. "As far as I'm concerned, it's done with. ... I'm not going to wake up every morning thinking, 'What am I going to do? What am I going to do? If I do, the next time out is going to be just as bad. Hitters get to hit every day. We get to go out there every fifth day. I'm not going to sit around worrying about what's done."

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