Glistening O's beat Mariners, if not rain

Run on double steal, Maduro mark end to skid in 8 2/3 , 3-0

September 01, 2001|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

They snatched the extra base, pressured their opponent into two outfield errors while playing seamless defense of their own and worked an immaculate double steal of home as starting pitcher Calvin Maduro outperformed a 13-game winner.

For one glistening evening, the Orioles, baseball's most goofy-footed team since the All-Star break, made sport of the steamrolling Seattle Mariners, for whom every win breaks some sort of ridiculous, moss-covered record.

The Orioles' 3-0 decision before 37,084 at Camden Yards last night not only broke their six-game losing streak, but also reminded them of how energizing the game is when played from ahead. Against a team five wins shy of the major-league record for road wins (60), the Orioles came as close as they've come to perfection since the All-Star break.

"It was a good game. We swung the bats well; we ran the bases well; we pitched well; and we played good defense," manager Mike Hargrove said.

Fitting for a month when nothing has come easily, the game was halted with two outs in the ninth inning as a lightning storm accompanied a downpour.

Despite crew chief Ed Montague's decisive stoppage, the deluge arrived so quickly it made the tarp too heavy for the grounds crew to unfurl over the infield. The orange-shirted crew fled the field. Exposed, the infield dirt washed onto the surrounding grass as pools covered the entire cutaway.

A contingent of photographers swelled by Japanese press assigned to Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki scrambled for safety as rain flooded their well and both dugouts. Major League Baseball dictates that umpires wait at least 45 minutes before officially ending any game in progress due to weather. Conditions made the call obvious well before then.

Blame (or credit) the mess on Hargrove. His decision to lift left-handed reliever Buddy Groom for closer Willis Roberts proved the difference in denying the Mariners a third out. "I thought about leaving Buddy in there, but Willis was warm and that was the right situation for him to come in," he said. "If I hadn't done what I thought was right and we got beat, I would have killed myself."

The stoppage assured the Orioles of their sixth shutout win this season while sending the Mariners to only their fourth shutout loss.

The soupy mess that became the Orioles infield may complicate today's 4:05 p.m. start, though club officials remained confident last night the game wouldn't be compromised.

Maduro (3-4) won for a third time in his last five starts by holding the Mariners to five hits through seven innings.

In a homestand that has seen Orioles starting pitchers leave with elbow pain and after sparring with umpires, Maduro gave a calm, efficient performance that never allowed a base runner to reach third base.

"I had an approach against them and they had one against me," said Maduro, who confounded the Mariners' expectations for a steady diet of breaking pitches by relying on an accurate fastball. "They're a great hitting team. Every time I made a mistake, it went for a hit."

The win broke the Orioles' 10-game losing streak against the Mariners, which included a three-game sweep in May. It also threatens the Mariners (96-39) with their first road series loss of the season after establishing a major-league record by winning or breaking even in their last 27 series away from Safeco Field.

After Thursday's embarrassing 15-0 loss to the Oakland Athletics, the Orioles completed their most dramatic role reversal of the season. They didn't exactly break out offensively but did manage only one fewer run than they had scored during the homestand's first six games.

This time, style equaled substance within an aggressive attack.

Having led only two of the homestand's previous 54 innings, the Orioles manufactured a two-run fifth inning after Melvin Mora's one-out double. Chris Richard served as catalyst by singling home Mora against Mariners starter Aaron Sele (13-5).

Richard's two-out laser glanced off the glove of first baseman John Olerud, who threw too late to Sele covering. Third base coach Tom Trebelhorn waved home Mora, who scored from second on a 100-foot single.

Richard took second on Jeff Conine's single, hesitated, then claimed third when Mariners center fielder Mike Cameron kicked the ball. The extra base became huge when, with two outs and Cal Ripken batting, Conine broke for second base, drawing a throw from catcher Dan Wilson.

Richard took off for home. When Wilson's throw short-hopped, Richard stole home without a throw. It was the Orioles' - and Richard's - first steal of home since Oct. 1 against the Yankees.

"I don't know what happened. We came out and played great ball," Richard said. "Calvin was outstanding for us."

The rally represented the Orioles' first multi-run inning of the homestand but didn't end their breakneck approach.

Third baseman Tony Batista led off the sixth inning with a drive to the base of the right-field scoreboard. Suzuki, playing his first game within Camden Yards' asymetrical dimensions, backed away just before the ball glanced waist-high off the fence and past him. Batista kept running for a triple. The extra base became pivotal on Brook Fordyce's sacrifice fly.

Maduro continues to force himself into the Orioles' thinking for 2002. He has been credited with three of their nine wins since Aug. 7 and is the kind of cost-effective alternative the club seeks from a fifth starter.

"That was a good game for me," said Maduro, who had struggled in his two previous starts. "To do that against a lineup like that ... I'll take that. We'll take that."

Orioles today

Opponent: Seattle Mariners

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 4:05 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch.45/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Mariners' Paul Abbott (13-3, 4.20) vs. Orioles' Jose Mercedes (7-15, 5.82)

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