New battery charges O's 3rd win in row

3-hit heroics of Gil, Douglass top N.Y., 11-2

September 23, 2001|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The first player to greet Sean Douglass yesterday as he reached the edge of the Orioles' dugout was Rick Bauer, who moved to the top step with his hand clenched. They tapped fists, and Bauer jabbed at his friend's left leg as he passed. One gesture of approval wouldn't suffice, not after Douglass had been so magnificent.

It was far easier to celebrate Douglass' achievements in his second major-league start. There weren't enough hands to cover the offense, which included the other half of a rookie battery that dictated the outcome.

Using another lineup that looked too vulnerable against the three-time defending world champions, the Orioles collected 14 hits in the first four innings and rolled to an 11-2 victory over the New York Yankees before 47,068 at Camden Yards. Catcher Geronimo Gil drove in five runs, and every starter reached base.

Nine batters came to the plate in the third inning and eight more in the fourth, as the Orioles punished left-hander Sterling Hitchcock (3-4) and reliever Brandon Knight. The Yankees' only response was two home runs by Chuck Knoblauch, the second coming off John Bale.

Gil, starting again after being behind the plate Friday night, went 3-for-5 in his most productive game since coming to the Orioles in a July 31 trade with Los Angeles. His contract was purchased from Triple-A Rochester two weeks ago, and he's likely to get most of the starts the rest of the season.

"We've got to find out about him and see what we've got. So far, so good," manager Mike Hargrove said.

Gil's opportunities have grown with Brook Fordyce nursing a sore left elbow. His emergence will cost Fernando Lunar some at-bats down the stretch.

"I feel happy about what I did," Gil said through an interpreter, bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks. "That's why I'm in the lineup, to help the team win ballgames. This is good for me. I've worked very hard and I'll continue to work hard because this is what it's all about, playing at this level."

With a large American flag still hanging from the warehouse and others remaining at half-staff, the Orioles extended their winning streak to three games for the first time since Aug. 6-8 in Kansas City. A team that was shut out five times in 15 games before the terrorist attacks suspended play has crafted two five-run innings and a six-run inning since Thursday.

"Baseball's a game of cycles and sometimes you'll have bad cycles and good cycles," Hargrove said. "Hopefully we've come out of that and we'll be more consistent in scoring runs the rest of the way. We have hitters who can do the job. It's just that we need things to break our way occasionally and take advantage of it."

Limited to 28 runs during a 17-game stretch, the Orioles have scored 30 in their past three. They didn't need many to support Douglass, who became the club's seventh rookie this season to post his first victory in the majors. Part of this month's roster expansion, Douglass struck out the side in the third and retired the first 11 batters before Bernie Williams singled with two outs in the fourth.

Two walks loaded the bases, but Douglass struck out Shane Spencer to keep the Yankees scoreless until Knoblauch led off the sixth with a home run. He was replaced after Enrique Wilson singled, only the third hit off Douglass.

"I was a lot more relaxed and had a lot more confidence after seeing what the big leagues are all about instead of being thrown in here for one day," said Douglass, whose debut came July 18 against Texas, when he permitted six runs in 3 2/3 innings and was sent down after the game. "I told everybody they hit me around well but I saw what it takes to pitch in the majors."

Douglass made a vow to Hargrove upon leaving the manager's office after his first start. "The last thing he said to me was he would be better the next time up. He told the truth," Hargrove said.

"Sean's got good stuff. We saw that his first outing. He just looked a lot more comfortable."

Hitchcock retired only eight of the 18 batters he faced, with Gil and Jerry Hairston reaching him for run-scoring doubles in the third. Hairston provided the club's fourth extra-base hit, three of them coming in the inning.

Making his eighth start since rejoining the Yankees, Hitchcock left with two outs in the third and the Orioles leading 6-0. They had nine hits before the Yankees got their first, then tacked on five in a row with two outs in the fourth.

All of this noise came from a lineup that included three rookies - Gil, Brian Roberts and Larry Bigbie. Two other starters, Luis Matos and Mike Kinkade, have limited major-league experience. Bigbie wasn't going to play until Brady Anderson became a late scratch with an upset stomach.

Another twist was provided by Cal Ripken, who batted cleanup for the first time since Sept. 23, 2000, in Boston. He responded with two singles, two walks, an RBI and two runs scored - production that came between lengthy ovations each time he stepped to the plate or his image was shown on the video screen. He was robbed of another hit on a diving catch by shortstop Erick Almonte.

Ripken and Bigbie had run-scoring singles in the third, and Kinkade brought in another with a grounder to the right side. Kinkade and Gil drove in their second runs the next inning, and Bigbie added a double that became the Orioles' last hit until Kinkade doubled in the eighth.

Gil's two-run single gave the Orioles 16 hits, their most since Aug. 19 at Boston, when they amassed a season-high 19 at Fenway Park.

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