After hit famine, O's batters feast upon White Sox

Mora, Gibbons homer and Segui goes 3-for-3 in 9-4 breakthrough

April 15, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

CHICAGO - If the baseball cliche is true, and hitting is indeed contagious, then every time the Orioles have caught the symptoms, their opponents have been quick with a vaccine.

How else can anyone explain this offense?

Three victories, 34 runs. Eight losses, 11 runs.

The head-scratching continued yesterday after the Orioles used big offensive games by Melvin Mora, Jay Gibbons and David Segui for a 9-4 victory over the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park.

"We had 18 hits and 15 runs [Thursday] against Tampa and came in here and struggled the first two games to get hits," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said with a chuckle. "So I don't know if it's contagious. But it's nice to see."

Three innings into the game, the Orioles had already chased White Sox starter Dan Wright (1-1), and they already had seven hits, more than they managed in each of their eight losses.

By the time it was over, Mora had made another case to be the team's long-term leadoff hitter, even when injured second baseman Jerry Hairston returns. Gibbons finished one triple shy of the cycle, and Segui went 3-for-3 with two walks and two RBIs.

The Orioles made a winner of No. 5 starter Calvin Maduro (1-1), who looked shaky at times but finished with a quality start: six innings, three runs. Today, the Orioles will send Jason Johnson to the mound with a chance to split the four-game series.

"We're not going to score 10 runs every game, that's not us," Segui said. "Somewhere between that and no runs for three games, it evens out somehow. The teams that win keep it consistent."

The Orioles can look back at their three offensive outbursts and see similarities. On Opening Day, they scored eight runs off New York Yankees starter Roger Clemens after he injured his right hand in cruising to a 10-3 victory.

On Thursday, the Orioles feasted on Tampa Bay's bullpen, scoring a franchise-record 12 runs in the sixth inning against Travis Phelps, Jesus Colome and Steve Kent en route to a 15-6 victory.

Yesterday, the Orioles patiently exposed Wright, who went 0-4 with an 8.17 ERA this spring. Wright opened the game with a four-pitch walk to Mora, a Chris Singleton flyout and a five-pitch walk to Segui.

"I can look back a week or two," Segui said, "and there were games where we saw pitchers throwing the way [Wright] did, and we were so undisciplined a the plate, we didn't capitalize."

This time, the Orioles pounced. After the Segui walk, Jeff Conine crushed Wright's next pitch to the center-field wall, only to see Kenny Lofton rob him of an extra-base hit. But with two outs and two strikes, Gibbons singled to center, scoring Mora from third.

Gibbons doubled in the third inning off Wright and hit a two-run homer off Lorenzo Barcelo in the fourth. The homer was his third of the season, and all have come on the first pitch. He had two chances for that elusive triple, but flied to left field in the sixth inning and shattered his bat on a lineout to shortstop in the ninth.

Only two players in Orioles history have hit for the cycle: Brooks Robinson on July 15, 1960, against the White Sox, and Cal Ripken on May 6, 1984, against the Texas Rangers.

With four triples in 1,530 career at-bats, including the minors, Gibbons wasn't exactly holding his breath.

"Unless the outfielder falls down, I've got no chance at the cycle," Gibbons said. "Guys on the bench were talking about it, but I was like, no way."

If the cycle quest was trivial, Mora's performance was not.

One day after making two costly errors on the same ground ball, helping the White Sox come back for a 4-3 victory, Mora provided the game's biggest hit. Chicago had claimed a 2-1 lead after one inning, but Mora hit a three-run homer off Wright in the second inning to put the Orioles ahead for good.

Mora also added three walks. In three games filling in for Hairston, who is out with a strained left groin, Mora has posted a .692 on-base average in the leadoff role. Hairston's on-base average is .206.

"When Jerry comes back, we'll look at it," Hargrove said of keeping Mora in the leadoff role. "At the very least, Melvin has made us aware of it. I'm not shooting it down. Melvin continues to swing the bat the way he's swinging it, I can't not put him in the lineup."

Orioles today

Opponent:Chicago White Sox

Site:Comiskey Park, Chicago

Time:2:05 p.m.

TV/Radio:Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Jason Johnson (0-2, 2.77) vs. White Sox's Jon Garland (0-1, 8.68)

Feast or famine

The Orioles have produced impressive offensive numbers in their three wins and depressing ones in their eight losses:


W...3...109...38...34...18...20... .349

L...8...243...36...11...21...35... .148

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