Orioles finish Boston run, 7-5

Runs in 5 straight innings lift O's, who halt 6-game streak of AL East leaders

Gil's 2 HRs pace 12-hit attack

Sustained offensive effort pleases Crowley, spares Erickson

win 3rd in past 4

April 24, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

Orioles hitting coach Terry Crowley had been waiting for this.

For the first time all season, the Orioles provided a sustained offensive attack last night.

The rookie catcher with a .174 batting average and a sore left hand hit two home runs. Two others batting under a buck twenty-five had two hits apiece. Two timely sacrifice bunts led directly to important runs.

Add it up, and the Orioles had enough to overcome a shaky start by Scott Erickson for a 7-5 victory over the first-place Boston Red Sox before 26,301 at Camden Yards.

"We can't every night rely on [David] Segui, [Jay] Gibbons and [Jeff] Conine," Crowley said. "You just can't do that. Everybody has to pitch in, and this is what we did tonight. Leaving spring training, I had every confidence this is how we would attack the ball, from one through nine."

Boston was riding a six-game winning streak and had won its first eight games on the road, including a three-game sweep here earlier this season.

The Red Sox took a 2-0 lead in the first inning, and it looked like a mountainous climb for an Orioles team that entered the game with the lowest batting average in the majors, at .221.

On the mound stood Frank Castillo (1-1), who had held the Orioles to one hit over six innings on April 6. Castillo wasn't as sharp this time, and the Orioles capitalized.

Geronimo Gil had his first multi-homer game. Chris Singleton and Mike Bordick - who entered batting .119 and .111, respectively - each went 2-for-4. Segui had a one-run single, and Conine had a two-run single that Orioles manager Mike Hargrove called "probably the biggest hit of the game."

"We've got good hitters in our lineup, and good hitters hit eventually," Hargrove said. "Sometimes you get tired of waiting for it, but eventually they do, and tonight we did."

Right from the beginning, it was clear this night would be different.

Jerry Hairston singled to start the first, and then Singleton laid down a sacrifice bunt, moving Hairston to second. It was a curious move, since the Orioles were trailing by two runs against Castillo, who is not an overpowering pitcher, but it quickly paid dividends when Segui lined a single to right field, scoring Hairston.

"It's the first inning, and you've got a lot of game to play," Singleton said. "To me, you want to try to pick up a run, you can't just wait for a big inning. You try to build momentum through the game. You get something on the board, you get going, you break the ice and everybody starts to loosen up."

With two outs in the second, Gil tied the game with a home run. He entered the game in a 3-for-25 slump and had missed Sunday's game after getting hit on the left hand by a Paul Wilson pitch Saturday in Tampa.

Gil arrived at the ballpark unsure if he would play but told Hargrove he was ready after taking a few swings in the cage.

"It didn't affect me at all," Gil said in Spanish, through interpreter and bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks.

With Erickson settling down, the Orioles took a 3-2 lead in the third inning on Tony Batista's bases-loaded sacrifice fly. Gil led off the fourth inning with his second home run of the night and third of the season.

Then, with two outs, Conine hit a single up the middle, scoring Hairston from third base and Singleton from second for a 6-2 lead. Those insurance runs proved important, as Boston came right back with two runs off Erickson the next inning.

But the Orioles quickly regained the momentum, as Batista doubled and Marty Cordova moved him to third with another curious sacrifice bunt. Gil hit a little roller to third for an infield hit and Batista scored to make it 7-4.

"I really wasn't feeling like I was seeing the ball well my first two at-bats," Cordova said. "And it was an important run that gave us a three-run lead."

Erickson (2-2) threw 28 pitches in a long first inning, and it seemed troubling considering he had been shaky in his previous start, Thursday at Yankee Stadium.

But Erickson went through a stretch where he retired eight straight batters, all on ground balls, and made it through the fourth inning without further damage, despite two walks.

Erickson left after six innings, having thrown 101 pitches, just 56 for strikes. He allowed five runs on seven hits, walking four batters and striking out none.

Rookie Rick Bauer pitched a scoreless seventh, left-hander Buddy Groom pitched a scoreless eighth, and Jorge Julio stranded a runner on third in the ninth for his second save.

Orioles tonight

Opponent:Boston Red Sox

Site:Camden Yards

Time:7:05

TV/Radio:CSN/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Red Sox's Darren Oliver (2-0, 3.14) vs. Orioles' Rodrigo Lopez (1-0, 1.80)

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