Orioles finish Boston run, 7-5

Runs in 5 straight innings power Orioles, who halt Sox's 6-game win streak

Gil's 2 HRs pace 12-hit attack

Erickson labors, but relief is superb last 3 innings for third win in 4 games

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

Their rookie catcher hit two home runs. A couple other guys with batting averages under .120 started showing signs of life. For the first time this season, the Orioles' offense provided a sustained attack last night.

Previously, there had been short bursts here and there. But on a night like this, with the Boston Red Sox riding a six-game winning streak, it was going to take something more.

The Orioles scored in each of the first five innings, overcoming another rocky start for Scott Erickson to post a 7-5 victory before 26,301 at Camden Yards.

Boston had won its first eight games on the road and had swept three games from the Orioles here earlier this season. This time, the Orioles pounced on Red Sox starter Frank Castillo (1-1), who held the Orioles to one run over six innings on April 6.

The Red Sox jumped out to 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.

But right from the beginning, it was clear this night could be different.

Jerry Hairston, who lost his leadoff job not long ago, got the Orioles started with a base hit up the middle. Then Chris 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. David Segui lined a single to right field, scoring Hairston from second.

With two outs in the second, Orioles catcher Geronimo Gil tied the game with a home run. He entered the game in a 3-for-25 slump and batting .174. Beyond that, he was questionable to even start the game after getting hit with a pitch in the left hand Saturday.

Asked about his hand afterward, a smiling Gil said, "It didn't affect it at all." through interpreter Elrod Hendricks. "It felt pretty good."

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.

It was Gil's first-career multi-home run game.

Perhaps the Orioles' biggest hit of the night came later in the fourth inning. With two outs, Jeff Conine hit a two-run single up the middle, scoring Hairston from third base and Singleton from second for a 6-2 lead.

"We had contributions from everybody up and down the order." Conine said. "When you have that, you're going to win a lot of games."

Those insurance runs proved important, as Boston came right back with two runs off Erickson the next inning. The top of the Red Sox order strung together three consecutive hits before Erickson stifled the rally by getting Manny Ramirez to ground into a double play.

Any momentum Boston had was quickly thwarted the next inning, however. Batista doubled to deep center field, and Marty Cordova moved him to third with another curious sacrifice bunt.

Next came Gil, and after beating the Red Sox with the long ball his first two times to the plate, he hit a little roller to third for an infield hit, which scored Batista with the Orioles' seventh run.

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 walking two batters.

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

With a 7-5 lead, Orioles manager Mike Hargrove turned to his bullpen. Rookie Rick Bauer pitched a scoreless seventh, left-hander Buddy Groom pitched a scoreless eighth, and Jorge Julio pitched the ninth for his second save.

The Orioles wound up with their third win in the past four games. They have come from behind in all seven of their wins this season. They also had 12 hits, making them 6-0 in games in which they have at least 10 hits.

Beyond Gil and Conine, it was an encouraging night for the Orioles, as Singleton and Mike Bordick, batting .119 and .111 respectively coming in, both went 2-for-4.

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