Orioles stay Royals pain

Upbeat outlook aids two Orioles rallies for 5th straight over K.C., 4-3

10-4 run puts .500 a win away

Conine, Cordova produce 6 hits

`we expect to win'

O's tie on near-triple play

May 04, 2002|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

The Orioles inched closer to the .500 mark last night, that modest goal now achievable with a victory today over a struggling Kansas City Royals team that has to be wondering just how many more ways it can find to lose.

Certainly, the Orioles know that feeling after suffering through four straight losing seasons, but their 4-3 victory at Camden Yards was symptomatic of a new attitude that appears to be developing in the Orioles clubhouse.

Call it chemistry.

Call it the expectation that good things are going to happen.

If you want to be cynical, you can even call it the happy by-product of soft competition, but the 31,792 who showed up on a chilly evening at Oriole Park called it something else:

Fun.

The Orioles came from behind twice and won on a passed ball by rookie catcher Juan Brito that allowed Mike Bordick to score the deciding run in the bottom of the eighth inning for their 10th victory in the past 14 games.

The Royals, meanwhile, were cursing the fates after allowing the tying run on a near-triple play in the seventh that came up inches short when Gary Matthews Jr. made a great slide around Brito's tag attempt at the plate.

Matthews made a late break from third after Tony Batista grounded into an around-the-horn double play. The ball beat Matthews to the plate - thanks to a great relay by first baseman Mike Sweeney - but he angled around the tag with a headfirst slide and touched home with his left hand before Brito could lay the glove on him.

Tough night for Brito, who was making his major-league debut. Big night for the Orioles, who defeated the Royals for the fifth straight time this season.

"We really had to grind it tonight," manager Mike Hargrove said. "We wasted a couple of opportunities early in the ballgame. We made a couple of errors. It was good to see everybody stay on top of things."

Where only a few weeks ago, there was that fatalistic attitude that whatever could go wrong would go wrong, the Orioles now are playing like a team that knows it has a chance to win every day.

The fact that they have been winning against lesser teams than the ones that made the first half of April so miserable doesn't seem to matter.

`The last two or 2 1/2 weeks, we've been doing enough offensively to lead to that [feeling]," Hargrove said. "Every day we take the field we expect to win. We've been swinging the bat better as we've gone along. When that happens, sure, you expect to come back."

Two teams going in different directions.

Orioles third baseman Tony Batista, who had made only one error all year, made two costly misplays last night, but the club overcame them with some timely hitting and some good fortune in the late innings.

First baseman David Segui had to be scratched with a sore wrist, but Jeff Conine and Marty Cordova combined for six hits in the reconfigured batting order to maintain some offensive momentum.

The Royals, who have the worst record in the American League, hung tough all night, only to fall to 8-19.

"They have a pretty good ballclub, but things aren't going their way right now," said Orioles second baseman Jerry Hairston, who saved a run with a flashy defensive play in the fifth. "But it's one of those things where you have to capitalize on the situation. You have to take advantage of that."

Right-hander Scott Erickson pitched a solid 6 2/3 innings, but his performance was nothing to compare to the four-hit shutout he pitched against the Royals on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium.

In fact, it looked at the outset like it was going to be a study in contrast. He gave up hits to the first three batters and surrendered two runs on four hits in the first inning before settling in to retire 10 straight batters.

The Royals would not pose a serious threat again until the fifth, when they opened the inning with back-to-back singles, but Erickson worked out of a first-and-third, no-out jam with the help of a flashy scoop and throw by Hairston to cut down a run at the plate.

Royals rookie Jeremy Affeldt, who was making his first major-league start, had to pitch resourcefully to protect the early lead. He allowed seven base runners over four innings of work, but gave up only a bases-empty home run to Cordova in the second before turning the game over to reliever Blake Stein in the fifth.

Stein would allow the Orioles to tie the game in the fifth on another productive swing by Cordova, who singled off the glove of shortstop Neifi Perez to bring home Matthews.

The Orioles caught some heat last winter for making Cordova their most dynamic off-season acquisition, but there has been little to complain about since. The veteran outfielder missed the first 11 days of the season with a strained right quadriceps (thigh), but he has been the club's most consistent hitter since joining the lineup April 12.

The home run was only his second in 68 at-bats, but he has driven in 12 runs in 19 games and his 3-for-4 performance raised his average to a heady .352.

Orioles today

Opponent:Kansas City Royals

Site:Camden Yards

Time:1:35 p.m.

TV/Radio:Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Royals' Jeff Suppan (2-3, 3.19) vs. Orioles' Rodrigo Lopez (3-0, 2.42)

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