O's dive back into win column, 6-3

Gibbons, Batista reawaken sleeping Orioles bats to salvage finale against A's

67-out runless drought ends

Gibbons' 2 homers give O's first win since break

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

With all due respect to Oakland A's starter Cory Lidle, he's not Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson or Barry Zito, and after getting spooked for three straight nights by that three-headed monster, the Orioles experienced the return of their first-half swagger yesterday.

As players began filing into the clubhouse for batting practice, hitting coach Terry Crowley said, "I fully expect our guys to break out and score some runs."

The Athletics had never swept four games in Baltimore, and after sputtering some more against Lidle, the Orioles finally tapped into their recently rejuvenated power source.

Jay Gibbons, who struggled during May and June, had his second two-homer game of July, lifting the Orioles to a 6-3 victory before 32,853 at Camden Yards.

It was the Orioles' first win since the All-Star break, and it broke their three-game losing streak. Oakland outscored the Orioles in the first three games of the series 11-1, and by the time this one reached the third inning, the Orioles had made 67 consecutive outs without scoring a single run.

Mulder, Hudson and Zito - a trio that has combined to go 29-15 this season - pitched seven shutout innings apiece against the Orioles, and Lidle (2-8) stood on the mound protecting a 1-0 lead with two outs in the third.

Then the Orioles finally had their awakening.

Gary Matthews stole second base, and Tony Batista lined Lidle's next pitch into the right-field corner, scoring Matthews with the tying run. One pitch later, Gibbons hit a 375-foot homer for a 3-1 lead.

Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said Batista's hit might have been the biggest of the game. Up to that point of the series, the Orioles were 2-for-25 with runners in scoring position. "When you go through spells like this, it seems you'll never score another run," Hargrove said. "And it usually takes a good at-bat like Tony gave us to climb the hump. Everybody seemed to relax a little bit, and did the job."

Oakland scored two runs the next inning to tie the score against Orioles starter Rodrigo Lopez (9-3), but Gibbons hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the fifth - his 16th of the season - and the Orioles held on for the win.

Lopez pitched seven innings to earn his third straight victory, Buddy Groom pitched the eighth, and Jorge Julio pitched the ninth for his 18th save.

Gibbons said the Orioles tried not to think too much about the previous three games.

"Actually it was the opposite," Gibbons said. "We knew if we went out and pressed today, we might put up another zero. We just went out there relaxed."

Gibbons hit 15 home runs in 73 games last season, but his power production has been limited this year because of pain in his right wrist. He had surgery last August to remove the hamate bone from his right hand and repair cartilage damage in the wrist, and doctors have told him it will be 18 months before he feels 100 percent.

After hitting .304 with seven home runs in April, Gibbons hit .218 with just five home runs in May and June combined. But he had his first career two-homer game on July 2 in a 3-0 victory at Anaheim, and did it again yesterday, this time driving in a career-high five runs.

Gibbons is now on pace for 31 home runs and 75 RBIs.

"I was disappointed with the fact I started out so well, and I was feeling so confident, and comfortable at the plate, and I started to make adjustments and they were the wrong adjustments," Gibbons said. "So this feels good, just to get more RBIs than anything else. The home runs will come; I really don't care. Just driving in runs and scoring runs are the most important things."

Gibbons continues to do his worst damage in the first pitch of his at-bats. In the third inning, Lidle threw a changeup right down the middle and Gibbons yanked it into the stands.

For the season, Gibbons is batting .469 (30-for-64) when he puts the first pitch in play, and 10 of his 16 home runs have come with a 0-0 count.

"Everybody talks about my first-pitch swinging, but I want to get back to that," Gibbons said. "They throw me a fastball, changeup, whatever, and I see it, I'm going to swing at it."

Orioles tonight

Opponent:Seattle Mariners

Site:Camden Yards

Time:7:05

TV/Radio:Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters:Mariners' Ryan Franklin (4-1, 3.43) vs. Orioles' Sidney Ponson (3-4, 4.14)

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