Jays make O's bluer

Toronto dents bullpen in 8th to retain mastery over Orioles with 5-2 win

O's 5-10 vs. East pair below them

Richard's return to help as Jays, Rays loom on trip

July 25, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

A three-city, 11-day trip for the Orioles that begins tomorrow would be approached with less trepidation if they viewed the division standings the way everyone else does.

They lose focus, unable to see the teams below them as inferior, and lose more games.

With their only relief coming from Tuesday's rainout, the Orioles again ran into the softer portion of their schedule and dented their grill. A normally reliable bullpen allowed two inherited runners to score in the eighth inning to break a tie and give the Toronto Blue Jays a 5-2 victory yesterday before 30,961 at Camden Yards.

By completing another two-game sweep, the Blue Jays improved to 4-0 against the Orioles this season, with a rematch coming next week at SkyDome. The teams will engage in a four-game series after the Orioles are finished with the last-place Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who are 6-5 against them.

At least they'll be better equipped next time. The Orioles recalled outfielder Chris Richard from his rehabilitation assignment at Triple-A Rochester, and he'll join the club in Boston tomorrow after being removed from the 60-day disabled list.

An offense already missing Jeff Conine, Mike Bordick and David Segui could use another bat, and Richard is swinging a hot one. On the DL after shoulder surgery, he's hitting .371 with three homers and 13 RBIs in nine games at Rochester.

Outfielder Luis Matos will return to Double-A Bowie to make room for Richard, who had his shoulder capsule reattached and some fraying in his rotator cuff cleaned in November.

"We felt like his stroke was at a point where he could compete at this level," said manager Mike Hargrove, who can use Richard only as a left-handed designated hitter or pinch hitter. "He gives us another major-league hitter, and he can continue his arm rehabilitation here."

For Richard to receive regular time as the designated hitter, Marty Cordova's sore right foot must allow him to play left field, or the Orioles can rest him. Howie Clark could make some starts at second base after replacing Cordova in left and serving as the DH.

"We can only play nine guys," Hargrove said, "so we'll have to try to be a little creative in getting guys at-bats. It's a better problem to have than trying to find bats to fill the holes."

The addition of Richard, who batted .265 with the Orioles last season, was in the works when Hargrove indicated Tuesday that the club would wait until 20 days expired in the rehab assignment before considering a roster move.

As the Orioles dressed for yesterday's game, Hargrove met with Syd Thrift, vice president for baseball operations. "We didn't make a decision until this morning," he said.

Capable of giving up 22 runs in a game, as they did against Boston on Tuesday, the Devil Rays have been almost as troublesome to the Orioles as Toronto. Toss in the four losses to the Blue Jays (44-55), and the Orioles are 5-10 against the division's weakest entries.

Hargrove chooses not to consider how his club's 47-51 record would look if the Orioles were better able to police the area beneath them. "It's just one of those things," he said.

So are losing streaks, and the Orioles have dropped their past three games. Travis Driskill (6-4) has lost four of his past five decisions but carried a shutout bid into the fifth yesterday after retiring 14 of his first 15 batters.

Dewayne Wise, playing in his fourth major-league game, homered with two outs in the fifth to give Toronto a 1-0 lead. An error by second baseman Luis Lopez with the bases loaded in the sixth brought in another run before Cordova tied the game in the bottom half with his 12th homer.

The first two batters reached in the eighth, and Hargrove went to his bullpen. Carlos Delgado grounded a run-scoring single to center off Buddy Groom, who had stranded 22 of 29 inherited runners. Willis Roberts surrendered two straight hits while ahead in the count to increase the lead to 5-2.

Melvin Mora stepped up as the tying run in the ninth and struck out on a 96-mph fastball from Cliff Politte, who recorded his first save. Mora reached twice, but stumbled as he rounded second base on a single by Clark with none out in the fourth and was out at third. Gary Matthews followed with a single that would have scored a run.

The Orioles also left the bases loaded in the fifth while losing to Chris Carpenter (4-1) for the second time in a week.

"We're not afraid of anybody," said Jay Gibbons, "but for some reason we haven't been able to figure out the Blue Jays yet."

Perhaps Richard will find a solution, or at least get a better read of the division.

"Chris Richard can flat-out hit," Gibbons said. "It'll be great to have him in the lineup."

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