Driskill back on track in O's win

Pitcher beats Jays, 8-4, for 1st victory since July 4

Orioles' win streak hits 4

August 04, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

TORONTO - The Orioles proved they could dismantle another team's seven-run lead, breaking it down piece by piece before removing the final chunk with one mighty blow. Their instructional book also must include a page on how to protect the same margin.

To the relief of an entire organization, the task fell into the hands of Travis Driskill, who had gone from feel-good story to growing concern. With only one win in his past six decisions, Driskill was given enough room yesterday to work out his problems.

The Orioles scored in each of the first four innings against Toronto's Chris Carpenter and weathered a late surge by the Blue Jays in an 8-4 victory before 17,534 at SkyDome, where the roof stayed open and the opponent stayed hot.

After falling behind 8-1 on Friday and completing their improbable rally with Gary Matthews' three-run homer in the ninth inning, the Orioles started fast yesterday while winning their fourth straight game. Every player in the box score had a hit except catcher Brook Fordyce, and the Orioles (52-55) had at least one base runner in every inning. Even reserve Jose Leon, who replaced Jay Gibbons when the first baseman's wrist began bothering him, drove in a run in the ninth.

Driskill (7-5) registered his first victory since July 4 on a day when the Orioles set off plenty of offensive fireworks. They led 5-0 after the third inning, sending 16 batters to the plate and getting seven hits off Carpenter. Four were doubles, including three in the third.

And this was before Chris Singleton hit a two-run homer in the fourth. When Matthews struck out to end the inning, he joined Melvin Mora and Singleton as Orioles who already batted three times.

For anyone debating the existence of a carry-over effect, this game provided compelling evidence.

"There is such a thing," manager Mike Hargrove said. "I don't know that that's what we saw today. We saw, as much as anything, that Chris Carpenter left a lot of pitches up and couldn't get his curveball over. And we hit the ball hard off him."

Down 7-1 in the eighth, the Blue Jays tried to duplicate the Orioles' comeback. They scored three runs, two after Driskill left, and appeared to get another on a two-out single by pinch hitter Dave Berg. But Singleton threw out Chris Woodward at third base, with Tony Batista's tag coming before Carlos Delgado crossed the plate.

Carpenter (4-3) had beaten Driskill twice last month and was 4-0 with a 3.85 ERA lifetime against the Orioles at SkyDome. Manager Carlos Tosca rescued him after the fourth, sending in Corey Thurman against a team that has produced 33 runs in its past four games.

Is it coincidence that the offense has gone ballistic since Chris Richard came off the 60-day disabled list? He's batting .533 with five RBIs in four games. Richard homered in his first two games, and two doubles yesterday raised his total to five.

"A lot of times you need a little bit of spark to get things moving and jumping again," said Hargrove, whose club has 28 hits in two games.

"He's always on base," Fordyce said, "and a pitcher's got to pitch different. He's been a great pickup for us at a time when we really needed it."

Three of the first four Orioles singled off Carpenter in the first inning, with another run scoring on a grounder by Matthews. Jerry Hairston's sacrifice fly in the second gave the Orioles a 3-0 lead, and they clamped down a little harder on Carpenter in the third with RBI doubles by Batista and Marty Cordova.

Driskill threw 114 pitches in his most recent start, when he lasted only four innings. His count stood at 107 yesterday when Hargrove removed him after the first three Blue Jays reached in the eighth. Driskill had retired nine straight after a run-scoring single by Ken Huckaby in the fifth, striking out four and not permitting a ball to leave the infield.

With the Blue Jays exhibiting great patience early, Driskill leaned heavily on his fastball to get ahead in counts. Only when they began hacking in the middle innings did Driskill go to his splitter.

"And the defense and offense came through big-time," he said. "Seven runs, that makes it easy. That's when they started getting aggressive, after the first time through the lineup."

"For Travis to be successful," Fordyce said, "he's got to count on having control of his fastball. Early in the game, we threw a couple splits and they weren't offering at it, so we had to establish the fastball."

A double by Jose Cruz cut the Orioles' lead to 7-2 and brought Buddy Groom into the game. A third run was charged to Driskill when Delgado looped a single over Mora at shortstop, and Vernon Wells' sacrifice fly brought Toronto a little closer.

The game also featured a magnificent defensive play from the Orioles to end the third inning. After a Hairston throwing error put Shannon Stewart on first, Cruz hit a sharp grounder through Driskill's legs. Mora made a diving stop behind second and flipped the ball to Hairston while on his stomach. Hairston caught it with his bare hand to get the force.

Whether the Orioles can get Gibbons into the lineup today remains uncertain. He might not play because of the wrist.

Orioles today

Opponent:Toronto Blue Jays

Site:SkyDome, Toronto

Time:1:05 p.m.

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

Starters: Orioles' John Stephens (0-1, 27.00) vs. Blue Jays' Pete Walker (4-2, 4.61)

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