O's sweep away Twins

4-1 victory is third in row over AL Central leaders

Driskill gets 1st home win

`We played well this series'

Richard's two-run homer, Conine's two-run single pace offense for Orioles

August 09, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

The Orioles had the American League Central-leading Minnesota Twins down to their final out yesterday, when a fan standing in seats along the first base line began screaming at the top of his lungs, "Sweep! Sweep! Sweep!"

It was an impassioned solo. No one else joined in, and there wasn't a broom in sight. The Orioles might be giant-killers, but they continue to stalk their prey quietly.

Jeff Conine and Chris Richard, both fresh off the disabled list, had the two big hits yesterday, as the Orioles completed a three-game sweep against the Twins with a 4-1 victory before 36,757 at Camden Yards.

Minnesota became the latest first-place team to trip and fall against the sub-.500 Orioles. Today's standings show the New York Yankees, Twins and Seattle Mariners atop the three AL divisions, and the Orioles' combined record against those three teams is 14-10.

"We played well this series," said Orioles manager Mike Hargrove. "We pitched well, as much as anything, and held some of their big hitters in check. Against a team like the Twins - they have an awfully good ballclub and lead their division by 14 or 15 games - so we should feel good about doing this against these guys."

The Orioles are 40-11 against the Twins since July 1996, so this was more of the same, and yet both teams have been transformed multiple times since then. Travis Driskill might be the face that best sums up this current Orioles team, and he was back on the mound yesterday, frustrating the Twins for 6 2/3 innings.

Driskill (8-5) won his second straight start, holding the Twins to one run on seven hits. Minnesota stranded eight runners on base while Driskill was pitching, and 13 for the game.

Willis Roberts stranded the bases loaded in the eighth, cleaning up for Yorkis Perez, who had walked two batters on four pitches apiece. Hargrove said he's trying to give left-handed reliever Buddy Groom a three-day break, so Perez got the chance to start the eighth after retiring Corey Koskie to end the seventh.

The Twins brought the tying run to the plate again with two outs in the ninth, but Orioles closer Jorge Julio got All-Star center fielder Torii Hunter to ground to second, preserving his 23rd save.

Driskill, who has gone 7-2 on the road in his first big-league season, finally won a home game. "It's big," he said. "Having all that success on the road and not having it home, seemed kind of strange."

Twins starter Brad Radke (4-3) took the loss in his second start back after an extended stint on the disabled list. But he allowed the four Orioles runs on just five hits, and Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire was encouraged by the performance.

Gardenhire said Radke basically made two mistakes.

In the second inning, he left a 90-mph fastball over the plate for Richard, who smashed it into the right-field seats for a two-run homer. It was Richard's third homer since he returned from the disabled list July 31, and he extended his career-best hitting streak to 11 games (including the final two games of last season).

"Hitters go through ups and downs, and this just kind of hit at the right time," Richard said. "Everyone's going to have their good days and bad days. I've just had a little stretch here where I've had some good days in a row."

Richard, who missed the season's first four months with a shoulder injury, is hitting .424. At his current pace, he would finish a 162-game season with 54 home runs and 126 RBIs.

"I've been impressed he hasn't put too much pressure on himself trying to do too much," Hargrove said. "He hasn't over-swung, he's been real solid, and that's good to see."

After hitting the home run, Richard had another important at-bat in the fourth inning, moving two runners up with a grounder to second base. That brought Conine to the plate in his second day back from the hamstring injury that cost him 45 games.

Radke broke Conine's bat, but he muscled a single to center field, scoring Gary Matthews and Tony Batista for a 4-1 lead.

"It was good to see Niner up there with men on second and third with one out," Hargrove said. "You knew that chances were pretty good we were going to get one and maybe two. Jeff's awfully important to our lineup both defensively and offensively, and it's good to get him back."

Orioles tonight

Opponent:Detroit Tigers

Site:Comerica Park, Detroit

Time:7:05

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

Starters: Orioles' Jason Johnson (3-8, 4.44) vs. Tigers' Mike Maroth (3-4, 4.77)

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