Dominant Daal pitches Orioles past Rays, 4-1

Lefty's strong 7 innings, Mora's 2-run homer help O's win fourth in 5 games

Julio perfect in 9th for 5th save

Perlozzo manages team

Hargrove flies to Texas to be with ailing mother

April 21, 2003|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

Orioles manager Mike Hargrove received word during the weekend that his ailing mother had taken a turn for the worse, so he flew home to Texas yesterday, leaving control of the team to bench coach Sam Perlozzo.

After beginning Easter with that unsettling news, the Orioles found a way to make things easy for Perlozzo, playing a game so crisp, it was Tough Decision Lite.

Melvin Mora hit a two-run homer in the first inning, and Omar Daal turned in his first dominant pitching performance of the season, as the Orioles coasted to a 4-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays before 25,787 at Camden Yards.

The Orioles have won four of their past five games and can even their record tonight, when Rick Helling pitches in the series finale against the Devil Rays.

Perlozzo said he wasn't sure when Hargrove would be back, but they planned to speak after yesterday's game. As an interim manager, Perlozzo is 1-1, with the only other game coming July 18, when Hargrove attended the funeral of longtime Cleveland Indians trainer Jim Warfield.

The Orioles lost that game in Toronto, 5-4. This time, Perlozzo humbly saved the lineup card as a souvenir from his first major league victory. The game lasted all of 2 hours, 5 minutes, so Perlozzo didn't have much time to match wits with his old boss from Seattle, Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella.

In the grand scheme, however, the most important aspect for the Orioles was Daal's performance. After coming in with an 8.04 ERA, Daal (1-2) held Tampa Bay to one run on five hits over seven innings.

"That's a big step for him, and for us," Perlozzo said.

With Pat Hentgen looking like his old self in the bullpen, Hargrove moved to take some of the pressure off Daal by insisting one more bad start wouldn't cost him a spot in the starting rotation.

But the tension mounted again when the Devil Rays used three consecutive one-out singles to load the bases in the second inning. In his most important sequence of the day, Daal limited the damage to one run, getting Rey Ordonez to hit a sacrifice fly to left field and Carl Crawford to hit a tapper back to the mound.

"It wasn't quite his good stuff yet," Perlozzo said. "He got away with some pitches up [in the strike zone]. When he got the ball up a little bit, they hit some balls, and fortunately they hit them at us."

The Orioles came right back and padded their lead in the bottom of the second, when Tony Batista legged out an infield single and Marty Cordova doubled high off the right-field wall. Batista scored when right fielder Damian Rolls bobbled the rebound off the wall. Cordova advanced to third on the error and scored when Deivi Cruz hit a grounder to second.

Daal settled in and retired 16 of the final 17 batters he faced. The left-hander's velocity increased as the game wore on, with his fastball registering 79-83 mph in the first two innings and 85-86 mph in the seventh.

"I tried to put away those kinds of questions [about staying in the starting rotation]," Daal said.

After seven innings, Daal had thrown just 83 pitches (61 for strikes). Later, Daal said he felt strong enough to continue, but Perlozzo turned things over to the bullpen, using Buddy Groom for the eighth inning and Jorge Julio for the ninth.

"If we can get to Buddy Groom in the eighth inning every game and Jorge Julio in the ninth, that's exactly where we want to be," Perlozzo said. "There wasn't even a second thought. I was just hoping [Daal] would get through the seventh without any problems ... and that's exactly what he did."

Julio breezed through the ninth for his fifth save, striking out Aubrey Huff and Damion Easley to end the game.

Afterward, Piniella pointed to some injuries to explain his club's five-hit performance. On April 8, Daal had a 6-0 lead against Tampa Bay after two innings, and the Devil Rays eventually came back to win, 8-7.

Travis Lee had four hits in that game, and he's on the disabled list with a strained right oblique muscle. Ben Grieve had a pinch-hit double off Julio in that game, but yesterday he was headed back to Tampa Bay to have his infected left thumb examined.

"We're missing a couple pieces out of our lineup," Piniella said, "and it shows."

Orioles tonight

Opponent:Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Site:Camden Yards

Time:7:05

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

Starters:Devil Rays' Steve Parris (0-1, 4.00) vs. Orioles' Rick Helling (0-1, 6.00)

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