By shattering his corked bat, Sammy Sosa allowed the Orioles to catch a much-needed break last night. This one was legal, but they've received so few lately, they didn't know how to react.
Sosa began serving a seven-game suspension yesterday, removing him from Chicago's lineup for the rest of its series against the Orioles. Only a cleanup hitter was lost.
Taking Sosa's spot in the order, Moises Alou drove in two runs while continuing his domination of Omar Daal. He helped to provide a big early lead for starter Matt Clement, and the Orioles once again were humbled by interleague play in a 7-6 loss before 28,013 at Camden Yards.
Sosa's appeal reduced his suspension by one game. It didn't do enough to assist the Orioles, who were held to two B.J. Surhoff hits through five innings before they began to stir. Surhoff went 4-for-4, including a run-scoring single in the eighth as rain fell and the grounds crew stood behind the tarp.
The Orioles scored four runs in the inning, and Luis Matos represented the tying run at third base with two outs. Former Oriole Joe Borowski struck out Geronimo Gil with a high fastball, and time was called as lightning flashed and a downpour sent fans scurrying for the exits. The game was held up for 1 hour and 44 minutes. Borowski, a former Oriole, completed his 12th save after the delay.
Melvin Mora, who finished with three hits, extended his hitting streak to 22 games in the sixth with a shot up the middle that deflected off Clement's heel for an infield single. But Matos' streak ended at 15, marking the first time he's gone hitless since joining the Orioles on May 23.
They didn't come close to matching the attention that Sosa received, even when he wasn't here. Major League Baseball rules prohibited him from staying at the ballpark for the first pitch.
"It was pretty much a given that Sammy was going to miss some of the games here, given the fact they had the hearing here yesterday. They usually don't take very long to render a decision, so it doesn't surprise me that Sammy's going to miss two games," said manager Mike Hargrove.
Sosa's corked lumber remains a hot topic in baseball circles, but the Orioles are finding interleague competition to be like an anchor, weighing them down just as they were ready to rise in the standings. They're 1-7 against the NL, their only win coming in St. Louis, and have slipped to 29-34 overall.
So much for the 5-1 homestand that put them above .500 and began premature talk of their role in an early pennant race.
Daal (4-7) was coming off his shortest outing of the season, when he allowed four runs in two innings against Houston. He appeared to be making a nice recovery last night, taking a no-hitter into the fourth inning before Alou lined a run-scoring double into left-center field.
Alex Gonzalez reached on Mora's throwing error leading off the inning.
Mora, starting at shortstop, fielded a grounder in the hole but bounced a throw past Jeff Conine, allowing Gonzalez to take second.
Damian Miller doubled to score two more runs before getting caught in a rundown between third and home, with Conine applying the tag.
The middle innings remain a puzzle to Daal. He retired nine of the 10 batters he faced through the third, but eight of the next 12 reached base.
It took a diving catch from Jay Gibbons in the fifth, with Tom Goodwin scoring, to prevent even more damage. Goodwin replaced Sosa in right field. No kisses were blown to fans, and he wasn't showered with cork.
On four occasions this season, Daal has held opponents without a hit through the third inning. Three times, they've scored multiple runs in the fourth.
Alou increased Chicago's lead to 5-0 with a run-scoring single in the fifth, making him 8-for-15 with seven RBIs lifetime against Daal, who was replaced by Rick Bauer after the inning.
Clement won his second consecutive start after losing five in a row, but the decision hung in the balance as the Orioles rallied in the eighth against four relievers. Tony Batista delivered two runs with a single, and another scored on Surhoff's fourth hit. A fielder's choice grounder by Matos reduced Chicago's lead to 7-6.
The shutout was lost in the sixth when rookie left fielder David Kelton misjudged Gibbons' fly ball, which popped out of his glove as he leaped for it.
Gibbons was given a double and two RBIs.
A single and double by Surhoff were the only hits for the Orioles through the fifth. Clement doused a rally in the third by striking out Brian Roberts and Mora to strand two runners in scoring position.
Making only his second start since coming off the disabled list May 28, Surhoff lined a double down the left-field line with one out in the fifth. Matos grounded out and Gil struck out.
Matos' hitting streak was the longest by an Oriole to start a season since Davey Johnson hit safely in his first 17 games in 1971.