DuBose, hot Orioles keep Jays blue, 11-3

Lefty, big innings shove Toronto deeper into cellar in O's 7th win in 8 games

April 24, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

It's been years since the Orioles have dominated anybody in the American League East, let alone the Toronto Blue Jays, so last night's developments must still be placed under the category of surprise.

But the way these teams stack up, this looks like it could become a recurring theme. The Blue Jays' starting pitching is a mess, and left-handed opponents continue to mystify their once-potent offense.

Last night, Eric DuBose had his second big performance against Toronto in six days, and the high-flying Orioles' lineup did the rest in an 11-3 victory before 26,827 at Camden Yards.

The Orioles improved to 4-0 against a Blue Jays team that is colder than a Canadian winter to maintain their surprising hold on first place in the AL East.

Brian Roberts and B.J. Surhoff each had three hits, and Jay Gibbons hit a 393-foot home run onto Eutaw Street, as the Orioles won for the seventh time in eight games.

At 4-12, Toronto is off to its worst start in franchise history.

"They're not playing their best baseball, and they know it," DuBose said. "But they've got some guys in that lineup who will snap out of it, and they'll hurt you."

This one was delayed 61 minutes at the start by rain, and the teams waited a few extra moments for NBC's crew to finish four takes of Martin Sheen throwing out a presidential first pitch for The West Wing.

Later, DuBose joked, "I had a tough act to follow. [Sheen] may have been throwing harder than I was."

Toronto grabbed a two-run lead against DuBose, but the Orioles stormed back with three runs in the third inning and four more in the fourth against their former teammate, Josh Towers.

DuBose (2-2) actually showed an increase in velocity, as his fastball hit 92 mph, and he settled in to hold the Blue Jays to two runs on five hits over seven innings. He also tossed seven shutout innings against them Sunday in Toronto.

In the four wins, the Orioles have outscored the Blue Jays 34-7.

"I'm not saying anything bad about Toronto; you kidding me?" Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said. "I told you, you've got to always respect that team in the other dugout."

But the Blue Jays have an obvious Achilles' heel. They are 0-5 against left-handed starters, and they entered this one batting .174 overall against lefties.

This bodes well for the Orioles, who will come back with left-hander Erik Bedard today. Their other lefty, Matt Riley, held Toronto to one hit in seven innings on April 16.

Could this be the year the Orioles reverse the trend? They went 31-45 against the AL East last year and haven't won a season series against a division foe other than the Tampa Bay Devil Rays since they went 7-6 against the Blue Jays in 2000.

Throw out that season, and the Blue Jays have dominated the Orioles since 1999, winning 49 of their 69 games.

But this season, the Blue Jays have struggled against everyone. With Towers' performance, their starters are now 1-10 with a 5.58 ERA.

Trailing 2-0, the Orioles went to work on Towers in the third. The first four batters reached base, and Rafael Palmeiro hit a sacrifice fly, bringing home Roberts with the go-ahead run.

Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada made a pair of fine defensive plays in the fourth inning, helping DuBose escape a jam. Later, Tejada said, "one thing we learned in Oakland, is when a team is struggling, you've got to keep trying."

So even with a 3-2 lead, the Orioles didn't rest. They loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth, and then Towers hit Melvin Mora on the elbow with a fastball, forcing home the fourth run.

Towers had a chance to escape the jam without further damage, but Tejada hit a little dribbler to the first base side of the mound, and sprinted down the line.

"I was trying to put pressure on the pitcher," Tejada said. "I know, 98 percent of the time I'm out. I just try to go hard and see what happens."

Tejada's hustle seemed to rattle Towers, as he got to the ball and airmailed his throw over Carlos Delgado, the first baseman, into right field.

As soon as the ball left Towers' hand, he knew it was an error. He leaped in the air just as Delgado was leaping in the air and then turned away in disgust.

Two runs scored on the play, and Palmeiro made it sting a little more with a run-scoring single to right field, which made it 7-2.

Towers was charged with seven runs (four earned) in four innings.

Gibbons hit his third homer of the season in the seventh off Toronto reliever Aquilino Lopez. It was the 34th time a player has hit a ball onto Eutaw Street, the second for Gibbons.

Afterward, DuBose thought back to the furious fourth-inning rally, when his lead went from 3-2 to 7-2 in the blink of an eye.

"This team," he said, "does more damage with two outs than any team I've ever seen."

Orioles today

Opponent: Toronto Blue Jays

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 4:35 p.m.

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

Starters: Blue Jays' Pat Hentgen (0-2, 5.17) vs. Orioles' Erik Bedard (0-0, 9.00)

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