Gibbons finds stroke

O's trip Mariners, 3-1

Slumping outfielder hits two-run single in 8th to end 3-game losing streak

Moyer frustrates O's again for 7

Ainsworth lasts only 5, but Parrish, Julio don't allow hit in last 4 innings

April 29, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

The rippling muscles beneath Jay Gibbons' jersey weren't do ing much good last night. In his first three trips to the plate against Seattle Mariners soft- tosser Jamie Moyer, he failed to hit the ball past the pitcher's mound.

Here was the guy the Orioles had been looking to as a major run-producer in their revamped lineup this season, and he came to the plate in the eighth inning hitless in his past 15 at-bats.

But the bases were loaded, and Mariners closer Shigetoshi Hasegawa left a sinker over the outer half of the plate, and Gib bons drilled it up the middle for a two-run single, which gave the Orioles a 3-1 victory before 20,445 at Camden Yards.

"A close game like this, that was big." said Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli. "It was at the right time."

The Orioles went another game without a quality start. Kurt Ainsworth lasted just five innings, but John Parrish turned in three innings of hitless relief, and closer Jorge Julio came on with a perfect ninth to earn his third save, as they broke their three-game losing streak.

Moyer, the 41-year-old lefty who didn't throw a pitch harder than 83 mph, continued his mastery against his former team, holding the Orioles to one run on four hits over seven innings.

By the end of Moyer's stint, the Orioles were visibly frustrated, as B.J. Surhoff and Luis Matos both barked at home plate umpire Dale Scott following strikeouts.

Moyer hit Gibbons on the right hand to load the bases in the first inning. Gibbons came up again in the third, with runners at first and second, and hit a sharp comebacker that Moyer snagged and then threw to first to end the inning.

Then in the sixth, Gibbons took a whack at the first pitch he saw from Moyer and hit a little pop-up to the pitcher's mound.

"He's an absolute nightmare." said Gibbons, who is 0-for-8 lifetime against Moyer. "I swear a high school kid would have a much better chance hitting off that guy."

But Gibbons got a golden chance to redeem himself. He went to the plate in the eighth inning batting .206.

With Moyer finally out of the game, Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada led off the eighth inning with a double down the left-field line against Hasegawa, who then walked Rafael Palmeiro (intentionally) and Javy Lopez (unintentionally) to get to Gibbons.

"I'd say I was beyond frustration." Gibbons said. "I can only break so many bats down underneath [the grandstand], and I was really calm actually. I was just like, "What do I have to lose? I get another opportunity to help the team."'

Hasegawa is a sinker and split-fingered fastball specialist, so Gibbons went to the plate knowing every pitch would be headed down in the strike zone. Orioles hitting coach Terry Crowley reminded Gibbons to look for something up in the zone.

"Of course, the first pitch I swung at was in the dirt." Gibbons said. "That's when I knew I was struggling."

But with a 1-1 count, Hasegawa threw a sinker about knee- high, over the outer half of the plate, and Gibbons smashed it for the game-winner. Gibbons now has 15 RBIs in 18 games.

"I felt confident when he was up there, no question." Mazzilli said. "What you need to do right there is put the ball in play; you"re not even looking for a hit, although you'd like to have one."

Ainsworth held the Mariners to one run in five innings, but he was at 91 pitches, so Mazzilli went to his bullpen to start the sixth. Ainsworth allowed four hits, four walks and hit a batter.

Ainsworth had experienced some shoulder pain following his last start, so Mazzilli said he wanted to be careful with him this time.

"It feels pretty good." Ainsworth said. "Even though I went five innings, it was still a pretty good start, and that can build my confidence."

Parrish (2-1) walked the first batter he faced, John Olerud, and then retired the next nine in a row to earn the victory.

Ainsworth is still winless in four starts, but he lowered his ERA from 9.88 to 7.71.

The Orioles left 12 runners on base in Tuesday's 7-5 loss, and it was more of the same in the first inning last night.

Brian Roberts led off with a double and stole third base uncontested before Melvin Mora walked. The Orioles were hoping to bury Moyer right there, but Tejada grounded into a double play, which scored Roberts and cleared the bases.

Palmeiro and Lopez both singled, and Moyer hit Gibbons with a pitch to load the bases, but B.J. Surhoff, who entered the game batting .389 with three career homers against Moyer, grounded to first, ending the inning.

Seattle tied it in the fourth after Ainsworth walked Mariners No. 8 hitter Dan Wilson to load the bases. Tejada made a diving stop up the middle on a hard grounder by Randy Winn, but Roberts was too far from second base for the forceout.

Tejada cocked his arm like he was going to fire to first, and Roberts hit the deck, but by that time, the fleet-footed Winn had reached with an RBI single. Tejada angrily pointed to second, but then pointed at himself and tossed the ball back to Ainsworth, who had himself to blame for those two walks.

Orioles today

Opponent: Seattle Mariners

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 3:05 p.m.

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

Starters: Mariners' Joel Pineiro (1-2, 8.46) vs. Orioles' Eric DuBose (2-2, 3.20)

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