Orioles stand ground, ship out Mariners

9-5 victory over Seattle caps 5-4 homestand, shows 'this is a different team'

DuBose goes 7 for 3rd win in row

15 hits in finale make 3-game skid a memory

Tejada has injury scare

April 30, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

The Orioles will have tougher homestands this season. There will be dogfights with the Boston Red Sox and grudge matches against the New York Yankees that will truly measure their resolve.

But no matter what happens, they can look back at yesterday as a day they proved something to themselves. At the end of a nine-game homestand against a trio of bottom feeders, the Orioles showed they could take a punch in the gut - or, in the case of shortstop Miguel Tejada, a baseball in the eye.

The Seattle Mariners ended a five-game losing streak here Tuesday, but by late yesterday afternoon, the Orioles were feeling like conquerors once again, as they took the three-game series with a 9-5 victory before 24,792 at Camden Yards.

"I think it shows this is a different team," Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro said.

Eric DuBose pitched his third straight seven-inning gem, and the Orioles got four hits apiece from leadoff man Brian Roberts and No. 2 hitter Melvin Mora, as they jumped to a 4-0 lead in the third inning and stretched it to 9-2 by the seventh.

After taking two of three from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and dropping two of three in a disappointing series against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Orioles came back to win the final two games against Seattle, finishing the homestand 5-4.

Those three teams have posted a combined record of 21-43.

"When you lose three in a row at home, it can be demoralizing," Roberts said. "But we hung in there pretty well and battled these last two days. These were big wins for us."

This one would have been a lot easier if the outfield wall were about two feet shorter in left field and about three feet shorter in right.

With the Orioles leading 1-0 in the third inning, Palmeiro just missed hitting career home run No. 532. With two men aboard, he crushed a pitch from Mariners starter Joel Pineiro off the MasterCard sign on the right-field scoreboard.

Instead of a three-run homer, Palmeiro had to settle for a one-run single, and career hit No. 2,803.

"Why would we get deflated about that?" Palmeiro said. "We've got Javy [Lopez] behind me, and [Jay Gibbons] behind him. They're both capable of hitting three-run home runs, too."

Sure enough, it didn't hurt a bit. Mariners third baseman Scott Spiezio let a bouncer from Lopez scoot through his legs, and B.J. Surhoff later added a sacrifice fly, scoring Palmeiro for a 4-0 lead.

The Orioles weren't quite as fortunate the next inning, when Mora smashed a ball off the left-field wall. A couple of feet higher, and they would have led 6-0. Instead, the ball stayed in play, Roberts got thrown out trying to score from first, and Mora was stranded when Tejada grounded out to second.

No worries. The four-run lead was more than enough for DuBose, who held Seattle to two runs on three hits over seven innings.

DuBose (3-2) retired 10 consecutive batters before faltering a bit in the fifth inning, when he walked Spiezio and Raul Ibanez followed with a double. But DuBose escaped the inning with a 4-2 lead, getting two groundouts to start another string of seven retired batters in a row.

After struggling a bit in his first two starts, DuBose has gone 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA in his past three outings, each one lasting seven innings. He now leads the Orioles with 32 1/3 innings pitched.

While everyone else on staff, even Sidney Ponson, has had at least one outing that lasted four innings or less, DuBose has pitched into the sixth in all five of his starts.

"My stuff's not quite as explosive as those other guys," he said. "They put the ball in play a little bit more, and I think that's why guys like me can go later into the game. I'm more of a contact pitcher."

Pineiro (1-3) kept the Mariners in the game until the seventh, when Mora and Tejada both singled, prompting Seattle manager Bob Melvin to make the first of three pitching changes in the inning.

The Orioles added five runs, as Luis Matos delivered a two-run single for his third hit of the game.

Roberts is batting .373 in his past 16 games, and Mora is batting .538 in his past seven games. But on a day his team had 15 hits, Orioles hitting coach Terry Crowley said he was happiest for Matos, who raised his average to .236.

Parents should cover their children's eyes when they watch this team because the Orioles seem to enjoy piling on. Eight of their 12 wins have come by four or more runs. They have reached double figures in hits in 10 of their past 15 games, and they've scored at least seven runs eight times in that span.

"We talk about that with the hitters," Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said. "When you get a couple hits, you want to be greedy. You get two, you want three. That's the way they are."

The Orioles got a scare in the eighth inning, when a throw from Palmeiro at first base deflected off a runner's helmet and hit Tejada in the left eye. But, like the team as a whole, Tejada was resilient.

His eye was a little swollen as he packed for Cleveland, where the team begins a three-game series tonight, but his streak of 614 consecutive games seemed in no jeopardy.

"I'll be OK," he said.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Cleveland Indians

Site: Jacobs Field, Cleveland

Time: 7:05

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Sidney Ponson (2-1, 5.28) vs. Indians' Cliff Lee (2-0, 3.74)

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