O's take off with another win, 6-1

Mora, Lopez restart O's, exiting Anaheim on high

August 13, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

ANAHEIM, Calif. - The suitcases had to feel a little bit lighter yesterday, if players in the majors were required to carry their own. With another city crossed off their schedule, the Orioles piled into their charter plane for the long flight to the Toronto area, the rush of another victory bringing warmth to bodies that otherwise might have gone numb from the trip.

So this is how August baseball is supposed to feel?

Facing a pitcher who hadn't lost in his past six starts, the Orioles stood up to Bartolo Colon like they've been doing to anyone posing a threat in the second half, getting two quick runs off him and never trailing in a 6-1 victory over the Anaheim Angels.

Melvin Mora hit his 21st homer in the first inning and a two-run single in the sixth, as the Orioles (55-58) won for the ninth time in 10 games. They've taken three straight series for the first time since May 20-June 1, 2003, and are 18-10 since the break.

"I knew when I got here, seeing the guys in the clubhouse, that we were better than what we were showing," David Newhan said.

With the Tampa Bay Devil Rays losing again yesterday, the Orioles got a firmer hold on third place in the American League East.

"Confidence comes with winning," manager Lee Mazzilli said. "I think you can see it."

Working both sides of the plate like a voracious eater, Rodrigo Lopez limited the Angels to a bases-empty homer by Jose Guillen over seven innings to become the club's first 10-game winner. In the series, Orioles starters allowed five runs in 18 2/3 innings, three of them by rookie Daniel Cabrera in the opener.

"I know it sounds old," Newhan said, "but that's what it's all about, getting the starting pitching."

Lopez huddled with catcher Robert Machado late Wednesday night to devise a plan that he executed almost perfectly.

"He's our backup catcher," Lopez said, "but he's a pretty smart guy."

As promised, Mazzilli rested some of his key veterans yesterday, sitting Javy Lopez, Rafael Palmeiro and B.J. Surhoff.

Palmeiro had started all but six of the first 112 games, and putting him on the bench required some creative tinkering.

Karim Garcia played his third big league game at first base.

"I've been taking ground balls for the last three or four days because you never know," said Garcia, who had been out of the lineup since injuring his right foot Wednesday. "It's an opportunity to play another position."

In keeping with all the other positive developments, Garcia handled every chance cleanly.

"He's had a few games over there," Mazzilli said, "so he's somewhat familiar with it."

Just off the disabled list, Jay Gibbons, who served as the designated hitter, wasn't an option because Mazzilli didn't want to reintroduce him to the lineup where he might not be comfortable.

Garcia just appreciated the chance to play again, though he understood why Mazzilli was hesitant to make changes during an eight-game winning streak that ended Wednesday.

"We're on a roll right now," Garcia said. "I wouldn't do anything different, either."

Because the Angels don't have any left-handers in their bullpen, Mazzilli could stack the left-handed-hitting Gibbons, Garcia and Larry Bigbie in the lineup without a right-handed bat separating them. They combined to reach base seven times in 15 plate appearances.

The Orioles continue to search for a right-handed-hitting outfielder, because converted second baseman Jerry Hairston is the only one on the roster who qualifies. "But," said one team official, "we've been doing pretty well with the left-handers."

Two of them combined to produce a run in the fourth that increased the Orioles' lead to 3-0.

Newhan reached on an infield hit with two outs, the ball bouncing high over the mound before shortstop David Eckstein grabbed it and threw late to first. Bigbie, who was on second, never broke stride and slid home ahead of Darin Erstad's throw, bringing a raucous greeting in the Orioles' dugout.

"I knew the ball was hit soft and Newhan had good speed," Bigbie said. "I was just coming around the base regardless. I figured I was going to try to make [Erstad] make a play on me, and I was able to get in there."

Gibbons contributed a run-scoring double in the first that gave the Orioles a 2-0 lead. It was his second at-bat since coming off the DL.

The Orioles had three doubles and a walk in the inning, to go with Mora's blast, and forced Colon to throw 30 of his 104 pitches. Colon was charged with six runs and walked six in 5 1/3 .

"Anytime you can get to a guy like that," Bigbie said, "it really says something about the way your team is playing."

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