O's finish in grand style

Tejada slam leads 8-4 win

team completes 1st sweep of Yankees since 2000

`More fun when you're winning'

O's take sole possession of first place

Roberts' AL-leading average at .449

April 18, 2005|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The chant gained momentum in the ninth inning yesterday, its decibel level peaking with two outs. Brooms are prohibited inside Camden Yards unless used to move trash, but visual aids weren't necessary.

The Orioles hadn't completed a sweep of the New York Yankees since 2000, hadn't won back-to-back series against them in eight years. Forget the month or the number of games still left in the season. This meant something.

Just how much will be determined later.

Miguel Tejada hit a grand slam in the second inning off Yankees starter Kevin Brown, the latest blow landed against a team that usually does the punishing, and the Orioles completed their sweep with an 8-4 victory before another sellout crowd of 47,883.

The Orioles (8-4) moved into sole possession of first place in the American League East with the Toronto Blue Jays' 6-5 loss to the Texas Rangers. If it isn't too soon to mine significance out of yesterday's win, it isn't too soon to check the standings.

"This has given us a lot of confidence," Tejada said. "We're not going to be too comfortable, because the season is still early. We're just going to enjoy the moment right now. We take the field every day thinking we can win."

Brian Roberts went 2-for-4 with a walk, stolen base and run to increase his AL-leading batting average to .449. His hitting streak has grown to 17 games dating to last year.

The Orioles have outscored the Yankees 47-26 while winning five of six games this year - matching their victory total against the Yankees for last season.

"Anybody wants to sweep the Yankees. It's a good feeling," said Melvin Mora, who homered in the first inning. "They're the best team in baseball. We pitched good, we played good defense and we hit - three things you've got to do to beat them."

The series attracted 144,542 fans, the third-largest three-game total in the ballpark's 14-year history. And for a change, "Let's go, Yankees" didn't drown out the locals.

"Let's get out of here" would have been more appropriate.

"This hasn't happened since I've been here," Jay Gibbons said. "It's big. It's a lot more fun when you're winning."

"It's early," manager Lee Mazzilli said. "You'd like to enjoy the moment. They played their butts off this weekend, but tomorrow, you've got to come back and do it again. You've got to keep the intensity up."

Today figures to be pretty intense for Yankees employees. Owner George Steinbrenner issued a statement after yesterday's game that read: "Enough is enough. I am bitterly disappointed, as I am sure all Yankee fans are, by the lack of performance by our team. It is unbelievable to me that the highest-paid team in baseball would start the season in such a deep funk.

"They are not playing like true Yankees. They have the talent to win, and they are not winning. I expect Joe Torre, his complete coaching staff and the team to turn this around."

Tejada spun the game in the Orioles' favor by blasting an 0-1 fastball from Brown to center field. He might have gotten the first curtain call of the season, but Sammy Sosa rushed into the batter's box and swung at the next pitch.

Who could blame Sosa for being in a hurry?

Brown, who was activated from the disabled list earlier in the day, retired 12 of the next 13 batters, but his early hiccups took the air out of the Yankees.

Their chances of avoiding a sweep pretty much died that inning.

The Orioles already led 2-0 in the first after Mora's two-out homer and Tejada's double and a broken-bat single by Sosa, and they started another rally the next inning after Geronimo Gil bounced into a double play.

Roberts walked, David Newhan singled and Mora walked after a double steal. That brought Tejada to the plate, and he turned on a 95-mph fastball to send the crowd into a frenzy.

Tejada pumped his fist as he rounded first, and the three players waiting for him at home plate gave extended versions of the usual congratulatory hand slaps.

"Against that team, you can never have enough runs," Larry Bigbie said. "You can't pile enough on."

"I just tried to get a base hit," Tejada said. "I was looking for one RBI."

Tejada has eight career grand slams, the most recent before yesterday coming Sept. 15, 2003. He also has an RBI in nine consecutive games, one short of the club record shared by Doug DeCinces and Reggie Jackson.

The cushion was beneficial to young right-hander Daniel Cabrera, who allowed three runs over six innings for his first quality start of the season.

Alex Rodriguez hit a bases-empty shot off reliever Steve Reed in the eighth, but it proved meaningless. The Yankees needed more than window dressing. They needed a different opponent.

"They're a good-hitting team," Brown said, "and they're hot right now."

SERIES SWEEP

Friday - Orioles 8, Yankees 1

Saturday - Orioles 7, Yankees 6

Yesterday - Orioles 8, Yankees 4

TOPS IN THE MAJORS

Dodgers 9 - 2

Orioles 8 - 4

Nationals 8 - 4

White Sox 8 - 4

Twins 8 - 4

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