O's having too much fun to let break bother them

April 30, 2005|By Laura Vecsey

APPARENTLY, the Orioles were as eager as their fans to get back into the swing of things. A rainout in Boston and a day off meant 48 hours of jet cooling.

What a waste of a five-game winning streak, especially one capped by a 20-hit, 11-8 comeback win at Fenway on Tuesday night that begged for a quickie encore.

We are relieved to report that the fun never stops at the fun factory.

Last night, leadoff hitter Brian Roberts sliced a hard liner to left field to start the game. Up next, Melvin Mora pushed another one of his masterpiece bunts down the third base line.

Runners on first and second.

No. Wait. Runners on second and third!

A perfectly timed double steal by Roberts and Mora on the long and winding delivery of Tampa Bay starter Hideo Nomo and there you have it: The perfect at-bat scenario for the man currently starring in the role of "American League MVP."

A 3-1 count and away we go ... or, rather, away went the high fly ball to center off the bat of Miguel Tejada, whose pre-game warm-up routine involved an inspired groove to a Biggie Smalls rap tune.

Everybody loves the cha cha cha.

Of course, not as much as they dig the long ball. Orioles up 3-0 on the way to a 5-0 victory.

Poor Nomo, his eyes looking ever skyward, where he found no heavenly assistance to deliver the Japanese pitcher his 199th career win, thanks to Tejada.

From now on, when you hear the expression "the guy can just flat-out hit," all you have to do is think of one player and one player only.

That would be Tejada, as in "Getting Miggy With It." As in Tejada for MVP.

Sure it's early, but not that early. The Orioles seem perfectly content to embellish their prowess and lead in the AL East. They are feeding off each other just as much as they are feasting on every opportunity to smack the leather off the ball - at the expense of the Yankees, Red Sox and the poor Devil Rays.

The Rays were doomed from the start, before Nomo was victimized by Tejada for a three-run shot and later, bases-empty blasts by Jay Gibbons and Javy Lopez.

The most fiery Devil Ray was out of action, serving a three-game suspension.

It turned out Lou Piniella didn't make good on his threat to watch last night's game from a Baltimore crab shack. Piniella has always loved a good meal during a Charm City trip, but you hate to think of Sweet Lou choking on this loss at the expense of a dozen Eastern Shore crustaceans.

Piniella was suspended for the way the Devil Rays engaged the Red Sox in a scrappy little game of head-hunting and chin music last weekend. In all, four players, Piniella and Red Sox skipper Terry Francona were reprimanded.

"They want to make an example of us for the rest of the league," Piniella said, refusing to throw a base or kick his cap in Mount St. Lou fashion.

The Orioles owe a word of thanks to Piniella. They can use any help they can get against the Red Sox, especially from a last-place division team that refused to be intimidated by the World Series champions.

In fact, a betting woman would double down on Piniella making mincemeat of Curt Schilling in the war of words Schilling started last week.

Ankle problems are one thing, but a credibility problem is starting to creep in where the Red Sox ace is concerned. He backtracked in front of Congress on his estimates of steroid abuse among major leaguers. Now, Schilling has called Piniella a guy who "forgot how the game of baseball is played."

If George Steinbrenner goes ape, fires Joe Torre and brings in Piniella to fire up the lackluster Yankees troops, heaven help Schilling. He'd have to shut up 55,000 Yankee Stadium crazies and Piniella. No easy task.

But this sort of baseball fantasy scenario is unnecessary at this time, what with the Orioles producing wins while their major AL East foes are on the ropes ... for now, at least.

With David Wells and Schilling on the disabled list, the Red Sox rotation was further depleted last night with the announcement of a six-game suspension of Boston starter Bronson Arroyo.

Meanwhile, the Yankees batters have failed to support Kevin Brown and Randy Johnson in back-to-back losses to the Angels and Blue Jays.

You can say that the Yankees will soon find a way out of their slump, without the Boss calling on Piniella to be the Billy Martin of the $200 million payroll Bombers. But until the Yankees rally, the Orioles have the mojo and momentum.

Better yet, they have Tejada and Roberts, Erik Bedard and Todd Williams and a whole lot in between.

That explains the Orioles' 15-7 record and a winning streak they extended to six games last night.

That explains why Piniella might want to call the commissioner's office and ask about an extension on that suspension ... for, like, another 139 games.

It was tough enough when the Yankees and Red Sox had a stranglehold on the division, but now this, from the Orioles?

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