Perlozzo, Orioles stay on course

Interim manager gets his second win in a row

six-run third inning does trick

Friday's game

August 07, 2005|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

ARLINGTON, Texas - If the results are any indication, and they can be a pretty accurate barometer, change has been good for the Orioles so far. It's magically made a team swing the bats better, pitch better, run the bases more astutely. It's made leads appear out of nowhere, big ones that don't go away.

Managing his second game Friday night since Lee Mazzilli was fired, Sam Perlozzo adjusted his lineup because of an injury to Melvin Mora and operated with the confidence of a man who's been running a club for years instead of days. He's relaxed with his players and the media. And he's still perfect.

Jay Gibbons and Brian Roberts homered during a six-run third inning, and the Orioles stayed unbeaten under Perlozzo with a 10-5 victory over the Texas Rangers at Ameriquest Field in Arlington.

The Orioles (53-56) hadn't won consecutive games since reeling off four in a row beginning July 9. They gave Perlozzo his first win as a major league manager Thursday and built an 8-0 lead Friday night before left-hander Bruce Chen allowed his first hit.

Can it really be this easy? "I wouldn't say that," said Perlozzo, smiling. "Let's not push it."

Perlozzo had to do some late shuffling before Friday's game, with Mora unable to play because of a sprained left ankle. The injury occurred Thursday against the Los Angeles Angels, though he stayed on the field until the end. He is day-to-day.

Chris Gomez shifted from first base to third, and B.J. Surhoff took over at first while Rafael Palmeiro continued to serve his 10-day suspension for violating baseball's steroid policy. Nothing that Perlozzo couldn't handle.

Gomez was instrumental in a two-run second inning against Rangers starter C.J. Wilson. He doubled with two outs after Sammy Sosa walked, and both runners scored on an infield hit by Luis Matos.

Shortstop Michael Young tried to make a bare-handed grab and overran the ball. Gomez held at third initially, then raced home and dived across the plate without attracting a throw.

"I saw some real signs of life that I hadn't seen in quite a while," Perlozzo said. "We ran the bases real aggressively, and that's one of the things I like to see."

The Rangers weren't lucky or sharp, playing like a team that's had all of the Orioles' distractions this week.

Left fielder Kevin Mench lost a fly ball in the lights in the fourth inning, and center fielder Gary Matthews couldn't reach it after a long run and diving attempt. Surhoff ended up with a double, moving Miguel Tejada to third, and Sosa grounded a single up the middle off former Oriole James Baldwin to score both runners and give the Orioles a 10-0 lead.

Wilson (0-4) already was gone after allowing eight runs in 2 2/3 innings. Gibbons accounted for three of them with his 16th homer, the ball carrying over the center field fence, and Matthews slammed into it while chasing Roberts' two-run shot.

With the offense on track, the pitching fell to Chen (8-6), who held the Rangers without a run until Severna Park native Mark Teixeira and Hank Blalock homered in the sixth inning. The power surge came too late to prevent Chen from winning for the first time since July 9.

"I made some adjustments, making sure to finish my off-speed pitches and keep the ball down, and I'm glad I could help the team win," Chen said.

Said Perlozzo: "I thought he battled really well in the heat. He changed speeds really well, which Bruce has to do to be effective."

Chen's previous two appearances came in relief because the bullpen was overworked from the starters being hurt or ineffective.

"When you go through a [losing] streak like we've been in, it's a combination of everything," Perlozzo said. "You can't do what we've been doing without the offense faltering, the pitching faltering and the defense faltering."

All three came together Friday night, resulting in the fourth win in 20 games for a team trying to muster enough energy to climb into third place. With the Toronto Blue Jays losing Friday night, the Orioles were 2 1/2 games behind them.

"We're going to play good baseball," Perlozzo said. "I don't doubt that we're going to do that."

Rangers manager Buck Showalter wasn't quite as chipper. He lost starter Kenny Rogers to a 20-game suspension for shoving two cameramen and wasn't allowed to replace him on the roster. Outfielder Richard Hidalgo is unavailable because of a wrist injury, leaving Showalter with a thin bench.

Meanwhile, the Orioles were allowed to fill Palmeiro's roster spot with outfielder Midre Cummings because his suspension came under different circumstances.

"That's why I'm a little testy about Midre Cummings," Showalter said. "Somebody's got to help me on that one."

Perlozzo doesn't have time to explain the rules. He has a team to manage, a season to save, an audition to complete. So far, so perfect.

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