Revised O's lineup puts kick in offense

Orioles 8 Indians 2

May 06, 2007|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,Sun Reporter

In case the Orioles had forgotten, this is what an offense looks like when it opens up. When runners on base actually get to circle them.When collecting multiple hits in an inning doesn't require taking a fastball in the ribs.

Breaking out another lineup that removed players from their usual slots, the Orioles scored six runs in the first two innings to knock out lefthander Jeremy Sowers and stormed past the Cleveland Indians, 8-2, before 25,752 at Camden Yards.

Catcher Ramon Hernandez, batting cleanup for the third straight game, hit a three-run homer in the first inning that set the tone. He also had a sacrifice fly in the second after Jay Payton delivered a two-run single.

"He's been doing an outstanding job, manager Sam Perlozzo said of Hernandez. 'He's got 10 RBIs in about [28] at-bats. I'd say that?s pretty darned good. As long as he?s swinging it like that, he can stay."

It almost seemed like an embarrassment of riches for a team that kept stalling on its most recent road trip, losing five of six games, in large part, because of its inability to deliver in the clutch.

Hernandez's homer enabled the Orioles to score three runs or more in an inning for the firsttime in their past 57. It also proved that he?s not choosy about where he hits.

"I don?t mind," he said. "I take it the same. It's just another position in the lineup. That's all. Nothing changes. You're just trying to have good at-bats.

"I'd be thinking the same if I was hitting ninth or fourth. I come up and try to domy job, try to drive in runs and get on base."

The early lead took some pressure off Daniel Cabrera (2-3), who went seven innings and won for the first time since April 9. Cabrera again struggled with his control, walking four batters, but he shut out the Indians until Victor Martinez homered with one out in the sixth.

Cabrera needed only 11 pitches to get through the first inning, the first three to strike out leadoff hitter Grady Sizemore. But he walked two batters in the second and another each in the third and fourth.

Perlozzo knows when Cabrera is on his game by the way the righthander turns the ball loose, lets it fly, doesn?t sacrifice velocity to aimat the plate.

"You really don't want to see that," Perlozzo said.

"He's been more of a pitcher lately. He goes to his two-seamer a little more often and his velocity is not as high as his power fastball. If he's got that good breaking ball going, it?s a swing-and-miss pitch."

The Indians did a lot of that, though Sizemore twice was caught looking. Casey Blake stranded two runners in the second by flailing at a curveball, and two more in the fourth when he couldn?t catch up to a 93 mph fastball.

Cabrera lasted only five innings in his previous start in Detroit, when he walked six batters, nearly got in a brawl with Gary Sheffield and surrendered a two-run homer to his nemesis after order was restored. But he held the Indians to three hits.

With Jaret Wright and Adam Loewen on the disabled list, their returns uncertain, Cabrera needs to become a more dependable starter. He doesn't have to carry the entire load, but the Orioles want him to handle more of the weight, especially with relievers Brian Burres and Jeremy Guthrie forced into the rotation.

"I think we've still got three quality starters, and we felt like Brian Burres was a potential big league starter,? Perlozzo said. 'We just have to wait and see how they go and see where we are. There are other possible avenues. I?m sure we?re searching for people who might be waiver claims or veteran guys that can maybe come into the long man role for us and turns out that we need them to be a starter, maybe catch lightning in a bottle with someone, ormake a trade. We'll see."

The responsibility isn?t quite as daunting when the offense provides this kind of support.

The Orioles had 10 hits by the fifth inning and matched their season high for runs in a home game, set on April 13, when Melvin Mora scored on a throwing error to increase their lead to 8-0. Their overall season high of nine runs came in a 9-7 win over Tampa Bay on April 16.

That was long before Perlozzo began fiddling with the lineup. He again lowered Nick Markakis to seventh against a left-hander and dropped Mora to sixth. Payton moved up to secondd.

"Last night we said we sawsome good signs with our offense," Perlozzo said. "They came out and started swinging the bats. They're not going to stay down forever."

roch.kubatko@baltsun.com

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