Orioles completely dominate

Trachsel goes distance

Hernandez hits grand slam as team's offensive surge continues

Orioles 9 Royals 1

May 29, 2007|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,Sun Reporter

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- They said that once the offense got going, everything would change. The starting pitchers would work quicker and have the confidence to throw more strikes. The relievers would enter games with less pressure and more margin of error. And the defense would be sharper and less prone to mental errors.

It was only the lowly Kansas City Royals that the Orioles pounded last night, but for a team that has had so many problems putting it all together for the first two months of the season, there's no room for asterisks.

Their 9-1 win in front of an announced crowd of 14,758 at Kauffman Stadium last night featured an efficient performance by Steve Trachsel, several sparkling plays from the defense and another encouraging effort from a lineup that appears to have awakened from its season-long slumber.

"We've played so many close games that pitchers are going in there in stress situations on a daily basis and it wears on you," said Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo, whose team improved to 24-27. "Sooner or later, you give up some late-inning runs. When you jump out in front like that, it helps the whole lineup and relaxes the pitching staff."

Catcher Ramon Hernandez landed the biggest blow on Kansas City starter Scott Elarton, connecting for a fourth-inning grand slam that gave the Orioles a six-run lead and made their third straight victory a formality. Hernandez entered the game in a 5-for-36 slump and hadn't had an RBi since May 11, but found the perfect opponent to break out against. All three of the Orioles' grand slams are against the Royals, who have given up a major league-leading six this year.

Miguel Tejada, Kevin Millar and Aubrey Huff also had two hits and an RBI and Jay Payton had two hits and knocked in two runs for the Orioles, who have scored 25 runs and collected 34 hits over the past three games.

"I've been on a lot of teams when once a couple of guys get going, especially the big guys -- like Miggy has been really swinging the bat well -- it can kind of have a trickle-down effect," said Payton, who is on a 13-for-27 tear and has raised his average to .306.

"We know we can swing the bats. You play 162 games. For us, the first one-fourth of the season wasn't quite what we expected, but you hope that at the end of the season, everyone is where they are supposed to be. If that's the case, we are due to have some big run-scoring games."

Said Perlozzo: "It's been three days. We don't expect to put eight, nine runs on the board every day, but we do expect to swing the bats throughout the lineup. And I think there are other guys that are going to chip in."

All the offense made for a relatively easy evening for Trachsel, who improved to a 4-3 by pitching the Orioles' second complete game of the season. It was his first nine-inning complete game since 2003, though he did pitch a rain-abbreviated four-inning complete game last season.

"I'd rather have them like this," Trachsel said jokingly.

Trachsel, who allowed five hits, gave up the one run on Mike Sweeney's RBI groundout in the seventh. He worked quickly -- at least by his standards -- and threw strikes, needing only 50 pitches to get through six innings. He didn't get into a three-ball count until there were two outs in the seventh inning.

"I thought I was reading the [scoreboard] wrong when I saw the pitch count," Perlozzo said. "He was tremendous. We made some defensive plays for him and he just kept pumping strikes."

He got in a little trouble in the eighth, loading the bases with two outs. But he got Royals right fielder Mark Teahen to fly out to Payton in left field. Perlozzo sent him back out for the ninth and he retired Kansas City in order, inducing a comebacker from Emil Brown to end the game. He needed just 104 pitches to set down the Royals in two hours, 27 minutes.

"I felt good with my stuff pretty much all year," Trachsel said. "I don't think there is anything different with my stuff. Obviously the defense was awesome and getting the lead. Those things definitely help. Your confidence just builds during the game."

Orioles defenders made enough plays to fill up a highlight reel. Brian Roberts made two diving plays in the first inning and another in the sixth as he tracked down a blooper in shallow right field and made a sliding catch.

In the third inning, Tejada cut down the potential tying run at home plate when Ryan Shealy tried to score on catcher Jason LaRue's double. An inning later, Tejada again showed off his arm and range, throwing out Sweeney from shallow left field.

It was just one of those nights for the Orioles.

"The defense was awesome, especially in the first inning," Trachsel said. "Some of those balls were hit pretty hard. You got three plays tonight that are going to be on SportsCenter later."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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