Gibbons drives in 5 as O's roll

3-run HR, 2-run single lead 14-hit outburst

Orioles 8 Mariners 3

July 18, 2007|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN REPORTER

SEATTLE -- Jay Gibbons has grown tired of talking about his tumultuous season that has seen him flirt with a sub-.200 average and essentially become a $5 million part-time player.

When asked about his future with the Orioles before the game, Gibbons, slumped in his chair in the visiting clubhouse at Safeco Field, shrugged his shoulders.

It's what he's done so many times this season while at a loss to explain the most disappointing stretch of his career.

But every once in a while, Gibbons will remind Orioles officials why they signed him to a four-year, $21.1 million contract before the 2006 season.

Last night, when the Orioles were seemingly headed for another close loss, mostly due to a punchless offense, Gibbons changed the course of the game with one mighty swing against Seattle Mariners starter Felix Hernandez (6-5). Gibbons' mammoth three-run, sixth-inning homer gave the Orioles (42-51) a lead, and his two-run, seventh-inning single provided insurance in a 8-3 victory last night in front of an announced 22,470.

Gibbons, who had three RBIs in a game just once this season, on July 4, was 2-for-4 with five RBIs. His sixth home run connected off the window of the Hit it Here Cafe in the second deck of right field.

The offensive surge made a winner out of Jeremy Guthrie (5-3), who pitched six innings, allowing two earned runs on six hits and three walks. It was his first win since June 20 and only his second since May 29, a span of nine outings. In his last start, Guthrie allowed six runs (five earned) and nine hits in 3 2/3 innings.

If team officials were concerned about how Guthrie would react to his first bad outing, they can take solace in last night's performance, where he kept the Orioles in the game even though he was without his usual command.

And just when it looked like he would again be victimized by poor run support, the Orioles offense awoke by totaling eight runs in the sixth and seventh innings, with Gibbons getting things started.

Nick Markakis was 4-for-5 with an RBI and Brian Roberts and Chris Gomez also had RBIs for the Orioles, who had 14 hits. Eight of the hits came against Hernandez, who allowed three runs in six innings.

The Orioles have had some success against Hernandez, the Mariners' 21-year-old pitching phenom who has drawn comparisons to former New York Mets ace Dwight Gooden. In four career starts against the Orioles entering last night, Hernandez was 2-1, but had a 5.96 ERA.

He got a no-decision against the Orioles at Safeco Field on June 4, allowing four runs on 11 hits and a walk in 5 2/3 innings. Hernandez, who started the season with 17 consecutive shutout innings, including a one-hitter against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, went to the disabled list April 23 with a right elbow strain.

He missed nearly a month and has struggled to regain his dominant form. However, he did enter last night 3-0 in his past five starts, having gone eight innings or more in three of them.

Orioles interim manager Dave Trembley said his team's game plan was to be aggressive early both at the plate and on the base paths. It backfired several times through the first three innings, which featured another rally-killing double play by Aubrey Huff.

Corey Patterson and Markakis hit consecutive one-out singles in the first, putting Orioles on first and third with one out. Hernandez walked cleanup hitter Kevin Millar to load the bases, but Huff bounced into a double play to end the inning. Huff also hurt two rallies in Monday's series opener with double-play balls.

A failed hit-and-run - Gomez struck out and Ramon Hernandez was thrown out at second - got Hernandez out of the second, and Mariners catcher Kenji Johjima threw out Patterson trying to steal second to end the third.

Seattle, which had runners against Guthrie in the first and second innings, broke through in the third with the help of some sloppy Orioles defense. Ichiro Suzuki stole second with one out and advanced to third when Hernandez's errant throw bounded into center field.

Jose Vidro then dropped an RBI single into center field and advanced to second when Patterson misplayed the ball. Guthrie walked Raul Ibanez, but escaped the inning without further damage by striking out Jose Guillen looking and getting Adrian Beltre on a come-backer that the Orioles pitcher threw to first for the inning's final out.

Seattle extended its lead to 2-0 when Johjima pounded Guthrie's first pitch of the fourth inning into the left-field seats for his 10th home run, the ball barely staying inside the foul pole. It was the eighth home run Guthrie has given up in his past six starts.

"Nobody's going to be perfect," Trembley said of Guthrie before the game. "Guys are going to level off a little bit and then they're going to come back up. They're going to have to make some adjustments because the league's going to find out certain things about them."jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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