Hits keep coming

Orioles 11 Tigers 2

Mora has homer, triple as O's win 3rd in row

August 16, 2008|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,Sun reporter

DETROIT - Sitting in front of his locker this week, Melvin Mora downplayed his offensive surge after the All-Star break. He maintained that he wasn't doing anything differently. He insisted that he had been swinging the bat just as well in the first half, only his luck, as well as his health, had improved.

In fact, Mora, 36, was feeling so good that day that he told a reporter he wanted to play until he was 50, and then scoffed when that suggestion was met with laughter.

There is no disputing that Mora looks like a different - and more energized - player these days. He continued his tear last night with three hits, including a home run and a triple, and four RBIs, along with solid play at third base in the Orioles' 11-2 drubbing of the Detroit Tigers in the series opener before an announced 40,546 at Comerica Park.

"To watch him now is fun," said second baseman Brian Roberts, who has played with Mora longer than any other Oriole. "He's so locked in. If there is a man on base, he seems to turn it up even more."

The same held true for the Orioles, who followed their 11-run, 17-hit performance at Cleveland on Thursday with 14 more hits en route to their third straight road victory.

They jumped out to a 4-0 lead by the third inning and then put away the reeling Tigers with six runs in the top of the ninth as the crowd heaped boos on the home team.

The Orioles (59-62) have scored seven runs or more in 13 of 28 games after the All-Star break and in six of their past eight games. They lead the American League in batting average in August and entered yesterday second in the AL in on-base and slugging percentage.

A big reason is Mora, who is batting a league-best .404 with 10 doubles, a triple, seven home runs and 37 RBIs in 27 games after the break, a run that has conjured up memories of his 2004 season, when he hit .340 with 27 homers and 104 RBIs.

"That year was an outstanding year. I was hitting like .370 all year. There's no way I can feel better than that year," said Mora, who attributed part of his offensive resurgence to a cortisone shot he received in his right shoulder during the All-Star break.

Mora tormented Tigers starter Nate Robertson (7-9), hitting a two-out triple and scoring on Aubrey Huff's RBI single in the first inning. He hit a solo homer off Robertson in the third, his 18th of the season, and then hit a sacrifice fly in the sixth to give the Orioles a 5-2 lead. He also hit a two-run single during his team's six-run ninth inning.

"He looks like the guy we saw the first 10 days in spring training when we started playing games," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "He's running hard, hitting the ball on the button. He looks locked in. It's that simple. I hope he stays that way."

Trembley made an interesting decision last night, removing starter Chris Waters with two outs and two men on in the fifth inning. Waters, who allowed a two-run homer to Placido Polanco earlier in the inning that cut the Orioles' advantage to 4-2, finished one out shy of being eligible for his second major league victory.

"I respect anything [Trembley] does," Waters said. "He's got a purpose for everything."

Lance Cormier came in and retired Marcus Thames to end the fifth and then turned in two more scoreless innings. In a 5-2 game, Jim Johnson pitched a scoreless eighth inning, although the Tigers brought the tying run to the plate. With considerable margin of error, George Sherrill handled the ninth.

"You could see that [Waters] was pitching defensive, and I'll be darned there if I'm going to let the team lose," Trembley said. "Thames was running up to the batter's box. He couldn't wait to get in there. I'm not going to let him get beat. It's not instructional league. It's that simple."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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