O's power to 8-6 win over Rangers behind Bell's bat

August 21, 2010|By Dan Connolly | Baltimore Sun reporter

The Orioles have been waiting patiently for top hitting prospect Josh Bell to show the power he demonstrated in the minors.

The vigil ended in a big way Saturday afternoon against an unlikely opponent, Texas Rangers ace Cliff Lee, one of baseball's top left-handers.

Bell homered for the first time in his big league career in the third inning and then again in his next at-bat in the fourth as the Orioles bashed Lee for four homers on their way to an 8-6 win. Bell drove in five runs on two swings after having a total of four RBIs heading into Saturday.

Lee has surrendered just 13 long balls all season, and seven have been by the Orioles -- three on July 10 in Texas in Lee's Rangers debut and four Saturday in front of a fired-up announced crowd of 23,041 at Camden Yards.

The eight runs charged to Lee tied his career high and the 52/3 innings he pitched marked his shortest outing of the season. In his last two starts against the Orioles, Lee has allowed 14 earned runs in 142/3 innings pitched (8.59 ERA).

In his other 20 starts this season, including a one-run gem in May against the Orioles while he was with the Seattle Mariners, Lee has a 2.59 ERA.

The win gave the Orioles (44-80) their sixth victory in nine tries against the American League-West leading Rangers, guaranteeing their first season series victory over Texas since 2004.

Orioles starter Brad Bergesen (5-9) picked up his second consecutive win after seven straight losing decisions by allowing five earned runs in seven innings pitched. The Rangers' big hit came in the seventh when Josh Hamilton smacked his 27th homer of the season, to get Texas within three.

Reliever Michael Gonzalez allowed a run in the eighth, but Koji Uehara, the 35-year-old veteran, pitched a scoreless ninth for his first career save outside of Japan. He struck out the potential tying run, Vladimir Guerrero, to secure the win.

But the story of the afternoon was Bell, the centerpiece of last year's trade of George Sherrill to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The switch-hitting third baseman hit 13 homers for Triple-A Norfolk this season and had 20 in two Double-A stops in 2009.

Bell, however, had had no homers and only three extra base hits in 74 at-bats as an Oriole -- and only one against a left-handed pitcher. In fact, Bell's power rarely comes against lefties. Of his 69 career minor league home runs, 62 have been versus right-handers. So his dominance of Lee was even more inexplicable.

Bell's first homer, a 394-footer to center, came on his 75th career big league at-bat and gave the Orioles a 2-0 lead in the third inning.

In the fourth, the 23-year-old rookie came to the plate after Ty Wigginton and Luke Scott had already hit back-to-back homers in the inning to put the Orioles up 4-2. Wigginton's shot, his 19th, traveled an estimated 442 feet and landed alongside the Orioles' bullpen in center. Not to be outdone, Scott smashed his 23rd on the season to right, a 422-foot blast.

After two one-out singles, Bell did it again, a 398-foot, three-run shot that put the game out of reach. It also allowed Bell to become the fourth rookie in modern Orioles history to have a multi-homer game to accompany his first big-league long ball. Jim Fuller (1973), Curt Blefary (1965) and Boog Powell (1962) also achieved the feat.

Combined, the Orioles hit 1,660 feet of homers against Lee.

In the sixth inning, Bell nearly became the club's only rookie since Nick Markakis in 2006 to homer three times in a game, but his fly ball bounced just above the grounds crew shed door in right, nearly clearing the wall. He had to settle for a 370-foot single and a rousing ovation from the crowd.

Bell had a final chance at Orioles history in the bottom of the eighth against Texas reliever Frank Francisco, but he hit a broken-bat grounder that was turned into the final out of the eighth.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

twitter.com/danconnollysun

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