- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 31, 2000

ORIOLES 5, TIGERS 1

BALTIMORE The Baltimore Orioles' 10-cent pitcher used his million-dollar arm to shut down the Detroit Tigers last night, and the Orioles $13 million hitter used his 10-cent bat to finally drive in some runs in a 5-1 win before a sparse crowd at Camden Yards.

Jose Mercedes cost the Orioles (60-72) more than 10 cents, but in the world of baseball economics, he was bargain-basement. Signed as a minor league free agent for about $500,000, he has been the team's best pitcher of late and held the Tigers last night to one run on just two hits for the complete-game win.

No Detroit hitter got past first base until Brad Ausmus hit a two-out, two-strike home run in the top of the eighth that bounced off the top of the right-field scoreboard.

Albert Belle's bat is worth more than 10 cents, but it has not even come close lately to being worth the salary he receives each year to swing it. He came into last night's game batting .209 (29-for-139) over his previous 34 games.

But Belle broke out last night with a bases-loaded single in the sixth inning, driving in two runs to ignite a four-run inning before an announced paid crowd of 31,383. Chris Richard drove in another run with a single, and the fourth scored on a bases-loaded walk to Mark Lewis.

Mercedes (10-5) has been the club's most consistent pitcher in the second half of the season, coming into last night's game 6-1 with a 3.23 ERA in nine games since the All-Star break.

Orioles manager Mike Hargrove called Mercedes' performance "awfully good. He was ahead of hitters and changed speeds. He has done that very well in the second half of the season. He has continued to give us good outing after good outing."

Mercedes credited his ability to change speeds as the key to handling the Tigers offense.

"The last time I faced them I threw a lot of 95 mile an hour fastballs," he said. "This time I was throwing 89, 90, and I think they were looking for the 95 mile an hour fastball. Everything was working tonight."

Mercedes had to fight for a roster spot and did not figure in the Orioles' starting rotation when the season opened. After all, he was a journeyman pitcher at best who had bounced around between the major and minor leagues since 1994.

His 1999 season was curtailed by a strained rotator cuff, which required arthroscopic surgery, and he spent most of the year in Milwaukee's minor league system. He returned to Baltimore as a minor league free agent, signed in December, and has found a home back home.

Runs were tough to come by early in the game off both starters, Mercedes and Detroit's Hideo Nomo (5-11). The Orioles had a runner in scoring position in the bottom of the first when, with one out, Melvin Mora walked and stole second. But Delino DeShields struck out, and Belle grounded to third to end the inning.

In the bottom of the third, Lewis led off with a double to left, and then stole third, putting him 90 feet away the Orioles first run, with nobody out.

But Nomo struck out both Jerry Hairston and Brady Anderson, and retired Mora on a fly ball to right to get out of the inning with the scoreless tie intact.

Baltimore finally got on the board in the bottom of the fifth, with Lewis delivering the run. Richard led off with a walk, and stole second. He moved to third on a ground ball by Brook Fordyce and scored on a long single to right by Lewis that bounced off the scoreboard.

Lewis nearly got picked off first when Hairston lined out to short right field, and Juan Gonzalez hurried the throw to first, where Dean Palmer had to jump off the bag to catch it, allowing Lewis to get back to first safely. However, Lewis was thrown out stealing while Anderson was at the plate for the third out, with Baltimore leading 1-0.

Notes

The Orioles optioned slumping rookie left-hander John Parrish to Class AAA Rochester and activated reliever Alan Mills off the 15-day disabled list.

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