- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 2, 2002

BALTIMORE Suddenly, the Baltimore Orioles have become baseball's version of the comeback kids.
For the third time in four games, the Orioles rallied from multiple runs down to win, the latest heroics coming last night in a thrilling 4-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners at Camden Yards.
Trailing by a run in the ninth and facing a reliever who had not allowed an earned run this season, the Orioles loaded the bases with none out before Jay Gibbons dropped a single just inside the first-base line to score the tying and winning runs.
"There's no better way to do it, especially against a team like the Mariners who are so good," said Gibbons, who snapped a 2-for-23 slump with the clutch hit.
On Wednesday against the Oakland A's, Baltimore rallied from a four-run deficit to win 10-5. On Thursday, the Orioles again fought back from four runs down to tie, only to lose to the Mariners in the ninth. On Friday, they rallied from deficits of 5-0 and 7-3 to win 8-7 in 10 innings.
Of 25 victories this season, the Orioles have come from behind a staggering 17 times the sign of a young ballclub that is growing more and more confident each night.
"I don't know if this will turn our season around, but it doesn't hurt what we are trying to accomplish," manager Mike Hargrove said. "From day one, this team has played all nine innings and all 27 outs. Sometimes we don't play them well, but we have always played hard and never given up."
Last night's victory was particularly satisfying in that it came at the expense of Mariners closer Kazuhiro Sasaki, who entered the ninth inning with a 3-2 lead and that 0.00 ERA over 20 appearances. The Japanese reliever extraordinaire got into trouble immediately, though, by surrendering an infield single to Gary Matthews Jr.
Chris Singleton laid down a perfect sacrifice, but Sasaki (2-1) made matters worse by scooping up the ball in front of third baseman Jeff Cirillo and firing wildly into right field for an error. Matthews came speeding around third and briefly considered heading for home, only to remember that Seattle right fielder Ichiro Suzuki has one of the game's best arms. That left runners on second and third with none out.
"You've got Superman over in right field, and we're screaming on the bench, 'Don't go! Don't go!'" said Orioles second baseman Jerry Hairston. "He was ready to fire it home, but Gary's a smart player and I'm glad he didn't go."
With first base open, Seattle manager Lou Piniella elected to walk Jeff Conine intentionally and load the bases for Gibbons, the second-year outfielder mired in a prolonged slump.
Gibbons admitted his "heart was pounding a little more than usual" as he stepped to the plate. He took a called strike from Sasaki, then connected on a high split-finger fastball, driving the ball past first baseman John Olerud to score Matthews and Singleton as the crowd of 39,519 erupted.
"You thrive in a situation like that," Gibbons said. "You want to be the hero all the time. And even struggling, I wanted to be in that situation to try to get out of it."
Gibbons' hit made a winner out of reliever Willis Roberts (3-1), saved starter Rodrigo Lopez from his second straight loss after opening the year 5-0 and spoiled a brilliant outing by Seattle right-hander James Baldwin, who allowed just two runs on four hits in seven innings.
Lopez was nearly as effective, keeping the Mariners' high-production lineup scoreless through five innings before giving up a pair of runs in the sixth and another in the seventh.
Hargrove will take that kind of outing every fifth day from his rookie right-hander, but he's looking for better stuff from the rest of his staff. That's why the rotation is about to get a facelift.
Rookie right-hander Sean Douglass (who went 0-1 with an 8.49 ERA in three previous starts) will pitch in today's series finale against the Mariners instead of struggling Calvin Maduro, who is 2-5 with a 5.57 ERA and appears headed for the bullpen or possibly an outright release.
Jason Johnson made it successfully through a five-inning rehabilitation start last night at Class AA Bowie and is ready to be activated off the disabled list.

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