- The Washington Times - Monday, June 30, 2003

BALTIMORE — Kevin Millwood gave the Philadelphia Phillies another lights-out performance in a day game.

Millwood gave up two hits to start the game, then retired 17 consecutive batters as the Phillies completed a three-game sweep with a 4-3 victory against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards yesterday.

The right-hander, acquired in a trade from Atlanta during the offseason, delighted the Phillies partisans peppered in a crowd of 44,723 by pitching 7⅔ solid innings. He scattered eight hits and three runs before leaving with a man on base.

Millwood (9-6) improved to 6-1 in eight day starts this season. In his last four daytime outings, he is 4-0 with a 1.76 ERA and 24 strikeouts over 30⅔ innings, including an April 27 no-hitter against San Francisco.

“Maybe I’m more of a morning person than other guys,” Millwood said. “I enjoy pitching during the day. I like getting up early and eating breakfast. Night games, there is no chance I’m going to get up early.”

Jose Mesa pitched a perfect ninth to record his 17th save and his first since June 9. Mesa also recorded his 104th save as a Phillie, breaking the franchise record he shared with Steve Bedrosian.

“Mesa takes a lot of heat,” Philadelphia manager Larry Bowa said. “The last four days, Mesa’s been in all four games. He’s a horse.”

The Phillies (44-34) have won five in a row — their longest streak of the year — and are 10 games over .500 for the first time since finishing the 2001 season at 86-76.

Meanwhile, the Orioles fell to 5-13 in interleague play. Baltimore (35-44) has lost nine of its last 12 and are a season-high nine games under .500 with the AL East-leading New York Yankees arriving at Camden Yards tonight to begin a three-game series.

“We kept on coming back at people [in the series] and I think that’s typical of this ballclub,” Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. “It’s a play here or a pitch there or a base hit here and this series could have turned out different. The Phillies have a good ballclub and I don’t think we have anything to be ashamed of.”

The Phillies took the lead in the first on Jim Thome’s home run to right. The Orioles quickly tied it in the bottom of the inning when second baseman Brian Roberts tripled and then scored on center fielder Luis Matos’ single to left.

Philadelphia scored twice in the third. Catcher Todd Pratt singled off starter Rick Helling to open the inning, then moved to second on Marlon Byrd’s sacrifice. Second baseman Placido Polanco doubled Pratt in, and Polanco then scored on shortstop Jimmy Rollins’ double to right.

Helling (5-6) encountered difficulty the next two innings, but managed to wiggle out of it, allowing only one run. He walked Pat Burrell and David Bell — a pair of hitters who have hovered around .200 for the last month — to open the fourth before setting down the next three hitters. In the fifth the Phillies scored a run on two singles and a walk, but Helling got Burrell and Bell to finish the inning.

Helling threw a season-high 125 pitches, toiling to get through six innings for the first time since May 31. He still outlasted Orioles pitching coach Mark Wiley, who was ejected by plate umpire Ed Montague for arguing balls and strikes in the fourth.

“The bullpen’s had a lot of work here recently so I needed to get some innings,” Helling said. “I didn’t have real good command of my fastball so I threw a lot of breaking balls. When you do that, hitters usually take them … I ran a lot of deep counts and my pitch count got high but after the fifth I told Grover ‘I’ll get you one more.’”

The Orioles finally got to Millwood again in the sixth when they produced four straight singles with two out. Jeff Conine and Jay Gibbons drove in runs during the rally.

Millwood settled down to get six of the next seven hitters, but departed after Conine singled with two outs in the eighth. Left-hander Rheal Cormier then retired Gibbons to strand Conine.

Millwood didn’t have to contend with the American League’s leading hitter. Melvin Mora, who is batting .357, was scratched from the lineup with lingering soreness in his right hand, an injury sustained June 20 when Atlanta’s Greg Maddux hit him with a pitch.

The absence of Mora left the Orioles with only three players — David Segui, Geronimo Gil and Jose Morban — on the bench and limited Hargrove’s options in the late innings.

“It’s not a lot of fun having a .360 hitter sitting on your bench and not being able to use him at all for anything other than defense or pinch-running,” Hargrove said.

The Phillies nearly added some insurance runs in the ninth, loading the bases with no one out before Polanco grounded into a 3-2-3 double play. Rollins then walked to reload the bases, but Buddy Groom struck out Thome to escape the jam.

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