- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 10, 2000


DETROIT Jose Mercedes was pitching so well last night that a batter asked the umpire to look at the baseball to see if it was doctored. The ball was fine, and so was the Dominican pitcher.

The right-hander took advantage of his surroundings in pitcher-friendly Comerica Park as the Baltimore Orioles defeated the Detroit Tigers 5-2 before 28,041. Mercedes (7-4) used the vast park to his benefit while gaining his fourth straight victory.

"Over there at Camden Yards, the batters make more money," said Mercedes, who gave up six hits in seven-plus innings. "Here the pitchers make more money."

The 29-year-old guessed that at least two balls that would have left Baltimore's cozy park stayed inside the Tigers' new stadium. Rookie Ryan Kohlmeier picked up the second save of his major league career by tossing a scoreless ninth. The fastballing right-hander, who was recently called up from the minor leagues, posted his first save Monday.

Five different Baltimore hitters collected RBI as the Orioles handed the Tigers' Willie Blair a rare loss. Blair (8-3) allowed five runs in seven innings. The Orioles took advantage of the large outfield to have four extra-base hits with no home runs. Melvin Mora (two hits) and Luis Matos each legged out triples hit to the deepest part of center field.

"Big ballpark," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "Huge, huge, huge."

The Orioles have now gone 3-3 to begin a 10-game road trip and have won five out of six from the Tigers (52-60) this season. The Orioles (50-62) pulled away with three runs in the sixth on RBI hits by Delino DeShields, Albert Belle and Brook Fordyce (three hits) to make it 5-1.

Meanwhile, Mercedes dared Detroit to swing away. Bobby Higginson nearly hit a homer in the fifth before Matos ran down the ball just shy of the 420-foot sign in center field.

Mercedes retired 10 straight at one point before Jose Macias hit a solo homer to right in the seventh. Juan Gonzalez had to settle for a double on a ball that would have left most parks as it bounced off the scoreboard deep in right-center.

Brady Anderson, who earlier had an RBI on a sacrifice fly to give Baltimore a 2-1 lead in the third, led off with a walk, went to second on Mora's groundout and scored on DeShields' hit through the infield. DeShields went to second on the throw home. Belle followed that with a sinking liner to left that allowed DeShields to race home ahead of Higginson's throw.

Chris Richard got the final RBI of the inning in cheap fashion. After Belle had gone to second on the play at the plate, Richard popped a fly ball into shallow center that should have been the final out. Instead of center fielder Juan Encarnacion making an easy grab, Higginson called him off and then couldn't get to the ball, allowing Belle to come home.

The Tigers cut their deficit to 5-2 in the seventh on Macias' 12th home run of the season, a solo blast that landed in the bullpen in right field, not far from the 365-foot sign.

In the third inning, Ryan Minor's one-out double to left started Baltimore's uprising. Matos bounced the ball off the center-field wall and turned it into a RBI triple. Anderson's sacrifice fly to left gave the Orioles a 2-1 advantage.

Detroit took a 1-0 lead in the first on Deivi Cruz's RBI double, but Mercedes did not surrender another run until the seventh.

"They were hitting the ball hard and we were catching it," said Mercedes, who had been in the bullpen before Scott Erickson went on the disabled list recently. "I was like, 'Wow, this is my day.' "

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