- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 18, 2000


BALTIMORE The Baltimore Orioles can look like contenders when their pitching holds up.

Jose Mercedes, Baltimore's fifth starter, allowed three runs on seven hits in seven innings, and Orioles relievers Buddy Groom, Mike Trombley and Mike Timlin combined for two scoreless innings as the Orioles beat the Florida Marlins 5-3 in an interleague game last night before 37,591 at Camden Yards.

Mercedes threw 90 pitches, 65 of which were strikes. Mercedes (4-4) didn't walk a batter and struck out two in his first win since beating Boston in relief June 28.

"We were concerned to see which Jose would to show up tonight: the one that had the good outings out of the bullpen or the other side of Jose," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "The good one showed up tonight."

Mercedes had to battle through pain in his left side in the first inning. Orioles trainer Richie Bancells worked on Mercedes before he came out to pitch the second inning, and Mercedes was able to continue through the pain.

Mercedes, 29, has almost come full-circle this season. He made the team as a spring training invitee, began the season in the starting rotation and won two of his first three starts this season for the Orioles (40-51).

In his fourth start of the season April 27 at the Chicago White Sox, he allowed four runs in 1 2/3 innings, which caused him to be sent to the bullpen. Mercedes returned to the Baltimore rotation in the final week of the first half when Jason Johnson was moved to the bullpen and eventually optioned to Class AAA Rochester.

Last night Mercedes looked like a completely different pitcher than he did in his last start July 8 in Philadelphia. Mercedes retired the first Phillies batter he faced and then allowed the next six batters to reach base, including three on walks.

The Phillies scored five runs in that inning and four more in the third to knock Mercedes out of the game. Last night, Mercedes had a handle on his control and the Marlins' order.

It didn't hurt that second baseman Delino DeShields got the Orioles off to a quick start.

With Mike Bordick on first and one out in the first inning, DeShields jacked his fifth home run of the season 368 feet over the right-field scoreboard, continuing his power surge against Florida. In Sunday's 9-5 win over the Marlins, DeShields stroked a third-inning blast 381 feet to right field off Marlins starter Reid Cornelius (3-3). Sunday's homer was DeShields' first since May 7.

The Orioles' lead lasted until the top of the third inning, when Mercedes allowed four consecutive hits and three runs. Luis Castillo, the Marlins' hot-hitting second baseman and leadoff batter, started things with an infield single behind second.

Marlins right fielder Mark Kotsay moved the speedy Castillo to third with a single to center. Cliff Floyd, the Marlins designated hitter, hit a flare to shallow center that scored Castillo and advanced Kotsay to third to make it 2-1.

The Marlins took a 3-2 lead when center fielder Preston Wilson ripped a double into the power alley in right to score Kotsay and Floyd. But that was all Mercedes and the Orioles would allow.

Not deterred by losing the lead, the Orioles reclaimed a 4-3 edge in the bottom of the inning. With one out center fielder Brady Anderson, who finished with three hits, lined an opposite-field single to left. Bordick then hit a line drive back to the mound that went off Cornelius' left arm.

Castillo charged the ball, which was dying in the infield grass, and threw an off-balance throw to first that ended up in the first-base camera well. Castillo's bad throw sent Anderson to third, and Bordick was awarded second.

DeShields produced his third RBI of the game with a deep sacrifice to center that scored Anderson and tied the game 3-3. With Bordick still on second, Albert Belle, the Orioles' cleanup man, hit a deep single to left field that scored Bordick. However, Belle was gunned down at second by Marlins left fielder Mark Smith, ending the inning.

Timlin recorded the save, and Anderson added an insurance run to give the Orioles a two-run cushion in the eighth with a home run.

"I guess it's easier anytime a closer gets an extra run, and it makes your job a little easier," Anderson said.

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