- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 30, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. In the offseason, the Baltimore Orioles flirted with the idea of signing Steve Trachsel as a free agent to bolster their starting rotation. They ultimately passed and eventually signed Pat Rapp. Trachsel later caught on with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Based on yesterday’s performances, the Orioles made the right choice.

Rapp scattered 11 hits, allowing just one earned run in six innings. Trachsel lasted an inning longer but gave up five runs, four of them earned, as the Orioles won the first game of a 10-game road trip, 5-1, before 24,209 at Tropicana Field.

Rapp’s was another solid performance by the Orioles’ rotation. In the last six games, each starter lasted at least six innings and their ERA is a combined 2.02. Not coincidentally, the Orioles (22-26) have won five of their last six.

“They’ve really pitched well the last couple of times through the rotation,” Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said of his starters. “They’re keeping us in the game and giving us a chance to win.”

Rapp got his first win since April 25 and improved to 4-2.

Rapp hit his spots, working the inside and out. As a result, Rapp either jammed the Devil Rays, resulting in harmless pop flies, or forcing easy ground-outs. More importantly, Rapp, who entered the game averaging three walks, had none yesterday.

“The past couple of games I’ve used almost all fastballs and just mixing in a changeup or a breaking ball when I needed an out or to keep them guessing,” Rapp said. “Before, throwing the breaking stuff I was getting behind in the count and walking a lot of people.”

Rapp’s luck ran out in the seventh.

Russ Johnson led off with a double down the left field line. Felix Martinez followed with an infield single that glanced off Rapp’s glove. Johnson scored on a grounder from Randy Winn and ended Rapp’s shutout streak at 13 innings.

Rather than throw out Winn at first, second baseman Delino DeShields, who had saved two runs with a nice play in the third, tried to catch Martinez at second but his awkward throw pulled Mike Bordick off the bag. That meant the Devil Rays had the tying run at the plate with none out.

Hargrove then went to his bullpen and Mike Trombley retired the next two batters before giving way to Buddy Groom who got Fred McGriff to line out to end the seventh. Groom gave up a pair of singles in the eighth, but came out unscathed. Mike Timlin worked a perfect ninth.

“Trombley came in and did a tremendous job at real crucial part of the game,” Hargrove said. “The game could have turned either way right there.”

Quietly the Orioles bullpen has improved the past six games. The same unit that brought a 6.68 ERA into yesterday’s game has given up only four runs the last 13 innings.

It makes a huge difference when the starters go as long as they’ve been going,” Trombley said. “They deserve most of the credit because they’re doing most of the work. We just have to come in and throw strikes.”

The bulk of the Orioles’ runs came in the second inning, thanks in part to an error by Johnson. After a lead-off single by Albert Belle, Johnson couldn’t handle Will Clark’s grounder and the error left the Orioles with men on first and second. Jeff Conine took advantage of the generosity with an RBI single and B.J. Surhoff followed with a three-run homer to put the Orioles up 4-0.

Bordick led off the eighth with a homer. It was was Bordick’s 10th of the year, matching his total from 1999, and is three-shy of his career high. He now has a team-high 38 RBI.

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