- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 25, 2001

ORIOLES 8, TIGERS 3

DETROIT Despite the track record of the past three-plus weeks, Pat Hentgen had to figure his Baltimore Orioles teammates would start giving him a semblance of offensive support at some point.

After last night's 8-3 thrashing of the Detroit Tigers, Hentgen might be left wondering if the Orioles have anything remaining for his next start.

In pounding the lowly Tigers (5-13) before a crowd of 14,101 at Comerica Park, Baltimore accounted for as many runs in one night as it had in Hentgen's previous four starts.

"He's been pitching so well all year," said right fielder Brady Anderson, who went 2-for-5 with a double and an RBI. "He's got four great starts already. It seems like he's pitching as well as when he won the Cy Young [in 1996 with Toronto]."

The Orioles (9-11) won back-to-back games for the first time this season and drew within two games of the .500 mark for the first time in a week.

They did so with another strong offensive showing that seemed highly implausible not long ago. That once-anemic Baltimore lineup has produced 34 runs in its last five games.

Hentgen (1-2) wasn't quite as sharp as he was in his first three starts but still pitched well enough to earn his first victory with the team. The 32-year-old, who grew up in suburban Detroit and had a gathering of about 30 family members in attendance last night, gave up three runs and seven hits in seven innings.

A free agent for the first time in his career last winter, Hentgen signed with Baltimore for two years and $9 million. He grew up a Detroit fan, though, and perhaps would have liked to sign with his hometown team.

The Tigers' financial woes they couldn't afford to keep Hideo Nomo, who has been brilliant this season in Boston prevented them from making a serious push for Hentgen, who played it cool when asked last night if he would have rather signed with Detroit.

"Being that I'm from here, it's a team you'd be interested in," he said. "But there are multiple teams that you'd be interested in. And Baltimore's one of them, too.

"I love being an Oriole."

Hentgen's strong though not stellar outing last night wouldn't have been nearly enough to win any of his previous four starts. Then again, given his teammates' inability to provide any offensive support during his starts an American League-worst .86 runs per nine innings Hentgen might have been beginning to feel like he had to be perfect every time out.

Imagine his surprise when the Orioles started pounding Tigers ace Jeff Weaver from the start last night.

Anderson led off the game with a double to deep right-center, then later scored from third when Jay Gibbons (who had the first four-hit game of his brief career) hit a soft bouncer over Weaver's head that second baseman Damion Easley couldn't handle.

It was the first run scored by the Orioles in 19 2/3 innings with Hentgen in the game.

Baltimore added four more runs in the fourth on three hits, including a Gibbons double to the 395-foot mark in left-center at spacious Comerica Park, and four fielder's choices. Gibbons' opposite-field shot likely would have constituted his first major league home run had he been playing in almost any other park in the league.

"When I hit it, I thought it had a chance," Gibbons said. "Then I looked out there and saw about 400 feet to left-center and decided I better start running."

Gibbons and fellow rookie Mike Kinkade continue to flourish for an Orioles team that has found a way to give both players significant game time. Making his 10th start of the year and fourth straight, Gibbons went 4-for-5 to raise his batting average to .310.

"I'm getting a lot more comfortable in the box and seeing the ball a lot better," he said. "I've never done the utility role before until this year. It's a little tougher. I'm just happy I'm in there right now."

Kinkade, starting at third base with Cal Ripken getting another day off, went 3-for-4 with a walk and is batting .385.

The Orioles finished off Weaver (1-4) in the top of the seventh, thanks in part to a Delino DeShields triple, base hits by Kinkade and Gibbons and a Melvin Mora double down the left-field line.

Hentgen, who gave up only an RBI single to Juan Encarnacion in the second, a solo home run to Robert Fick in the sixth and a triple to Easley in the seventh, was pulled after throwing 104 pitches in seven innings. Mike Trombley tossed two scoreless innings of relief to close out the game.


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