- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 15, 2001


BALTIMORE The love fest between Cal Ripken and Baltimore Orioles fans reached a fever pitch last night when the Iron Man delivered his first Camden Yards home run of his final season.

Ripken, whose previous 10 home runs were on the road, provided crucial runs by planting a line drive over the left-field wall to lead the Orioles to a 5-2 win over the Kansas City Royals before an adoring crowd of 40,539.

It is the most recent part of a late-season surge for the retiring Baltimore icon, who is playing some of his best baseball of the season. Ripken, who turns 41 on Aug. 24, had two hits on the night to continue his tear.

Ripken's homer came in the third inning, when he blasted a 2-1 change-up from losing pitcher Chad Durbin (7-11). The 380-foot homer scored Chris Richard and Jeff Conine, who each had reached on two-out singles. Before the pitch, a sea of camera flashes came from the crowd. After trotting around the bases, Ripken received a standing ovation and came out of the dugout for a curtain call.

"The home runs started coming more in the second half [of the season] and coincidentally they started coming on the road," Ripken said. "It certainly feels good to hit one at home and have it been meaningful for the game."

Orioles pitcher Calvin Maduro (2-3) picked up the win by holding the Royals to two hits and two earned runs over 6-2/3 innings. Willis Roberts earned his third save with a perfect ninth inning.

However, Maduro would have to settle for second billing as Baltimore's leading man went 2-for-3 with a walk and three RBI, not to mention a defensive gem.

Ripken has seven RBI in the last two games, and six hits over a three-game span. His two hits moved him to 3,154 in his career and into 13th place all-time, passing Royals' Hall of Famer George Brett. The homer was the 428th of his career.

"After I made the decision [to retire in June], I had a certain clarity," said Ripken, who started slow this season as he battled back problems. "The decision was at a time when I was starting to feel good physically. I know my skills allow me to compete right now."

Ripken not only showed off his bat, but also his glove by starting a double play to end the fifth. Ripken, who was playing shallow at third, caught a line drive off the bat of Carlos Beltran and made a deft throw across the diamond to double off Neifi Perez, who was leaning off first base.

By then, the Orioles had padded the lead to 5-2 with two runs in the fifth on RBI singles by Conine and Tony Batista.

The Royals struck first in the third inning on a two-run homer by Carlos Febles, the first of his career. Febles' long ball to left scored Dave McCarty, who led off the inning with a walk.

That deficit was soon erased by Ripken's crowd-pleasing homer.

"I think 99 percent of [players] you could've expected them [not to work as hard], to just get this thing over with and bow out," said Orioles manager Mike Hargrove. "But not Cal. He is not going to go quietly into the night."

Notes Orioles pitcher Scott Erickson was in the locker room before last night's game as he continues rehabilitating. He had "Tommy John" surgery last August. The 33-year-old right-hander had been working out at the Orioles' spring training facility in Sarasota, Fla., and expects to be ready to play next season.

"I'm looking forward to pitching Opening Day next year," said Erickson, who plans to throw batting practice while in Baltimore. "[The recovery] is going well. It's right on schedule."

Erickson had a 5-8 record with a 7.87 ERA last season before he had the ligament replacement surgery last Aug. 8. He had pitched at least 220 innings each of the four seasons prior to 2000, and averaged 15 wins a year… .

According to Hargrove, Mike Bordick had successful surgery yesterday. The shortstop, who is out for the season, went on the disabled list on June 15 with shoulder troubles. He re-injured the shoulder, ending his season, while on a minor-league rehabilitation assignment in Salisbury, Md… .

Orioles first baseman David Segui was scratched from last night's lineup because he is sick. Hargrove said the Orioles first baseman has felt ill the last four or five days… .

The Red Sox-Orioles game rained out on Aug. 10 will be made up on Sept. 10th as part of a day-night doubleheader at Camden Yards. The regularly scheduled game will be at 1:15 p.m., with the make-up at 7:05 p.m.

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