- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 26, 2001


BALTIMORE Make no mistake about it, the Baltimore Orioles will be looking to address plenty of organizational problems this winter. They don't have an established closer, a legitimate staff ace or a pure leadoff hitter.

More than anything, though, the Orioles sorely lack a genuine power hitter. That fact was all too evident to anyone who saw Baltimore get shut out for the second straight night in a 9-0 pasting by the Toronto Blue Jays.

It would be one thing if the Orioles merely had an off night at the plate, though if that was the case, this team has had 51 off-nights this season. That's how many times in 129 games Baltimore has scored three runs or less, resulting in an atrocious 9-42 record.

"My opinion is this: You look at our offense, and I believe we can score three, four or five runs, and our pitching can shut them down," catcher Brook Fordyce said. "That's how we're going to win games. We may not go out 10 consecutive days and score 10 runs, but we're capable of scoring runs to win ballgames. That's how we have to look at it."

Last night manager Mike Hargrove was looking for any kind of offensive production from a lineup devoid of two key run producers. With David Segui (batting .303) out with a sore left knee and Cal Ripken (batting .347 since June 19) sitting on the bench for the first time in 15 games, the Orioles' starting nine stood little chance against Blue Jays' right-hander Kelvim Escobar, whose fastball was still clocked at 98 mph in the ninth inning.

Escobar, who has inexplicably dominated the Orioles in an otherwise average career, exploited them again by tossing a complete-game shutout to notch his fourth straight win. Allowing just two batters to reach second base (none after the second inning), Escobar (6-5) improved to 7-0 lifetime against Baltimore despite a 40-36 career record.

And just as they had the previous night during a 5-0 loss, the Orioles squandered what few opportunities they had by grounding into three double plays one by Chris Richard (batting third in place of Segui), one by Batista (batting fifth in place of Ripken) and one by No. 9 batter Hairston.

The Blue Jays, meanwhile, battered a quartet of Baltimore pitchers around the park, starting with Calvin Maduro, who suffered his second straight poor outing after impressing the coaching staff with a string of strong starts.

Maduro (2-4) lasted just 3-1/3 innings, tagged for a solo homer by Alex Gonzalez in the third and for four straight base hits in the fourth before Hargrove finally pulled him from the game.

During the Orioles' half of the inning, Hargrove sensed a "tentativeness" in his team's approach to Escobar, and decided to hold an impromptu pep rally in the dugout.

"I felt like we were a little tentative about the situation," Hargrove said. "With a young ballclub, every situation you get into is a learning situation, and you have to do things that may seem a little out of the ordinary."

His mid-game speech didn't do much to spark the Orioles, who saw just four more batters reach base three of them forced out at second to start off double plays.

By the end of the night, Baltimore's players could only credit Escobar with a dominating performance.

"The guy threw 98 in the ninth inning," Richard said. "He pitched a hell of a game."

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