- The Washington Times - Monday, August 6, 2001


TORONTO After tight losses like yesterday's 5-4 defeat at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles manager Mike Hargrove tends to use words like "competed" and "battled" when he looks for the silver lining on his team's otherwise dark cloud of a season.
And to his credit, Hargrove's players did compete and did battle yesterday afternoon at SkyDome, putting the tying runner on third base in the ninth inning against a tough closer before dropping their third straight game to the Blue Jays and their 20th overall since the All-Star break.
Near-rallies aside, though, the Orioles would not have been in such a predicament if not for the four runs they spotted Toronto in the first three innings yesterday, four runs scored off struggling right-hander Josh Towers, who lost his sixth straight decision to fall to 6-7 on the season.
"The one positive thing is we got better as the game went on," Towers said. "But before we knew it we were down 4-0, and I don't know why."
Raul Mondesi and Jose Cruz Jr. probably do. The two outfielders were responsible for just about every big hit Toronto got off Towers, from Cruz's leadoff double in the bottom of the first to Mondesi's home run in the second to Cruz's pair of opposite-field homers in the third and fifth.
The two bombs by Cruz a two-run shot in the third and a solo blast in the fifth were particularly troubling for Towers, who left both pitches way up and outside to the left-handed Blue Jays batter. On both occasions, Cruz still managed to drive the ball over the left-field fence, leaving the Baltimore pitcher stunned on the mound.
"The first one he got pretty good," said Towers, who hasn't won a game since June 29 at Chicago. "I don't know how he hit the second one. It didn't look like he got the bat on it. Both those fastballs were up, and you're supposed to hit those, but I still didn't think the second one should have gone out."
The Orioles' scouting report on Cruz, who now has 16 homers on the season, centered on keeping the ball down in the strike zone, usually one of Towers' strengths.
"That's an area you want to stay away from with Cruz the fastball up out over the plate," Hargrove said. "Unless you've got really good juice, I mean 94 or 95 miles an hour… . Those were not exactly where we wanted to go with him."
Towers managed to settle down and retire eight straight batters before he was lifted with one out in the eighth. Still, the American League Rookie of the Month for June has hit hard times. In his last five starts (four losses and a no-decision), Towers had allowed at least five earned runs a game, resulting in a 7.24 ERA.
"I think it has everything to do with me," Towers said. "Every time I've been hit, the ball has been up. Anyone can hit a ball up. They've started to hit mistakes."
Trailing by four runs after three innings, the Orioles rallied for three runs off Blue Jays starter Esteban Loaiza (8-9), aided by Cal Ripken's sixth-inning double (which extended the Iron Man's hitting streak to 14 games).
They also managed to put a scare into Toronto closer Billy Koch in the ninth, when pinch-hitter Jeff Conine (out of the starting lineup for the first time in a month) drew a leadoff walk, Jerry Hairston singled and Brady Anderson sacrificed them to second and third.
Rookie shortstop Brian Roberts then lofted a fly ball to right field that scored Conine and moved Hairston (the tying run) to third with two outs. Chris Richard drew another walk, bringing David Segui to the plate with the game on the line. The Baltimore cleanup hitter smoked the first pitch he saw from Koch right at shortstop Felipe Lopez, who flipped to second for the final out of the game.
Note The Orioles likely won't be getting any production from Jay Gibbons for some time. The rookie outfielder, who has hit more home runs (15) in a Baltimore uniform than anyone else this season, is headed for the 15-day disabled list with what is being called a sprained right wrist.
A more detailed diagnosis, along with a timetable for Gibbons' return, won't be known for sure until results come back from today's MRI in Baltimore. At best, Gibbons has a mild sprain and will be back in a couple of weeks.

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