- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 9, 2001


KANSAS CITY, Mo. Although it wouldn't have been quite as shocking as a Calvin Maduro no-hitter Tuesday night, Jose Mercedes' flirtation with history last night certainly was unexpected.
Not from the man who leads the American League with 13 losses. Not from the man who failed to get out of the fourth inning in two of his last three starts. And not from the man who had allowed seven or more hits in 12 of his 21 starts.
Yet Mercedes stood atop the Kauffman Stadium mound in the seventh inning of the Baltimore Orioles' 4-1 victory last night having allowed one hit to the Kansas City Royals a third-inning infield single that could have been avoided had Mercedes been quicker to cover first base.
Would a no-hitter be lost because of one careless play in the field? Fortunately for the Royals and perhaps Mercedes that scenario never materialized. Kansas City's Carlos Beltran reached on an infield single to lead off the seventh, and Mike Sweeney followed with a legitimate single to right.
There was no date with destiny not that Mercedes (6-13) was complaining. His second victory since June aided by another Cal Ripken home run on the road was satisfying enough.
"Last game [a 10-1 loss at Toronto], I was very upset with myself," Mercedes said. "And I told myself that from now on I will give up more bases on balls, but I will also make more people hit groundballs. At this point, I really don't care if I walk guys, I'm just going to go with my pitch every time. And I think that was part of my good game tonight."
It was the Orioles' third straight win over the Royals and their first three-game streak since June 27-29.
"There's a little more intensity, and we're playing smarter," said manager Mike Hargrove as salsa music blared over the clubhouse stereo system. "It's a matter of guys relaxing a little bit and refocusing on what they're doing."
For six innings, Mercedes was virtually unhittable. Aside from Beltran, who also drew a first-inning walk, Mark Quinn was the only Royals batter to reach base, though some heads-up defense might have prevented it.
Leading off the third, Quinn tapped a grounder between first and second. Second baseman Brian Roberts, forced to unexpectedly enter the game for the second straight night after another player was ejected, went far to his left to make the play and threw to first. First baseman David Segui, however, was far off the bag because he had attempted to field the grounder. Mercedes was slow to cover, allowing Quinn to reach.
Quinn stole second, with catcher Fernando Lunar's throw sailing into the outfield, moved to third on a groundout and ultimately scored when right fielder Brady Anderson was caught napping on a line drive out. Anderson, apparently figuring Quinn would score easily, hesitated before throwing to cut-off man Roberts. As it happened, Quinn got a late break to the plate and needed to make a nifty slide around Lunar's tag to score Kansas City's lone run.
By that time, the Orioles had already built a two-run lead on solo homers by Melvin Mora in the first and Ripken in the second. Ripken's 392-foot shot to left-center off Chad Durbin (7-10) extended the Iron Man's hit streak to a season-high 16 games (one shy of his career best) and extended his streak of hitting a home run in his last trip to a ballpark to five.
Ripken has hit safely in 36 of his last 39 games while batting .329 to raise his season average to .262.
"I told him a week ago that I wished he had announced his retirement about two months earlier," Hargrove said of Ripken, who signed autographs on the field for more than 30 minutes after the game and did not make himself available to the media. "He was hitting .190 when he announced it, and now he's hitting something like .265. Great players have always had a knack for meeting and then exceeding expectations. And Cal certainly has exhibited that."
Baltimore padded its lead with a two-run sixth, courtesy of Segui's double, Jeff Conine's triple (the Orioles' fourth of the series) and Ripken's sacrifice fly.
After Mercedes was lifted with two outs in the seventh, B.J. Ryan, Alan Mills and Buddy Groom put the finishing touches on the Orioles' four-hitter, with Groom escaping a two-on, no-out jam in the ninth to earn his 11th save.
For the second straight night, a Baltimore player was ejected for arguing balls and strikes. On Tuesday night, the victim was Anderson. Last night it was Jerry Hairston, who struck out looking in the second, said something to home plate umpire Bill Miller and was instantly tossed.

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