- The Washington Times - Monday, July 23, 2001


BALTIMORE The Baltimore Orioles' 5-1 victory over the Anaheim Angels last night isn't going to erase the bad memories of the past three weeks. But it certainly can't hurt.

Including their uninspiring 9-4 loss earlier in the day in the first half of their doubleheader at Camden Yards, the Orioles found themselves mired in a six-game losing streak with a 2-13 record in July. Whether their come-from-behind win in the nightcap sparks a resurgence this ballclub sorely needs won't be known for a few days.

"There's nothing like a win to make you feel better about yourself after a long day," manager Mike Hargrove said. "We worked very hard to be able to split this doubleheader."

Baltimore finally secured its 42nd victory of the season thanks to another clutch home run by rookie Jay Gibbons and another outstanding pitching performance at home by Jason Johnson.

Johnson (9-6) supplied the early heroics, matching Angels starter Pat Rapp pitch-for-pitch through five scoreless innings before Anaheim pushed across an unearned run in the sixth on a throwing error by shortstop Melvin Mora, a wild pitch by Johnson and an RBI single by Adam Kennedy.

Gibbons, who was struck in the left wrist by a flying bat in the first game, then put the Orioles on top in the bottom half of the inning. After getting behind 2-0 to Jeff Conine with two outs and no one on, Rapp was inexplicably pulled by Angels manager Mike Scioscia in favor of Toby Borland, who hadn't appeared in a major league game since 1998.

Big mistake. Borland (0-1) walked Conine (though it was charged to Rapp, an ex-Oriole) then hung an 0-2 curveball to Gibbons, who was cleared to play after X-rays taken on his wrist between games came back negative. The rookie slugger belted it onto the flag court in right field for his 14th homer of the season, giving Baltimore a 2-1 lead.

"He threw me a little 'Frisbee' slider that came back over the plate at the last second," Gibbons said. "I kind of double-pumped, but fortunately I got good wood on it."

Much to the disappointment of the relatively sparse crowd who attended the rare Sunday night game (a makeup from Friday's postponement), Hargrove pulled Johnson with two outs in the seventh. The right-hander had amassed a whopping 123 pitches to that point.

Hargrove's move, unlike Scioscia's, worked. Left-hander B.J. Ryan struck out two batters, and though right-hander Mike Trombley hit the only batter he faced, lefty Buddy Groom got out of the jam in the eighth.

The Orioles added three insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth on an error by catcher Bengie Molina, an RBI single by Cal Ripken and a successful squeeze bunt by Melvin Mora. Groom then closed out the win with a perfect ninth.

The late-night win still couldn't fully make up for the afternoon loss, which featured two Baltimore errors and several other defensive miscues.

"We haven't been playing all that well," said second baseman Jerry Hairston, who was charged with both errors. "We haven't been getting the breaks. But great teams make their own breaks."

Baltimore committed four poor defensive plays in a row in the top of the second. Hairston booted a deflected grounder off the bat of Shawn Wooten to start things off. Scott Spiezio singled Wooten to third, then took second when Brian Roberts fired a relay throw to third when he could have cut Spiezio down. Benji Gil lined a ball to center field past Mora, who took a step in and watched the ball sail over his head. And Jorge Fabregas followed with a sinking liner to left field that Brady Anderson lost amid a sea of white shirts in the stands.

Before the Orioles knew what hit them, they were trailing 3-1.

"I think seven of the nine runs they scored we gave them," Hargrove said. "We gave them three in the first inning, and then there were a number of times throughout the game where we really shot ourselves in the foot."

Another misplayed fly ball by Mora in the third allowed the Angels to score a run, negating Tony Batista's solo homer the previous inning. And in a scene that would occur again in the night game, the Orioles loaded the bases with no outs in the fifth but failed to score off reliever Ben Weber (5-1).

Even so, Baltimore was still in the game, trailing by a run in the top of the seventh when starter Willis Roberts (7-8) loaded the bases on a pair of walks and Hairston's second error of the game. Hargrove turned to left-hander Ryan, who struck out Garret Anderson, then summoned little-used righty John Wasdin to face Wooten. Making his third appearance with the Orioles, Wasdin was greeted by a run-scoring single through the left-side hole and then a bases-clearing triple by Spiezio that blew the game open.

"I was trying to go out there and get a ground ball," Wasdin said. "The ground ball I got happened to be in the right spot where the third baseman couldn't come up with it and the shortstop couldn't come up with it. It's frustrating, but you've got to just keep pecking away."

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