- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 24, 2001


BALTIMORE In slipping into a July funk that has seen them fall a season-worst 14 games below .500 and further behind the division-leading New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, the Baltimore Orioles have had difficulty locating the formula for victory that carried them to a respectable first half of the season.

Now, the critical hits aren’t finding holes as often. Orioles pitching and defense aren’t quite holding up as formidably as they did. The trend continued yesterday, when Baltimore pitchers couldn’t finish two key innings without escaping damage, and it cost them.

The streaking Anaheim Angels used some timely hitting to coast to a 9-4 victory over the Orioles at Camden Yards and take three of four games in the series, sending Baltimore to its 14th defeat in its last 17 games. The Orioles had their chances for big innings but stranded 14 runners.

The Angels scored all of their runs with two outs and dealt Orioles starter Jose Mercedes (4-11) another defeat, giving him the second-most losses in the American League. Two rallies a four-run burst in the third inning off Mercedes and a three-run insurance padding in the sixth off John Wasdin started with two outs and nobody on.

“You get two quick outs and sometimes it seems that you breathe a sigh of relief and you might not focus as much,” Wasdin said. “I was trying too hard to make something happen rather than let them happen as I had prior, and there’s where I went wrong.”

But Mercedes was the one going wrong in the early going, as Anaheim hitters had several hard-hit balls in his three innings. With the game tied 2-2 in the third, Mercedes extended Anaheim’s inning by walking Darin Erstad on a 3-2 pitch, then proceeded to allow five straight hits. Shawn Wooten’s looping single was the only Mercedes offering not hit sharply. The rally would have continued if not for Jerry Hairston’s strong relay throw that cut down Tim Salmon at the plate. That got Mercedes out of the inning, but by then the hosts trailed 6-2.

“Jose really couldn’t put them away today with two outs,” Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove said. “He’s been better, and I expect him to be better.”

The Angels worked some two-out magic again off reliever Wasdin three innings later. Three straight singles loaded the bases, then Troy Glaus lofted a three-run double that bounced in the right-field corner. In 7* innings since joining the Orioles June 30, Wasdin has yielded 12 hits and has an 8.22 ERA.

Anaheim, which managed to bunch all of its 11 hits in three innings, continued its hot streak, winning its seventh game in eight tries. In winning their ninth road game in their last 10, the Angels have climbed back over .500 (50-49).

Baltimore, conversely, spread its 14 hits over seven innings and other than Fernando Lunar, who had three hits and ripped two doubles, all other hits were singles. Baltimore lacked pop in the middle of its lineup, as Chris Richard and Jay Gibbons, the Nos. 3 and 5 hitters, went a combined 0-for-10 yesterday.

“We played a good ballgame,” Hargrove said. “We hit the ball hard, but we just didn’t pitch well.”

The Orioles now head to Texas for a four-game series with the Rangers tonight, then travel to Anaheim for a weekend set. Baltimore plays 17 of its next 21 games on the road.

“We just want to play for .500, and whatever happens, happens,” Melvin Mora said. “We just need to think and concentrate more… . We started slow in the second half but I think we’re going to be OK.”

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