- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 4, 2001


BALTIMORE Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jose Mercedes was the organization's winningest pitcher last season, and good things were expected of him this season.

After winning just one of his first nine decisions, Mercedes appeared to have righted things when he went at least seven innings in each of his last three starts and won all of them.

Last night, Mercedes appeared to be on his way to his fourth straight win, cruising along for the first four innings. But then he crashed like an S-Class sedan into a brick wall.

Mercedes fell apart in the fifth and sixth innings and allowed the hated New York Yankees to escape with a 10-6 win before a sellout 47,702 at Camden Yards.

Mercedes, who came into the game with the staff's highest ERA at 5.63, looked to have a safe lead when he took a 5-2 edge into the fifth inning. In his last three starts, Mercedes had not allowed more than four earned runs. However, Mercedes imploded last night, allowing five runs in the fifth and sixth innings.

The Yankees tied the game 5-5 in the fifth on a run-scoring double by Bernie Williams and a two-run homer by first baseman Tino Martinez, his 15th of the season.

But allowing the Yankees to tie the game in the fifth apparently wasn't enough. Mercedes, who went 11-3 following last season's All-Star Game, handed the Yankees the lead in the sixth.

Scott Brosius led off the inning with his 11th home run of the season to make it 6-5. Mercedes got Alfonso Soriano to line out but hit Chuck Knoblauch with a pitch and allowed a single to Derek Jeter that put runners on first and third. Orioles' manager Mike Hargrove had seen enough and lifted Mercedes for Chuck McElroy. The Yankees added another run when Williams grounded to McElroy and Knoblauch scored.

Mercedes (4-9) went 5 1/2 innings and allowed seven runs all earned on 11 hits, including three home runs.

The Orioles were hoping to open the second half of their season on a better note. In the early going, it looked like the Orioles would creep closer to .500.

The Orioles found themselves behind 1-0 after just a half inning when Jeter sent Mercedes' pitch 396 feet and over the left-center field wall for his seventh homer of the season.

However, the Orioles seemed to have the answer against Yankees starter Randy Keisler in the bottom of the inning.

The 25-year-old Keisler is perhaps the least known of the Yankees' pitching staff that led the AL in strikeouts (665) heading into last night. And the Orioles knew the young pitcher, who was making his sixth start of the season after spending all of last year in the Yankees farm system, lacked the experience and savvy of the Yankees more formidable starters Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina. Keisler's inexperience showed early.

Keisler walked Orioles second baseman Jerry Hairston, the first batter he faced. Brian Roberts then extended his hitting streak to nine games when he blooped a single into shallow center field. David Segui then sent Keisler's 89 mph fastball 410 feet to center field for his eight homer of the season to give the Orioles a 3-1 lead.

The Yankees got one run back in the second inning when, with one out, Todd Greene, the Yankees' light-hitting (.222) backup catcher, singled to left. Brosius looped a broken-bat single into center field and Soriano advanced both runners on a groundout.

Knoblauch then drilled a one-hopper toward third base where Cal Ripken, who will turn 41 on Aug. 24, made a superb diving stop to his left. Ripken, from his knees, made the throw to first, but Knoblauch beat the throw by a step. Greene scored on the play to cut the deficit to 3-2.

The Orioles used the long ball again in the fourth inning to open a 5-2 lead. This time it was left fielder Jay Gibbons who did the damage.

Keisler walked Melvin Mora to open the inning, and Ripken advanced Mora to second on a fly ball to the warning track in left. Keisler then hung a changeup that Gibbons drilled over the scoreboard in right field.

Ripken's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth drove home Tony Batista for the final margin.

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