- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 21, 2001


BALTIMORE Another day, another home run for Jay Gibbons.
Another day, another meltdown by the Baltimore Orioles' bullpen.
Relievers Ryan Kohlmeier and Chuck McElroy blew Baltimore's late two-run lead, overshadowing Gibbons' fourth straight game with a home run, and the Toronto Blue Jays pitched themselves out of a jam to avoid a three-game sweep and win last night's rain-delayed game 6-5 at Camden Yards.
The Orioles seemed on their way to a fourth straight win, leading 3-1 in the top of the seventh when starting pitcher Willis Roberts, who returned strong after a 65-minute rain delay in the top of the fifth, unexpectedly left in the sixth. He said he did not expect to miss his next start.
Kohlmeier proceeded to lose Roberts' lead and continue a disturbing trend of bad bullpen showings in the last week. With a runner on second and one out, Toronto's Darrin Fletcher launched a game-tying home run to right-center, the fifth homer Kohlmeier has given up in his last seven appearances.
The one-time Baltimore closer went on to walk Jeff Frye, hit Homer Bush and walk Raul Mondesi before manager Mike Hargrove pulled him amid a barrage of boos from the crowd of 30,062. Carlos Delgado then greeted McElroy (1-2) with a single up the middle that scored two and put the Blue Jays ahead 5-3.
The Orioles responded, putting runners on second and third with one out in their half of the seventh via a Fernando Lunar single and a Melvin Mora ground rule double. Toronto manager Buck Martinez turned to rookie right-hander Bob File, who put on a clinic in how not to throw a strike.
File walked David Segui to load the bases, plunked Jeff Conine to force in a run and walked Gibbons on four pitches to bring the tying run home and bring Martinez back out of the dugout.
With one-out and the bases loaded, Paul Quantrill (6-1) got Mike Kinkade to strike out on a questionable check swing. Cal Ripken then stepped to the plate, bringing the crowd to its feet cheering the superstar who announced Tuesday he will retire at the end of the season. Ripken, who singled in his first at-bat, swung at Quantrill's first pitch and sent a lazy line drive to first baseman Carlos Delgado.
McElroy's troubles continued in the eighth, when Alex Gonzalez and pinch-hitter Tony Fernandez singled to put runners on the corners with one out. Hargrove summoned Mike Trombley to face pinch-hitter Brian Simmons, who brought Gonzalez home with the winning run on a sacrifice fly to left.
Billy Koch closed out the 3-hour, 44-minute marathon with a scoreless ninth for his 11th save, though it didn't come easy. Conine led off with a single, pinch-runner Jerry Hairston took second on Koch's throwing error and third on Gibbons' groundout. After hitting Kinkade with a pitch, Koch got Ripken to ground out to first to end the game.
If not for the Blue Jays' late-inning rally, the predominant story last night surely would have been Gibbons' surprising home run spree.
He entered last night's game having homered in three straight games, earning the right to bat fifth in the Toronto series finale. The chances of him being there again tonight against the Chicago White Sox became all the more likely after Gibbons extended the streak to four games, most ever by an Orioles rookie and two behind the team record set by Reggie Jackson in 1976.
With the Orioles leading 2-1 in the sixth, Gibbons went the other way with a 2-2 pitch from reliever Kelvim Escobar, lining a shot off the left field foul pole.
"He's got power galore everywhere," Hargrove said. "He can miss a ball and still hit it out of the ballpark."
Before the game, Gibbons spoke about his streak, noting that he couldn't recall ever hitting a home run in three straight games, let alone four.
"It's funny, you go up there and all of a sudden you feel comfortable," he said. "I've been waiting for that all year and it finally came."
Three of Gibbons' four homers during the streak have been to left field.

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