- The Washington Times - Monday, April 15, 2002

CHICAGO Say what you will about the Baltimore Orioles and their inability to score runs on a regular basis. On those rare occasions in which they do decide to string a few hits together, they sure lay it on thick.
The Orioles have won only three of 11 games this year, but in each instance they've scored at least nine runs, including yesterday's 9-4 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
The occasional offensive explosions have been almost as shocking as the near-daily droughts. In three victories, the Orioles have scored 34 runs. In eight losses, they've scored 11.
"We're not going to score 10 runs every game; that's not us," said first baseman David Segui, who went 3-for-3 and reached base five times. "Somewhere between that and no runs for three games. The teams that win keep it consistent."
The Orioles have been anything but consistent through the first two weeks of the season. They blasted the Yankees for 10 runs on Opening Day, then failed to score more than two runs their next six games. They posted a franchise-record 12-spot en route to a 15-6 win over the Devil Rays last Thursday, then totaled eight hits in two days against the White Sox.
And just when you thought they were stuck in the mud once again, they exploded for nine runs and 11 hits yesterday at Comiskey Park, leaving the 23,951 in attendance scratching their heads and wondering which team will show up for today's series finale.
"I don't know if it's contagious or not," manager Mike Hargrove said. "But it's always nice to see."
There have been some common threads from the three victories. Segui has played a key role each time, going 10-for-15 with six RBI. In the eight losses, he's 4-for-28 with two RBI.
The Orioles also have benefited from the long ball in each of their victories. Tony Batista's grand slam off Roger Clemens was the highlight of the Opening Day win, Geronimo Gil and Mike Bordick went back-to-back to spur the 12-run inning against Tampa Bay and Melvin Mora and Jay Gibbons homered yesterday to help stake Baltimore to an early seven-run lead.
Mora's performance has been particularly crucial to the Orioles' limited success. Filling in for second baseman and leadoff hitter Jerry Hairston (out with a strained groin) for the third straight game, Mora reached base four times yesterday for the second straight game. He had reached base in eight straight plate appearances before grounding out in the fifth yesterday, and having drawn 13 walks in 11 games, he'll take a .533 on-base percentage into today's game.
"He's been ridiculous the last couple games," said Gibbons, who went 3-for-5 and was a triple shy of hitting for the cycle. "It's huge, having a leadoff hitter on base to start it off. It gets the pitcher into the stretch and makes it a lot easier for the rest of us."
Mora isn't just getting on base he's driving other people in. His seven RBI are tied with Gibbons and Batista for second-most on the club, and his three-run homer in the second inning yesterday off Dan Wright (1-1) the Orioles' first homer with someone on base since Batista's grand slam was just another indication of the 20 pounds of muscle he added this winter.
Projected as a utility player when the season began, Mora has started all 11 games, subbing first for injured left fielder Marty Cordova and now at second base for Hairston. While it would seem obvious that Mora's playing time will diminish once Hairston returns (perhaps tomorrow in New York), Hargrove admits he must give some thought to keeping him atop the lineup.
"At the very least, Melvin has made us aware," Hargrove said. "If Melvin continues to swing the bat the way he is, I can't not put him in the lineup."
Mora said he'll play and bat wherever Hargrove puts him, but he prefers the No.2 spot in the order because "I can make a lot of things happen there."
Yesterday's offensive explosion made up for a shaky outing by No.5 starter Calvin Maduro, who gave up two runs in the first, settled down to retire eight in a row, then was tagged for a homer by Carlos Lee in the fifth. Maduro (1-1) departed after six innings, having allowed three runs on seven hits.
Despite their seemingly comfortable lead, the Orioles' bullpen did keep things interesting. Rodrigo Lopez extended his streak of retired batters to 18 before giving up a run in the eighth. And potential closer Jorge Julio, who has yet to pitch in a save situation, was all over the place in the ninth, firing three heaters near the heads of Sandy Alomar Jr. and Royce Clayton before escaping unscathed.
"He was trying to throw it 150 mph, and I don't know why," Hargrove said. "He was juiced today."

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