- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 24, 2002

BALTIMORE Baseball's quirky unbalanced schedule dictates that the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox meet each other nine times in the first month of the season, which surely had New Englanders foaming at the mouth over the potential to pad their six-game winning streak and two-game lead in the American League East to even greater margins.
The young and struggling Orioles have not enjoyed much success against top competition thus far, and they don't figure to experience much more in their six games against Boston over the next nine days.
Or so everyone thought.
With a 7-5 victory over the Red Sox last night their third win in four games the Orioles opened this current stretch on a decided high note. It remains to be seen whether they can keep it up against the division leaders, but for at least one night, the last-place squad showed they can beat the big boys atop the standings.
The offensively challenged Baltimore lineup continued to put runs on the scoreboard last night, highlighted by rookie catcher Geronimo Gil's first career two-homer game. Throw in 10 more hits against the AL's second-best pitching staff, along with effective relief pitching, and the crowd of 26,301 at Camden Yards had reason to cheer for the home team.
The Orioles faced Boston's Frank Castillo (1-1) only 17 days ago, but did much better against the veteran right-hander last night. In his season debut April6, Castillo surrendered one hit (a Jay Gibbons homer) in six innings and helped lead the Red Sox to a 4-2 victory.
Last night, the Orioles doubled their output from the previous game in less than one inning. Jerry Hairston singled to lead the game off, moved to second on Chris Singleton's sacrifice bunt and scored on David Segui's base hit to right.
They were far from finished. Gil came to the plate with two outs in the second and roped a 1-0 pitch into the Baltimore bullpen for his second career homer. After his teammates added another run in the third, Gil led off the fourth with an opposite-field shot over the out-of-town scoreboard for his second homer in as many at-bats.
Gil's power splurge was as surprising as it was sudden. The rookie catcher was in a 3-for-25 slump and sat out Sunday's game at Tampa Bay after getting hit by a pitch in his left hand the previous night. His status for yesterday's game was up in the air until late afternoon, but he had no trouble gripping a bat during pre-game workouts and was inserted into the starting lineup.
Even in good health, Gil had begun to look a little overmatched in his first full season in the big leagues. Besides his prolonged slump at the plate, his defensive work behind the plate has tailed off in the last two weeks in part because he was still feeling the effects of a collision at home plate with the Devil Rays' Steve Cox on April10.
But Hargrove stuck with his young catcher over veteran Brook Fordyce, and reaped the benefits last night. With the two home runs already to his credit, Gil drove in another run in the fifth when he beat out a slow roller down the third-base line, scoring Tony Batista with Baltimore's seventh run of the evening.
Gil has also been praised for his work with the Orioles' pitching staff, though ace Scott Erickson was not in top form last night despite earning the win.
Erickson (2-2) got off on the wrong foot, serving up doubles to Shea Hillenbrand and Manny Ramirez sandwiched around a walk to Nomar Garciaparra in the first to give Boston a momentary 2-0 lead. The right-hander did settle down after that, holding the Red Sox hitless for three innings before giving up three runs on five hits in the fifth and sixth.
It was Erickson's second straight sub-par outing (he lasted just 4⅓ innings in an 8-4 loss Thursday at Yankee Stadium), and the second start in a row in which he struggled with his command. He walked four in last week's start, just as he did last night.
Erickson's mates in the Baltimore bullpen ensured the victory. Rookie Rick Bauer pitched a scoreless seventh, Buddy Groom enjoyed a perfect eighth and rookie closer Jorge Julio retired two-time AL batting champion Garciaparra to end the game and record his second save.

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