- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 24, 2002

BALTIMORE After more than three months and five failed attempts, the Baltimore Orioles are finally the proud owners of a .500 record. And all they had to overcome to get to that mark was a six-run deficit, another disastrous outing from their Opening Day starter and a overtaxed bullpen that was without its two best pitchers.
It should seem obvious, then, that the Orioles truly earned last night's 11-7 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays and the 63-63 record that accompanied it.
"It would have been very easy to quit," manager Mike Hargrove said. "But our guys didn't do that."
Stuck with a 6-0 deficit when starter Scott Erickson couldn't get out of the second inning, Baltimore scored at least one run an inning from the third on. Four players homered (Jay Gibbons, Geronimo Gil, Melvin Mora and Tony Batista), the last of which gave the Orioles 137 for the season and besting their total output from 2001.
"This team's got a lot more power than people think," said Gibbons, who has 23 homers in his second major league season. "There's definitely more power than last year, up and down the lineup."
Given their sixth opportunity to reach the .500 mark since they were 18-18 on May 11, the Orioles appeared well on their way to another loss when they found themselves down six runs in the second. But a 16-hit barrage against the Blue Jays turned that lopsided deficit into one of their most impressive come-from-behind wins of the season.
Four players had multiple-hit games, highlighted by Chris Singleton, who went 3-for-4 after replacing the injured Gary Matthews Jr., and Batista, who went 3-for-4 and clubbed his team-leading 24th homer.
"Just because we're at .500 doesn't mean it's a done deal," said Hargrove, whose team matched its 2001 victory total in 126 games. "We've got, hopefully, a lot of baseball left this year."
Victory No.63 would not have been possible without Chris Brock's strong effort in long relief. Brock (2-1) allowed one run in 5⅓ innings and amazingly threw just 55 pitches over that span.
And with top relievers Jorge Julio and Buddy Groom unavailable because of overuse, left-hander B.J. Ryan was given the chance to finish off the game. He responded by tossing two scoreless innings and earning his first save.
The unsung work from Baltimore's bullpen made up for Erickson's doomed start, yet another black mark on a lost season.
Erickson's fall from grace has been as dramatic as it has been quick. On July 21, he was 4-9 with a 4.25 ERA. In six starts since, he's posted an unsightly 11.25 ERA, giving up 47 hits in his last 24 innings.
"I think we're all just kind of shaking our heads on that one right now," Hargrove said.
Erickson may not get another chance to right his ship. Hargrove said last night that his Opening Day starter (who is now 5-11 with a 5.32 ERA) will be moved to the bullpen for today's day-night doubleheader. He did not name his starting pitcher for the nightcap, though the club is expected to recall right-hander Sean Douglass from Class AAA Rochester.
Douglass' promotion would necessitate a corresponding roster move, one that Hargrove declined to announce last night. The manager said placing Erickson on the disabled list today is not an option.
Matthews left the game after one inning with a strained right wrist, the result of his running catch against the center-field fence on the game's first batter. Matthews, who appeared to jam his wrist into the wall as he hauled in Shannon Stewart's fly ball, remained in the game and batted in the bottom of the first but was replaced by Singleton in the second. X-rays came back negative, and Matthews will undergo an MRI today. His status is day-to-day.

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