- The Washington Times - Monday, June 24, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO Seven outstanding innings from Jason Johnson would have been wasted if Gary Matthews Jr.'s grounder went a few inches to the left.
Matthews hit a two-run single in the eighth, and Johnson earned his first victory since April 20 as the Baltimore Orioles ended an exhausting 10-game road trip with a 3-1 victory yesterday over the San Francisco Giants.
Tony Batista had an RBI triple in the first inning for the Orioles, who needed a late rally to avoid wasting a fine start by Johnson (2-5), their oft-injured right-hander who allowed four hits and struck out five.
Matthews, who was born in San Francisco while his father played for the Giants, provided the go-ahead runs with a gritty at-bat against left-handed reliever Aaron Fultz.
With Chris Singleton and Melvin Mora in scoring position, Matthews a switch-hitter turned to his less-effective right side against Fultz slapped a grounder up the middle that barely eluded shortstop Rich Aurilia in the Giants' drawn-in infield.
"This could have been a tough road trip if that didn't get through, but we gave a solid effort against one of the best teams in the NL," said Matthews, who went 2-for-4 with a double. "[Aurilia] almost got a glove on it. That was the difference right there."
With the victory, Baltimore finished 5-5 on a four-city trip that began with a make-up game in Cleveland before sending it to the other side of the continent to face Arizona's Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson before a weekend date with Barry Bonds.
Despite the travel and the uncertainties of interleague play, the Orioles took two of three in their first games against the Giants since spring training in 1959.
"This was a fun series," Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove said. "I'm not going to say we're the two best teams around, but I think it was baseball at its finest. Every game came down to strategy and big plays by the winning team."
Johnson overwhelmed San Francisco's potent lineup, retiring the first 12 batters he faced. He never got into trouble until the seventh, when San Francisco tied it on Bonds' double and Jeff Kent's RBI single.
"I always feel I can get better, but I felt great today," Johnson said. "I went after hitters the way I wanted to. I had great placement, and my curve had a great break on it."
The Orioles reclaimed the lead in the eighth against Livan Hernandez (6-8), who allowed six hits and struck out five over 7⅓ innings. Hernandez lost for the fourth time in five starts despite a strong outing, though he put two runners on in the eighth before Fultz entered to pitch to Matthews.
"I watched it on video, and it was a good pitch," Fultz said. "I wanted a ground ball, and I got it. It was the same pitch I got him out on the day before, only this time it wasn't hit at anybody."
Jorge Julio pitched the ninth, earning his 15th save in 19 chances despite allowing Kent to reach third base with two outs. Baltimore held its breath when Damon Minor's drive over the right-field fence hooked inches foul, but Julio then struck out Minor to end it.
While the Orioles were pleased with their week, the Giants were a disappointing 4-5 on a nine-game homestand.
"We're scuffling for a lot of stuff," Giants manager Dusty Baker said. "It makes it difficult to see pitchers we haven't seen before. They've got guys who are 1-5, and they're throwing like they're 5-1."

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