- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 30, 2002

BALTIMORE Baltimore Orioles manager Mike Hargrove has spent the better part of the season tinkering with his starting lineup, particularly at the No.3 spot, where injuries and ineffectiveness have reigned.
First came David Segui. Then Jeff Conine. Then Chris Singleton. Even Marty Cordova on three occasions. So when Hargrove first tried out journeyman outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. in the 3-hole back on June 13, few figured this latest wrinkle would last.
Two weeks later, Matthews is in no mood to give up his prime location.
The son of the former Phillies outfielder went 5-for-5 last night, coming a triple shy of the cycle and headlining the Orioles' 11-1 interleague romp over Philadelphia.
"It's something that happens like once in a career," said Matthews, one of four Baltimore batters to collect at least three hits last night. "I haven't even had a four-hit night before in the big leagues."
Acquired from the New York Mets for reliever John Bale during the first week of the season, Matthews has gotten used to constant relocation in his playing career. If he keeps this up, though, he might have just found himself a permanent home, both at Camden Yards and in the No.3 spot of the Orioles' lineup.
"He's a big, strong guy, and he has a lot of athletic talent," Hargrove said. "Hopefully, we're seeing the tip of the iceberg here."
The Orioles, who improved to 14-12 in June, assured themselves of their first winning record for a month since they went 14-10 in April 2000.
Last night Matthews singled in the first inning, doubled in the second, singled in the fourth and sixth and then launched a two-run homer in the seventh to complete the most prodigious game of his career. He became the 37th player in franchise history to get five hits in a game, the first since Conine did it last August against the Boston Red Sox.
And Matthews' teammates added 13 hits against the Phillies, tying their season high and making things plenty easy for starter Jason Johnson, who was brilliant once again.
For the third time in his last four starts, Johnson gave up one run in seven innings or more. He went the distance for only the third time in his career, coming away with a complete-game victory for the first time.
"I'm feeling a lot stronger now," said Johnson (3-5), who has made five starts since coming off the disabled list with a fractured right finger. "I think I'm really close to where I want to be."
The combined efforts of Matthews and Johnson probably would have been enough to assure a victory in the second game of the interleague rivals' weekend series. But thanks to the Phillies' grotesque play in the field, a potentially close ballgame quickly turned into a rare laugher.
The ugliness reached its peak in a four-run second inning that saw two Philadelphia errors and two head-on collisions in the field.
Already staked to a 1-0 lead thanks to Melvin Mora's second leadoff home run in as many nights, the Orioles piled it on against Phillies ace Vicente Padilla (10-5). Singleton (3-for-5) led off the second with what appeared to be a harmless bouncer up the middle harmless, at least, until All-Star shortstop Jimmy Rollins decided to upend second baseman Marlon Anderson going after the ball. Defensive mistake No.1.
Four batters later, with two outs and runners on first and second, Brian Roberts (3-for-4) laced a double down the right-field line. Singleton and Mike Bordick scored easily, but Anderson still fired the ball toward the plate. It sailed over catcher Mike Lieberthal's head and into a camera well, and Roberts (who had already rounded second) was waved all the way home. Defensive mistake No.2.
A double by Matthews and a single by Tony Batista (4-for-5) made it 5-0 and brought Jay Gibbons to the plate. A skied popup just down the third-base line looked like the sure third out and a merciful end to the inning, but third baseman Scott Rolen inexplicably collided with Lieberthal. Everybody was safe, the inning still wasn't over and Philadelphia manager Larry Bowa slumped down even farther into his dugout seat.
Defensive mistake No.3. Game over.
"They didn't hear each other," Bowa lamented afterward. "Scotty yelled. [Lieberthal] didn't hear him.
"One of those nights."


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