- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 7, 2002

BALTIMORE — Seven years ago last night, Camden Yards was the center of the baseball universe, a ballpark packed to the rafters and filled with electricity as Cal Ripken played in his 2,131st consecutive game.
One year later, Sept. 6 still proved to be a historic night for the Baltimore Orioles, as Eddie Murray hit his 500th career home run.
And on Sept. 6, 2002, Orioles reliever Steve Bechler appeared in his first major league baseball game and struck out the first batter he faced. That's as big as it gets at Camden Yards these days.
The Orioles are in a tailspin, dropping 12 of their last 13 games after playing competitive baseball for the first two-thirds of the season. They lost 6-3 last night to the Anaheim Angels, who were led by designated hitter Brad Fullmer's three RBI, Adam Kennedy's two-run homer and a solo home run by Garrett Anderson.
Their only hope to salvage the remainder of the season may be veteran pitcher Pat Hentgen, who club officials hope can stabilize a young staff that clearly is not used to pitching deep into a major league season.
Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove said yesterday no decision had been made on the starter tomorrow in the series finale, but Hentgen is expected to be activated and get the start — his first since mid-May of 2001. The former Cy Young winner underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on Aug. 9, 2001, and has made several minor league rehabilitation starts over the past few weeks.
The Orioles (64-75) need something to save what had been a relatively satisfying season, though Hargrove insisted that the poor play of late does not diminish what the team did before it began its late-season swoon. "I don't think it's been tarnished," he said. "I think most people expected us to play the full season like we have the past two weeks."
They have already improved on last year's win total of 63, but they would have to win 10 of their final 23 games to get back to the point they were when owner Peter Angelos changed the approach of the franchise — from big-name free agents to youth movement — in the middle of the 2000 season by trading veteran players, such as Charles Johnson and B.J. Surhoff. They finished 74-88 that year.
Whatever improvements have been made has not translated to fans in the seats, particularly on this homestand. Last night's announced attendance was 24,045, though it appeared that there were about two-thirds of that amount actually in the ballpark. The club is on its way to its first full season below 3 million fans at the ballpark since it opened in 1992. Last night's crowd put the season total at 2,271,361, with 13 home games left.
Those in attendance last night saw Orioles starter Sean Douglass (0-2) struggle from the start. After David Eckstein led off the game with a fly ball to right, Darin Erstad walked. Scott Spiezio hit a foul pop that catcher Geronimo Gil ran down behind the plate for the second out. Anderson sent a ground ball down the left field line for a double. It was not a deep shot, and Erstad had to hold at third. Then Douglass got out of the inning by getting Troy Glaus on a ground ball back to the mound.
Baltimore took advantage early, taking a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Jerry Hairston and Chris Singleton had back-to-back singles off Anaheim starter John Lackey (8-3). Both Jeff Conine and Tony Batista popped out to second, but with two outs, Jay Gibbons drove a shot into left field for a double, scoring Hairston and Singleton.

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