- The Washington Times - Monday, July 7, 2003

BALTIMORE — Closer Jorge Julio had allowed just two home runs in 33⅓ innings when he took the mound with a two-run lead in the ninth yesterday. Three Toronto batters later, Julio had doubled that figure, and Baltimore was on its way to a dispiriting 5-3 loss in 10 innings to the Blue Jays before 30,284 at Camden Yards.

Former Oriole Greg Myers homered to right-center off a hanging Julio slider to lead off the ninth, and one out later Eric Hinske followed suit with his second home run in three innings to center on a fastball up and over the plate to forge a 3-3 tie.

“The way the ball was carrying today, you had to keep the ball down, and Jorge didn’t do that,” Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. “… But if somebody had [asked] would you take three out of four from Toronto and be happy with it, we would have said yes. But to get as close as we did to sweeping it kind of leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.”

Before his disastrous ninth yesterday, the hard-throwing Julio had allowed just four earned runs in 12⅔ innings during the past five weeks (2.84 ERA) after surrendering 10 earned runs in his first 20⅔ innings (4.35 ERA) this season.

The Orioles came close to pulling out the victory in the bottom of the inning. Tony Batista walked and advanced to third on a sacrifice by B.J. Surhoff and a fly ball to deep center by Deivi Cruz, but Blue Jays reliever Juan Acevedo blew away David Segui — pinch-hitting for Geronimo Gil in his first appearance since straining a knee a week ago.

Kerry Ligtenberg, who replaced Julio to start the 10th, got Shannon Stewart and Reed Johnson to fly to right, but All-Star center fielder Vernon Wells reached on a broken-bat bouncer to third. A video replay showed Wells was out, and Hargrove was ejected by first-base umpire Andy Fletcher for arguing the call.

“I didn’t have to see it on replay to know that he was out,” Hargrove said. “The only one that missed it is the umpire, and it turned out to be a very important call.”

A game-turning one. Bench coach Sam Perlozzo then played the percentages by removing Ligtenberg in favor of left-hander Buddy Groom. The move backfired when Myers walked, Chris Woodward singled home Wells and Hinske doubled in Myers.

That kept the Orioles from their first four-game sweep of the Blue Jays in 24 years. Instead, after blowing a 3-0 lead, Baltimore (39-46) had to settle for its first series victory over Toronto (48-41) in 13 series dating to June 2001. The loss was also the first in five games this month for the Orioles, who head to Seattle today and won’t return home until July 17.

Orioles starter Rodrigo Lopez hit major-league RBI leader Carlos Delgado to lead off the Toronto second, and after Tom Wilson whiffed, Hinske laced a double to left-center. Delgado looked like he would score, but Luis Matos got to the ball quickly, and shortstop Cruz’s relay throw to catcher Gil nailed Delgado.

Lopez got out of more trouble in the third. Singles by Howie Clark and Stewart put runners on the corners with one out. However, Clark held at third on Johnson’s shallow fly to left, and Wells bounced sharply to third.

A throwing error by second baseman Clark scored Matos in the fourth, and Cruz’s 11th homer leading off the fifth gave the Orioles a 2-0 lead against 6-foot-9 right-hander Mark Hendrickson. American League batting leader Melvin Mora (.361) celebrated his first All-Star selection with his 13th homer, a shot down the left-field line that made it 3-0 in the sixth.

Hinske, who beat out Lopez as the 2002 AL rookie of the year, spoiled the 27-year-old Mexican’s shutout bid with a 409-foot homer to center leading off the seventh. Lopez struck out eight and scattered six hits in seven innings before giving way to reliever Hector Carrasco. The lead was still 3-1 when Carrasco turned the game over to Julio.

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