- The Washington Times - Monday, May 10, 2004

BALTIMORE — Maybe it was Mother’s Day, or maybe it was the 1954 uniforms the teams wore again yesterday to commemorate the Orioles’ 50 years in Baltimore.

Whatever the reason, both the Orioles and Cleveland Indians seemed to have their minds on anything but baseball at times on a beautiful afternoon before 35,778 at Camden Yards.

Fortunately for the Orioles, the one guy whose head — and heart — always seems to be in the game saved a sloppy 12-11 win for Baltimore. Miguel Tejada had two home runs and four RBI and made two key plays in the field, all of which covered up a lot of bad baseball as Baltimore completed a three-game sweep of the Indians for the first time since 1993.

Tejada has hit well — .339 — but not for power in his first season with the Orioles. He began yesterday’s game with just two home runs and hadn’t hit one since April 24 against Toronto’s Pat Hentgen. But he may have found his home run stroke with the two blasts yesterday — a two-run shot in the fifth inning that tied the game at 6-6 and the second one an inning later, a two-run, 413-foot line drive into the Cleveland bullpen that propelled the Orioles to a four-run inning and a 10-8 lead. Tejada hit at least two home runs in a game for the sixth time in his career and has 160 overall.

“I think [my power] is coming on,” Tejada said. “I’ve been working a lot on my hitting.”

But his glove made a difference as well yesterday. With the Orioles clinging to a 10-9 lead in the seventh inning, the shortstop threw home on a ground ball with the bases loaded and no one out to get the force play at the plate. Then, Ronnie Belliard grounded back to reliever Rodrigo Lopez (3-1), who threw home to Javy Lopez, who in turn went to first to get Belliard on the inning-ending double play.

Tejada came through again in the ninth, when he went deep into the hole to snare a ground ball and nail Alex Escobar at first base for the second out of the inning. The Indians scored two runs in the inning to cut the Orioles’ lead to 12-11 before closer Jorge Julio got Victor Martinez to pop up to second for the final out, but Tejada helped limit the damage.

“When you are a winner, you do things like that,” Mazzilli said of Tejada’s play in the field.

Tejada’s big day helped the Orioles raise their record to 16-12, including 11-8 at home. They are off today, then travel to Chicago for a three-game series against the White Sox. The Orioles return home Friday for a three-game series against the Anaheim Angels.

The shortstop’s play also helped mask a lot of bad baseball by the Orioles, including left fielder Larry Bigbie’s brain cramp in the third inning. Bigbie soft-tossed the ball to the infield after Belliard singled to left with runners on second and third and nobody out. Escobar scored on the hit, but Bigbie’s miscue allowed John McDonald to come home as well, and Bigbie was charged with an error.

The mistakes weren’t just in the field. Tejada led off the third with a single to left. Rafael Palmeiro then walked, and Jay Gibbons followed with a double to right, scoring Tejada and moving Palmeiro to third. But Gibbons got caught off second in a rundown on B.J. Surhoff’s ground ball, which the Indians turned into an inning-ending double play.

Then, there was the pitching — seven Orioles pitchers, starting with Eric DuBose, gave up 15 hits and 10 earned runs. The Baltimore bullpen has been the salvation of an erratic young starting rotation, but it appears to be in serious danger of collapsing.

“We can’t go on like this the whole year,” Mazzilli said. “You’re going to wear out the bullpen or the manager, one of the two.”

The manager wasn’t worn out yesterday, but he was a little shook up.

“You saw a lot of good baseball out there today, and you saw a lot of bad baseball out there today,” he said. “You saw it all. But when you come away with a win, that’s a good thing.”

Note — The Orioles will activate second baseman Jerry Hairston tomorrow and send outfielder Darnell McDonald, the club’s first-round draft pick in 1997, back to Class AAA Ottawa. McDonald had four hits in 13 at-bats.

Hairston, who began the season on the disabled list after fracturing the knuckle on his right ring finger March 4 in spring training, has been on a rehabilitation assignment with Class AA Bowie. Hairston was the Orioles’ starting second baseman in 2003 before breaking his foot in May and missing most of the season. He was leading the club with a .287 average and the American League with 14 stolen bases before he was hurt.

His presence puts Mazzilli in a difficult situation. Brian Roberts has been outstanding at second base for Baltimore, batting .315 with 15 stolen bases in the leadoff spot. Mazzilli said he will start Hairston at designated hitter tomorrow against Chicago. However, it appears likely one of them — at this point Hairston — eventually will become trade bait for starting pitching.


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