- The Washington Times - Friday, October 1, 2004

BALTIMORE — With four games left in their season, the Baltimore Orioles are still within reach of a meaningful goal.

They can’t make the playoffs and are locked into third place in the AL East, yet the Orioles can avoid a seventh straight losing season by winning their final four games against the visiting Boston Red Sox.

“Getting to .500 would be a huge steppingstone for next season,” outfielder David Newhan said after Baltimore beat the Toronto Blue Jays 9-3 last night. “It would be a nice capper to the season.”

Miguel Tejada homered and drove in three runs to boost his major league-leading RBI total to 146, and the Orioles (77-81) rebounded from an early 3-0 deficit to get within four games of .500 for the first time since Aug.17.

Tejada’s 146 RBI are second-most in major league history by a shortstop behind Vern Stephens’ 159 for Boston in 1949. Tejada has four homers and 15 RBI in his last eight games.

Newhan, Larry Bigbie and Jay Gibbons also homered for the Orioles, who have won seven of eight.

“To stay focused, play hard and be hungry the way we are, that’s impressive to me,” Baltimore manager Lee Mazzilli said.

Carlos Delgado and Frank Menechino connected for the last-place Blue Jays, who fell a season-high 28 games under .500 at 65-93. Toronto, which closes the season with a three-game homestand against the New York Yankees, finished 27-53 on the road.

Blue Jays starter Josh Towers (9-8) allowed four runs and six hits in two-plus innings, his shortest outing of the year. The right-hander, who pitched for the Orioles in 2001 and 2002, is 0-4 in five decisions since beating Baltimore twice in succession last month.

“It’s been a roller coaster of a season,” Towers said. “Bad, great, then terrible. Highs and lows, decent for a little while. But they look at how you finish, so I’m terrible.”

Towers has already won more games than ever before, but he’s gone five weeks without a victory. Toronto interim manager John Gibbons said he might use Towers on Sunday in the finale against the Yankees.

“He’s been looking for that 10th win and it’s been hard for him to get,” Gibbons said. “Maybe Sunday there will be a chance he can get that.”

Matt Riley (3-4) gave up three runs and three hits in five innings. He went 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA in three starts against Toronto this season.

Delgado gave the Blue Jays a 1-0 lead in the second inning with his 32nd homer, the second in two days. In the third, Menechino hit a solo shot and Riley walked two straight batters before Delgado singled in a run.

But Riley retired the side in order in the fourth and fifth while the Orioles took control.

“That’s encouraging to see, when you lose it and then get it back,” Mazzilli said. “That’s a sign of maturity.”

The Orioles went up 4-3 in their half of the third. After Newhan and Melvin Mora hit RBI singles, Tejada chased Towers with a two-run double.

Baltimore added a run in the fourth against Ryan Glynn when Gibbons walked, took second on a single by Bigbie and scored on a grounder by Newhan.

Tejada led off the fifth with his 33rd home run, an opposite-field shot to right that made it 6-3, and Bigbie opened the sixth with his 15th homer.

Gibbons and Newhan connected in the eighth against Miguel Batista.

Notes — Baltimore catcher Javy Lopez fouled a pitch off his ankle in the second inning and left the game for a precautionary X-ray. … Baltimore won the season series 11-8. … Toronto did not have a winning record on any road trip this year. … Tejada’s third-inning double was the Orioles’ club-record 312th of the season. His homer was the Orioles’ club-record 1,572nd hit of the year.

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