- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 15, 2008

BALTIMORE (AP) — Kevin Millar finally fulfilled his role as a cleanup hitter, and Matt Albers stepped out of the bullpen to fill a void in the starting rotation. Together, they carried the surprising Baltimore Orioles to another home victory.

“The team’s back on track,” said Millar, who homered and had three RBI in Baltimore’s 4-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays last night.

Millar went 3-for-22 during a road trip in which Baltimore lost four of six. Serving as the No. 4 hitter in the lineup since the offseason trade of Miguel Tejada, he was batting .227 with one home run and four RBI before hitting cleanup against Toronto.

After tying the game with a first-inning RBI single, Millar hit a two-run homer off Dustin McGowan (0-1) in the fifth to put the Orioles ahead 3-1.

“The guy had a 96, 97 mile per hour fastball,” Millar said. “He was pounding me in. I was sitting on a breaking ball — it seems like with runners in scoring position he always went to that — and I got one.”

That sent the Orioles to their sixth straight home win and enabled Baltimore to break a first-place tie with Toronto in the AL East.

Albers (2-0) allowed one run, five hits and a walk in five innings to earn his first AL win. Obtained in the deal that sent Tejada to Houston, Albers started 18 games last season but began his first season with Baltimore in the bullpen.

The right-hander pitched 61/3 scoreless innings of relief before receiving a spot start because of a doubleheader last week. He was 3-13 lifetime as a starter with Houston, including 3-11 last season, but on this night he did precisely what was required.

“We were satisfied with what he did for us,” manager Dave Trembley said.

Jim Johnson pitched 21/3 innings of two-hit relief, Jamie Walker and Chad Bradford each got an out in the eighth and George Sherrill worked the ninth to earn his sixth save in six tries.

Adam Jones tied a career high with three hits for the Orioles, now 6-1 at Camden Yards.

“I am here for whatever the team needs,” Albers said. “I’ll probably be back in the bullpen the next couple days, and I will be ready to go. I’m just trying to help this team win. That’s the main thing.”

Alex Rios had a pinch-hit, two-run homer in the ninth — the first runs this season against Sherrill — and Vernon Wells had two hits and an RBI for the Blue Jays, who were coming off a three-game sweep of Texas.

“They outpitched us, outplayed us and outhit us,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “But we hung tough. We made a run. We made a scare.”

McGowan gave up three runs and 10 hits in six innings. Although he worked out of several jams, the right-hander paid dearly for his poor pitch to Millar.

“I just hung a curveball. That’s all you can say about that one,” McGowan said. “He crushed it.”

McGowan is 0-3 in seven career appearances against Baltimore and owns a 7.45 ERA at Camden Yards.

“I guess you could say they hit me pretty well,” he said. “I guess everybody’s got a team like that.”

After Wells hit a two-out RBI single in the first inning for Toronto, Millar singled in a run in the bottom half. The score remained tied until Millar connected in the fifth after a two-out walk to Nick Markakis.

Ramon Hernandez added a sacrifice fly in the eighth.

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