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Orioles Bury Blue Jays With 6 Runs In the Eighth

Orioles 13, Blue Jays 5

By Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 23, 2005; Page D01

TORONTO, April 22 -- Lee Mazzilli has seen teams struggle offensively in his many years in baseball, and what his Baltimore Orioles did this week was not slump, he was certain of that. They had faced two outstanding pitchers in two shutout losses against the Boston Red Sox and any lineup that had Miguel Tejada, Melvin Mora and Sammy Sosa was surely ready to strike at any moment, the manager told anyone who dared use the word "drought."

In one mighty inning on Friday, the Baltimore Orioles put to rest any thoughts they were mired in an offensive slump. In the eighth inning of Baltimore's 13-5 win over the Toronto Blue Jays, the Orioles scored six runs in the manner in which the team's powerful and versatile offense is capable: with sharp singles, broken bat singles, a home run, a deep sacrifice fly and a walk. In one short moment, a close game -- Baltimore trailed, 5-4, heading into the inning -- was turned into a rout. Eleven Orioles batted in the inning. Six players scored. Melvin Mora had two RBI.

Rafael Palmeiro, left, greets Javy Lopez after scoring on Lopez's homer in the 4th. The O's snapped a 22-inning scoreless spell with 17 hits. (Frank Gunn -- AP)

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Baltimore's brief offensive drought -- spanning 22 consecutive scoreless innings -- ended in the second inning. The game essentially ended in the eighth.

"I'm glad to see it back," Mazzilli said. "Tonight it was pretty impressive what they did."

The Orioles scored three more runs on a home run by Jay Gibbons, who drove in five runs, in the ninth. By the end of the night, every Oriole had reached base and seven of the nine in the lineup had at least two hits. Javy Lopez reached base four times and scored each time.

"We were bound to break out," Gibbons said. "We had some good at-bats. We got a bit of luck, too."

The onslaught saved Orioles starter Daniel Cabrera from a second loss. The Orioles may be baffled by Cabrera's continuing struggles, but they had not squirmed so much on Friday night as when Tejada stumbled to the ground after crossing first base in the eighth inning and lay there in pain for several moments. Suddenly, Cabrera's ongoing problems didn't seem so bad.

"Everybody stopped breathing for a second," Gibbons said. "He's our leader. Fortunately, he was just clumsy and not hurt."

Tejada, who has played in 772 consecutive games, was fine. Cabrera might not be.

In his fourth start of the season, Cabrera gave more cause for concern. He does not appear able to consistently throw strikes. Cabrera certainly throws hard -- his fastball was clocked at a high of 97 mph -- but he sometimes has trouble controlling the location.

Both Toronto rallies against Cabrera started with walks.

"That's the thing you can't let happen," Mazzilli said. "Those are the things that can get under your skin."

Cabrera almost handed the Blue Jays the win in the sixth. The inning began with a walk to Eric Hinske, who proceeded to steal second and third. Cabrera paid no attention to Hinske, who in his four-year major league career had 11 stolen bases prior to Friday's sixth inning. Hinske scored what at the time was the go-ahead run on a groundout.

Cabrera, 23, is agonizing to watch. One moment he strikes out a batter with a wicked slider then the next moment he walks a batter on five pitches. On the same night he set a career high with seven strikeouts, Cabrera matched a career high with six walks and raised his ERA to 7.65.

"The ball moved too much today maybe," Cabrera said. "I'm close to being really good. The last two games I had one bad inning. I'm close."

With the bases loaded in the sixth, Mazzilli called upon Todd Williams, who has been superb this season. Williams struck out Shea Hillenbrand and then pitched a scoreless seventh inning for the win.

"That was a big part of the game for us," Gibbons said.

Williams has not allowed a run this season in 8 2/3 innings. He also pitched 10 scoreless innings in spring training.

"He's been outstanding," Mazzilli said. "You always want somebody to bridge that gap. He's very valuable."

Williams said he's only doing what has been asked of him, which is to keep the game close.

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