Day or Night, It's All Right for Orioles
Starters Strong in Sweep of Devil Rays: Orioles 4-8, Devil Rays 2-2
By Eli Saslow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 6, 2004; Page D01
BALTIMORE, July 5 -- The Baltimore Orioles feared playing 18 innings Monday might devastate them. With a wounded roster and a weary pitching staff, they hoped to survive -- not thrive -- during a split doubleheader.
"Bad timing," Manager Lee Mazzilli mused Monday morning. "This day could give us some long-term problems."
Instead, it gave Baltimore a rare reason for optimism.
The Orioles beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 4-2 in the afternoon and 8-2 at night at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Monday, turning a potentially disastrous day into one of this season's high points. Solid relief pitching, reliable defense and rare clutch hitting complemented strong outings from starters Daniel Cabrera and Dave Borkowski.
Afterward, the Orioles' clubhouse buzzed with a positivism rarely seen in teams eight games under .500. Instead of bemoaning playing 16 games in the last 15 days, Baltimore players talked excitedly about recent wins.
"We've won six of our last nine now," said outfielder Tim Raines Jr. "That's something special."
"These were full-team wins," said Jerry Hairston, who had four hits and scored four runs in the second game. "We did everything right. Things are coming together."
For a day at least, the Orioles' problems melted away. They came through with clutch hits in the late innings of Game 1 and made sure they wouldn't need to do that again by blowing out the Devil Rays early in Game 2.
They laid claim to the two-game sweep in the first inning of the night game.
The first four Orioles to bat against Tampa Bay's Jeremi Gonzalez, a Class AAA call-up, got hits. Baltimore scored three runs in the first inning, establishing a game-long habit of battering Gonzalez.
They scored five more runs on a total of 14 hits -- the most ever allowed by a Tampa Bay starter -- before chasing Gonzalez from the game after the sixth inning.
Fellow recent call-up Borkowski, making his first start as an Oriole, performed considerably better. Borkowski gave up six hits and two runs -- back-to-back homers in the ninth -- in eight-plus innings. He threw 106 pitches and gave the bullpen a much-needed rest before exiting to a standing ovation.
"I just felt perfect," said Borkowski, who the Orioles planned to send back down to Class AAA after the game but will now keep for at least one more start. "I had everything working for me. This is about as good as I can feel."
It was every bit a worthy encore to Cabrera's outing in Game 1. The rookie's dominance has become so routine his teammates now expect it. He allowed two runs on four hits in six-plus innings Monday, but nobody blinked. Never mind that he's 23 and had never pitched above Class A before this season, Cabrera is relied upon like an ace.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company