By Marc Carig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 22, 2008
MILWAUKEE -- Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
A few hours before game time, Aubrey Huff surveyed the grounds at Miller Park and declared it could be a good night. Though he has spent most of his career in the American League East, Huff played six games here during his short stint with the Houston Astros in 2006. And though he put up modest numbers then, he remembered just how far a well-hit ball could carry.
"It's a hitter's park," Huff said. "The ball carries pretty good. The batter's eye in the background is pretty good. It's very friendly for the hitters."
So when the Orioles outslugged the slugging Milwaukee Brewers, 8-5, on Friday, guess who was at the middle of it all?
Huff finished 4 for 5, including a pair of solo homers and an RBI single. It was enough support for an Orioles bullpen -- that despite issuing seven walks -- kept the Brewers off the scoreboard for seven innings. George Sherrill capped the effort by enduring a scary ninth inning for his 25th save.
Sherrill allowed an infield hit and walked two to load the bases. But in a show of poise, Sherrill induced a game-ending double play by Gabe Kapler to preserve Baltimore's fourth straight victory, which pushed them four games over the .500 mark for the first time since May 20.
"The National League style of game is two games within one," Orioles Manager Dave Trembley said. "It's the first five or six innings, and then seven, eight and nine get interesting. You have to keep your poise. If you don't, you're going to play right into the fast pace, and that's not what you want to do."
Milwaukee took advantage of the NL rules at its home park. Brewers pitchers twice successfully advanced runners with sacrifice bunts, while Orioles pitchers combined to go 0 for 3 with two strikeouts. The comedic lowlight came when Orioles reliever Lance Cormier took a 2-2 pitch, dropped his bat and jogged to first believing he had drawn a walk.
But aside from that, the Orioles made themselves at home.
Jeff Suppan, Milwaukee's veteran starter, had been most effective at Miller Park, posting 1.67 ERA in six previous starts. But the Orioles got to Suppan early, scoring four runs in the first, an outburst that was aided by his own throwing error. Baltimore then added two in the second to pad a four-run lead.
Suppan left the game to boos after walking Luke Scott to load the bases. His final damage: 1 2/3 innings, seven hits, six runs, three earned.
But misery had plenty of company as Orioles starter Radhamés Liz blew a chance to pitch with a comfortable lead. From the beginning, his command was shaky, and he paid the penalty.
He yielded a two-run shot by J.J. Hardy, the second batter of the game. And in the third, with a three-run lead, Liz gave up another two-run shot, this time to Prince Fielder. Suddenly it was a one-run game and Liz's night was through with an equally awful two-plus innings, five runs, four walks. It was easily his worst outing since his return to the major leagues this season.
"Maybe I didn't believe in myself in the game," Liz said.
But the Orioles' thriving bats and scrappy bullpen bailed him out.
Huff turned in his first multi-homer game since Aug. 21, 2006, at Cincinnati. In his past 10 games, Huff has 5 homers, 11 RBI and a .476 batting average.
"So far this year, it's the best I've felt," said Huff, whose homers pushed the Orioles' lead to three. "It just seems like my timing feels good right now. I'm seeing the ball even if it's an off-speed pitch, and I've been able to lay off the bad pitch."
Pitching with a cushion, Cormier threw two scoreless innings in relief of Liz before Dennis Sarfate got the Orioles in a bases-loaded jam. That's when Jamie Walker stepped in, retiring the dangerous Fielder to end the threat in the sixth.
"I was just wanting to keep him in the park, to be honest with you," said Walker, who combined with fellow veteran Chad Bradford to pitch 2 1/3 scoreless innings. "Once I got two strikes, I tried to get filthy on him and it just worked out."