Orioles 13, Royals 4
-- For all Chad Mottola knows, June was a glorious month for the Baltimore Orioles -- full of offensive fireworks, dazzling pitching performances and blowout wins. For all Mottola knows, every game has been just like his Orioles debut, a 13-4 victory Wednesday night over the Kansas City Royals, in which Mottola's three-run homer was the defining moment.
In reality, Mottola knows nothing about the trials and tribulations of these last 30 days, in which the Orioles lost 19 games, a pitching coach and a great deal of hope.
"I see a lot of progress," Orioles Manager and eternal optimist Lee Mazzilli said, putting forth the company line, "especially in the last week. I feel very good about the direction we're going."
But as June comes to an end, the Orioles' season is no longer about contending. It is no longer about the infusion of talented and expensive hitters this winter that was supposed to have transformed the franchise, or about the young left-handed pitchers who would form the core of its rotation for years.
This season is now about players such as journeymen Mottola and David Newhan, and emerging rookie Daniel Cabrera -- none of whom was on the roster six weeks ago. Together, that trio helped put an exclamation point on a month the team would otherwise rather forget.
Mottola, a 32-year-old in his ninth major league organization, smashed a towering three-run homer off lefty Brian Anderson to break open the game in the third inning. It was his first homer in the majors in nearly eight years.
"It feels like about 20," he said when the eight-year span was noted. "A couple of guys [asked] if it was my first. I said, 'No, I've been around a while.' "
How long ago was Mottola's last big league homer? So long ago that the pitcher who gave it up was Fernando Valenzuela.
Newhan, who joined the team on June 18 after a two-year absence from the majors, added a two-run homer in the fifth, and has hit safely in all 12 games he has played with the Orioles.
And Cabrera, a 23-year-old phenom who had never pitched above low Class A before this season, improved his record to 5-3 with seven effective innings.
So the Orioles closed the books on a lousy month -- their 8-19 record, which included no consecutive wins, was the worst in the league (and a mere 121/2 games worse than division rival Tampa Bay's June mark) -- with an overpowering performance.
Few are the teams that the Orioles (32-42) can look down upon with pity, but the Royals (29-46) are one of them.
Their punchless lineup managed three hits in seven innings against Cabrera, while Anderson lost his eighth consecutive decision, a Sydney Ponsonian streak that was put on hiatus for the last month as Anderson was exiled to the bullpen.
One of Mazzilli's wackiest lineups of the season -- with Melvin Mora back at third base, Mottola in right field, shortstop Miguel Tejada batting cleanup and veteran first baseman Rafael Palmeiro on the bench -- pummeled Anderson and four of his bullpen buddies.
Catcher Javy Lopez had four of the Orioles' hits and scored three of the team's 13 runs, which tied a season high.
Anderson's night began with Orioles leadoff man Brian Roberts reaching on a throwing error by shortstop Angel Berroa, leading to a five-run first inning, and ended with a three-run homer by Mottola -- who was making his Orioles debut -- three batters into the third inning. The beating left Anderson's ERA at a hefty 7.16.
Mottola came to the Orioles on a hot streak -- he had homered in three straight games for Class AAA Ottawa this week before the Orioles purchased his contract on Tuesday, and all seven of his Ottawa homers came this month -- and he stayed hot.
In the time it took Mottola's mammoth blast to rise and fall on the grassy field in left field -- an estimated 419 feet away and barely short of a gleaming Dodge SUV that would have belonged to a fan in attendance had it been hit -- he could have signed with and been released by two more teams.
Meantime, Cabrera solidified his standing as the team's most trustworthy and exciting starting pitcher, contributing seven effective innings despite an acute lack of command (five walks, one batter hit, a wild pitch and only 55 strikes among his 105 pitches).
"He has been reliable," Mazzilli said. "When a guy comes up from Double-A, you don't know what to expect. I think he feels more sure of himself."
Working with a five-run lead before he took the mound, Cabrera held the Royals hitless through four innings, barely survived an unsightly fifth inning that saw him issue a pair of bases-loaded walks, then settled back down to navigate safely through the seventh.
Even with the early lead, Cabrera said, "I still [pitched] like it was 0-0 -- try to throw strikes and get outs."
Orioles Notes: Lefty Eric Dubose was examined Wednesday in Birmingham by surgeon James Andrews, and will have arthroscopic surgery Thursday to remove bone chips in his left elbow. He is expected to be out six to eight weeks. . . .
Before the game, the Royals fired pitching coach Jon Cumberland and replaced him on an interim basis with minor league pitching coordinator Mike Mason. The Royals' ERA of 4.96 ranked next-to-last in the league, ahead of the Orioles -- who fired their pitching coach, Mark Wiley, on Saturday. . . .
Palmeiro's night off comes at a time when his batting average has fallen to .245, the result of a 9-for-61 (.148) stretch in 17 games.