Orioles 10, Rangers 5
There were more smiles on the Baltimore Orioles' faces Friday night than there had been in a solid month, and more runs on the scoreboard than there had been in a solid two. Could it really have been this easy -- fire the manager, promote the bench coach, watch all your troubles melt away? If so, everyone ought to try it.
A 10-5 win over the Texas Rangers in front of 37,296 at Ameriquest Field kept Sam Perlozzo's record a perfect 2-0 as Orioles manager. And if the fired Lee Mazzilli were watching back home in Connecticut, he would have sworn somebody had also fired his moribund players and given Perlozzo new, fresh ones.
"I saw some real signs of life tonight," Perlozzo said, "that we hadn't seen here in awhile."
The Orioles (53-56), who led by 10 runs after four innings, have won two straight under Perlozzo after dropping their last eight under Mazzilli. They had not enjoyed back-to-back wins since mid-July, and had not posted a double-digit run total in a game since June 4.
A new manager always has the inherent advantage of the players' heightened focus in the midst of such a tumultuous shakeup, and such shakeups inevitably occur, as this one did to some degree, because the players had stopped "responding" to the manager.
However, Mazzilli would be justified in asking where performances such as Friday night's were when he was at the helm of the Orioles' sinking ship.
For starters, left-hander Bruce Chen had not won a decision in four weeks and had not pitched past the fifth inning in a game in three weeks. But Friday night, against one of the most dangerous lineups in baseball, Chen transformed back into the crafty southpaw who went 5-2 in the season's first two months.
"I would've liked [to have seen] a better ball-strike ratio" from Chen, Perlozzo said. Chen threw 59 strikes among his 110 pitches. "But I thought he battled well in the heat."
Chen (8-6) carried a shutout and a 10-run lead into the sixth inning, gave up a pair of homers in that frame to Mark Teixeira and Hank Blalock, but still emerged with his first win since July 9.
Jay Gibbons and Brian Roberts each contributed two-run homers during a six-run third inning that broke open the game. But success on this night was measured in the smaller things, such as hitters running hard to first base on ground balls.
"That was good to see," Perlozzo said. "That's the way I like to play."
And then there were all the fortunate breaks, the ones that had not gone the Orioles' way in weeks.
In the second inning, Chris Gomez's sinking liner to right turned into a stand-up double when Rangers right fielder Mark DeRosa, a converted infielder, made an ill-advised dive at it.
A dribbler past the mound by the next hitter, Luis Matos, turned into a two-run single when shortstop Hank Blalock tried to make a barehanded grab and overran the ball -- perhaps the biggest play of the game.
In the fourth inning, a routine fly to left by B.J. Surhoff turned into a double when left fielder Kevin Mench lost the ball in the lights, and Sammy Sosa followed that with a two-run single up the middle that made it 6-0.
"This is still a great lineup, and a team that won a ton of games in the first half of the season," said left fielder Eric Byrnes. "Everyone here knows we have the talent to win."
Before the game, Perlozzo, who is still short a bench coach until one can be hired, was hit with his first lineup crisis when third baseman Melvin Mora had to be scratched because of a sore ankle.
Mora, however, is not expected to miss significant time.