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WEEKEND: There's nothing artificial about the Orioles' problems on turf


KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Cal Ripken is in the right place to brea a mini-slump, but the same can't be said for the Orioles, who are trying to snap out of a season-long trance.

Ripken has gone hitless in three straight games for the first timthis year, but artificial surfaces such as the one in Royals Stadium have been good to him in his career. Despite last night's 0-for-4, Ripken is hitting .487 on fake grass this year (19-for-39) and .310 for his career (285-for-920).

However, through the years the Orioles have suffered on thhard floors. They are 3-7 so far this year and they have had losing records on artificial turf in six of the last seven years. Overall they have only a 43-61 record in Royals Stadium.

That's not very encouraging for a team already 18 games unde.500 (23-41) and facing three more games against the Royals here this weekend.

Jose Mesa (4-7, 5.24), who hasn't been effective for a month, hathe task of trying to stop the Orioles' latest losing streak (three games). The righthander faces Mark Gubicza (3-3, 3.83) as the series continues tonight at 8:35.

Tomorrow (8:05) it will be Bob Milacki (2-2, 4.84) against ToGordon (4-4, 3.68). Sunday afternoon (2:35) Roy Smith (3-1, 4.99) faces Kevin Appier (4-7, 4.26). All three games will be televised by Channel 2.

The Orioles still are looking for their first win against the Royalswho won the first three games between the teams last week in Baltimore. And while the Orioles continue their struggle to get out of last place (they trail Cleveland by a game), the Royals (32-32) will be trying to get back over the .500 mark.

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