Milacki, Orioles hit upon success formula, 7-2 Starter goes 8 2/3 , backed by big bats

THE BALTIMORE SUN

CLEVELAND -- The hits just kept on coming last night. The Baltimore Orioles averaged a dozen per game on a seven-game swing through the two gulags of the American League, closing out their most successful trip of the season with a 7-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians.

They hammered the last-place club from each division. Now they must prove they can do it against a real team.

The Boston Red Sox, who arrive at Memorial Stadium tonight to open a three-game series, don't figure to be so accommodating, but the Orioles appear to be on a major roll.

Right-hander Bob Milacki enjoyed the luxury of a 15-hit Orioles attack, but much of it was overkill on a night when he worked 8 2/3 innings and scattered 10 hits to win his third straight decision.

First baseman Randy Milligan had four singles and three RBI to lead the assault that carried the club to its fifth victory on the trip. Streaking Cal Ripken added three hits and Bob Melvin reached base four times, as the Orioles piled up at least 15 hits for the third time in the past five games.

In those games, dating back to the first game of the doubleheader sweep in Kansas City on Sunday, the Orioles have 73 hits -- or an average of 14.6 per game. Milligan had 13 hits in 23 at-bats during that five-game stretch.

"I think a lot of it has to do with Milligan," manager John Oates said. "He's the guy who has really picked it up for us. Cal's been there all year. Devereaux has been pretty consistent. But we knew Randy Milligan is no .220 hitter. I've said that all along."

Milacki (4-2) stayed with the game plan that brought him so much success his last time out. He threw strikes and stayed ahead of the hitters, nearly going the distance without giving up a walk. He finally walked a batter with two out in the ninth to end a string of 18 1/3 walkless innings.

"I'm just consistently in the strike zone," Milacki said. "I've really found my mechanics. I've decided to work my fastball on both sides of the plate and use my changeup more. That's what got me to the big leagues and that's what I'm back to doing now."

He was coming off an eight-inning performance against the Kansas City Royals in which he pitched to just one batter over the minimum and gave up just three hits. He wasn't quite as sharp last night, but no one was complaining after another solid start.

Milacki allowed a run on three straight singles in the first, but settled down to work into the ninth before the Indians scored a run and loaded the bases to necessitate Gregg Olson's 14th save of the year.

The Orioles scored a run in the first on a double by Cal Ripken and the first of three RBI singles by Milligan. They added three more on four straight hits with no one out in the third and another three to break the game open in the sixth.

Milligan singled in his first four at-bats as he continued to battle back from a slow start. He was batting .211 entering a series against the Indians at Memorial Stadium one month ago, but has raised his average to .267 with a 26-game run in which he has batted .323 with five homers and 21 RBI.

"You can officially put this down, Moose is in a groove," hitting coach Tom McCraw said.

The difference is not easy to detect, but Milligan said that he has made some subtle changes in his batting stance over the past few weeks.

"I feel a lot more comfortable now," he said. "The last few games I feel like I'm in a stance where I feel very comfortable. I'm not pulling my shoulder off the ball like I had been."

Indians rookie Jeff Mutis is trying to establish himself in the Cleveland rotation, but he has not had a lot of success. He entered the game with a 12.27 ERA after his first two major league starts and gave up six earned runs over five innings on the way to his third straight loss.

The four consecutive Orioles hits in the third had the Indians bullpen stirring. Mike Devereaux drove a solid triple up the alley in right-center and scored on a single through the middle by Bill Ripken. Cal Ripken followed with his second double of the game and scored on an opposite-field single by Milligan. Mutis retired the next three batters in order, but another run crossed the plate on a ground out by Leo Gomez.

The 24-year-old left-hander finally gave way to veteran reliever Jesse Orosco after the Orioles put runners at first and third with no one out in the sixth. Orosco served up run-scoring base hits to the first two batters he faced and allowed another run to cross the plate on a long sacrifice fly by Gomez.

The Indians had bolstered their offensive lineup earlier in the day when they traded knuckle-baller Tom Candiotti and outfielder Turner Ward to the Toronto Blue Jays for outfielders Glenallen Hill and Mark Whiten and pitcher Denis Boucher. But the new additions did not have an immediate impact.

Cleveland gave up the winningest pitcher in the starting rotation, but Candiotti was headed for free agency this winter and the Indians did not intend to re-sign him.

"It looks like the direction both teams are going," Oates said, evaluating the trade from the other clubhouse. "Toronto got a quality big-league starter who is going to win and Cleveland got a lot of good young players."

Orioles-Indians scoring

Orioles first: Devereaux flied out to left fielder Hill. B. Ripken lined out to right fielder Whiten. C. Ripken doubled down the left field line. Milligan singled to center, C. Ripken scored. Gomez grounded into fielder's choice, shortstop Lewis to second baseman Browne, Milligan forced at second. 1 run, 2 hits, 0 errors, 1 left on. Orioles 1, Indians 0.

Indians first: Cole struck out. Browne singled to center. Baerga singled to right, Browne to second. Belle singled to left, Browne scored, Baerga to third. Whiten struck out; Belle stole second. Alomar lined out to center fielder Devereaux. 1 run, 3 hits, 0 errors, 2 left on. Indians 1, Orioles 1.

Orioles third: Devereaux tripled to right-center. B. Ripken singled to center, Devereaux scored. C. Ripken doubled down the left field line, B. Ripken to third. Milligan singled to right, B. Ripken scored, C. Ripken to third. Gomez grounded out to pitcher Mutis, C. Ripken scored, Milligan to second. Hoiles flied out to right fielder Whiten. Segui grounded out to second baseman Browne. 3 runs, 4 hits, 0 errors, 1 left on. Orioles 4, Indians 1.

Orioles sixth: Devereaux doubled to left. B. Ripken safe on sacrifice plus fielder's choice, Devereaux to third. Orosco relieved Mutis. C. Ripken singled to center, Devereaux scored, B. Ripken to third. Milligan singled to center, B. Ripken scored, C. Ripken to second; on center fielder Cole's fielding error, C. Ripken to third. Gomez hit sacrifice fly to left fielder Hill, C. Ripken scored. Hoiles lined out to center fielder Cole. Segui doubled down the left-field line, Milligan to third. Melvin intentionally walked. Anderson struck out. 3 runs, 4 hits, 1 error, 3 left on. Orioles 7, Indians 1.

Indians ninth: Whiten doubled to left center. Alomar grounded out to first baseman Milligan, Whiten to third. James grounded out to shortstop C. Ripken, Whiten scored. Hill singled to third. Lewis singled to center, Hill to third. Cole walked, Lewis to second. Olson relieved Milacki. Browne grounded into fielder's choice, second baseman B. Ripken to shortstop C. Ripken, Cole forced at second. 1 run, 3 hits, 0 errors, 3 left on. Orioles 7, Indians 2.

@

Orioles tonight

Site: Memorial Stadium

Time: 7:35

Red Sox starter: Greg Harris (3-7, 4.42)

Orioles starter: Jose Mesa (4-7, 5.25)

Radio: WBAL (1090 AM), WTOP (1500 AM)

TV: HTS

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