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New-look Orioles streak past A's for 3rd in row, 2-1


The Orioles had a new look when they returned to Camden Yards last night. They had a new leadoff hitter and a couple of new players in the clubhouse and even a new twist, a modest winning streak.

That, and their three Texas transplants -- Kevin Brown, Kevin Bass and Rafael Palmeiro -- carried them to their third straight victory, a 2-1 triumph over the Oakland Athletics that hoisted the Orioles out of the American League East cellar.

Brown gave up five hits over eight innings to score his fifth victory of the year, but the decision was very much in doubt until the Orioles eighth. Bass opened it with a pinch single off reliever Rick Honeycutt. Rookie center fielder and new leadoff man Curtis Goodwin -- who had two hits in his major-league debut -- bunted pinch runner Manny Alexander to second and Palmeiro dropped a soft line drive into center field two outs later to break a tie that had stood since the first inning.

Closer Doug Jones did the rest, retiring the heart of the A's lineup in order in the ninth to register his seventh save.

"Things are starting to turn," said Palmeiro, who also accounted for the first Orioles run with an RBI single, "but I don't think we're there yet offensively. We're not clicking yet."

Palmeiro was saying just before the game that the time had come for the club to assert itself and take advantage of the fact that the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays also have been unable to make a move in the upside-down AL East standings.

The Orioles took a step in the right direction last night when they leapfrogged the Yankees and moved into fourth place. They remain seven games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox.

"It's time," Palmeiro said. "We haven't played that bad, but we're not over the top. We need to get over the hump. I think the Yankees are going to be the team to reckon with, but Boston has built a big enough lead that they are going to be tough. That's a good team."

Manager Phil Regan also is pleased with the way the club turned up the intensity at the end of a long road trip and opened a 10-game homestand with a well-played, one-run victory.

"I think we're kind of coming together as a team," Regan said. "You can feel it. In the comments they make and the way they talk in the dugout. There's a pretty good spirit on this club."

It was a happy ending to a tumultuous day. The Orioles opened the homestand with a series of roster moves, placing Andy Van Slyke on the disabled list and optioning an unhappy Damon Buford to the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings to make room for Goodwin and catcher Cesar Devarez.

Regan immediately shook up the starting lineup by inserting Goodwin in the leadoff spot and dropping everyday leadoff hitter Brady Anderson into the second slot.

It didn't take long for Regan's revamped lineup to generate some excitement, if only for an inning. The A's took the early lead on a seeing-eye RBI single by Ruben Sierra in the top of the first inning, but Goodwin jump-started the Orioles' offense in his first major-league at-bat.

He scraped a single through the right side of the infield and may have gotten the earliest career standing ovation in baseball history. He tipped his cap and then stole second base, immediately vindicating the organizational decision to go for speed instead of power (Mark Smith) when the Orioles shuffled their roster.

Anderson, who didn't complain about being bumped down in the order, tried unsuccessfully to sacrifice Goodwin to third, but Palmeiro followed with a line shot into the left-field corner to tie the game.

That wasn't the only Kodak moment for Goodwin. He delivered a sharp liner into right center for his second hit of the game in the third inning, giving him as many hits in his first two at-bats as friend and former Rochester teammate Buford had in 32 at-bats this year at the major-league level. Goodwin also laid down the perfect sacrifice bunt to advance Alexander in the decisive eighth inning.

Despite Goodwin's promising start, the Orioles' offense didn't exactly explode.

A's starter Steve Ontiveros, who led the American League in ERA last year, apparently was no short-season wonder. He came into the game on a 5-1 roll and pitched a solid 6 2/3 innings before leaving with shoulder stiffness in the bottom of the seventh.

That was just what the A's didn't need. Ontiveros has been -- by far -- Oakland's steadiest starting pitcher, and the club is pitching hurt with Dave Stewart hobbled by a groin-muscle strain.

Brown (5-2) also has been impressive.

The run he surrendered in the first inning scored on an eight-hopper by Sierra that barely slipped between the Orioles' middle infielders. It was the kind of run that Brown can't do anything about. He's a sinkerball pitcher and he got five ground balls in the first inning.

He went on to give up just three more hits over the next seven innings and kept the ball down in the strike zone so well that the A's hit the ball over the infield only four times in the first seven innings.

"I was thinking out there a little bit tonight," Brown said. "I guess I made some good decisions and we played some really good defense. It was a good one to win."

The Orioles have come to depend heavily on Brown to provide stability in the starting rotation, and he has not disappointed them.

He won four of his first five decisions and has pitched into the seventh inning in each of his seven Orioles starts.

Brown has been particularly effective against the A's, holding them to a run on four hits in a complete-game victory April 23 at the Oakland Coliseum. He has beaten the A's five straight times, dating to Sept. 29, 1992.


Opponent: Oakland Athletics

Site: Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Time: 1:35 p.m.

TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Athletics' Mike Harkey (1-3, 6.00) vs. Orioles' Mike Mussina (3-3, 4.14)

Tickets: 4,500 remain

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