Orioles steal six bases, run past White Sox, 5-1


CHICAGO -- A handful of Orioles have the green light from manager Phil Regan to run just about any time they want. If they see an opportunity to steal a base, they can go ahead and try.

White Sox pitcher Jason Bere and his slow delivery to the plate, that's opportunity. A rookie catcher, Chris Tremie, that's opportunity. Green lights all over the place, and the Orioles were always on the go, stealing six bases, one short of the team record, in a 5-1 victory over Chicago.

Mike Mussina threw 7 2/3 innings to pick up his ninth win of the year. Rookie center fielder Curtis Goodwin had three hits and two RBIs, and Chris Hoiles fought his way over the Mendoza line, getting two more hits to improve his average to .206.

The Orioles have won three straight from the White Sox, and go for the sweep today in the last game before the All-Star break. Scott Erickson, acquired from the Minnesota Twins on Friday, makes his O's debut.

Speed kills, if a pitcher can't hold runners and his catcher is having trouble throwing -- as was the case with Bere and Tremie. The Orioles were off and running from the start.

Brady Anderson walked to lead off the game and immediately swiped second. Anderson failed to advance past third, but that would be the only time the O's speed would not lead directly to runs.

One out into the second inning, Hoiles doubled and advanced to third when Curtis Goodwin chopped a single down the third base line. Goodwin broke for second base, and as he slid into second, Tremie's throw hit him in the ankle and rolled into left field. Hoiles trotted home, and Goodwin pushed off second baseman Craig Grebeck and scampered to third.

Brady Anderson struck out, but Manny Alexander, who has been the Orioles' top run-producer over the past two weeks, singled to left, driving home Goodwin and giving the Orioles a 2-0 lead. Alexander stole second, his nine stolen base of the year, but Rafael Palmeiro -- in the midst of an 0-for-20 slump that is ongoing -- grounded out to end the inning.

The Orioles were back at it in the third inning.

After Cal Ripken grounded out, the White Sox infield shifted dramatically for Orioles designated hitter Harold Baines. Three infielders on the right-field side of second base, and third baseman Robin Ventura stationed where Ozzie Guillen is usually positioned.

Baines beat the shift, however, by mashing a single through the left side of the infield. Jeffrey Hammonds struck out, but Jeff Huson walked to keep the inning alive for Hoiles.

On Friday, Hoiles hit a three-run homer in the ninth inning to beat the White Sox, a blast which seemed to confirm that he was officially out of his season-long slump. He reaffirmed that with his second-inning double, and then in the third; Hoiles lined a single to left, scoring Baines.

Goodwin followed with another single, driving home Huson with the Orioles' fourth run, and then he stole second -- his 16th steal of the year. Goodwin said in his first days with the Orioles that he could see no reason why he couldn't average a stolen base a game over the final 110 games of the season. Preposterous, of course, but he's on a pace to steal 50. Not bad for someone called up more than a month into the season.

Frank Thomas led off the sixth inning with his 21st homer of the year, drawing the White Sox to within 4-1, but that would be the only time Chicago touched Mussina, who would leave with two outs in the eighth. His final line: eight hits, one walk, four strikeouts and only one run allowed. His nine victories tie him for second in the AL, behind Kansas City's Kevin Appier.

The Orioles continued to run in the seventh inning, their speed providing an insurance run. With two outs, Huson walked and, on the first pitch, he stole second.

White Sox manager Terry Bevington stalked out to the mound and replaced Bere with left-hander Tim Fortugno, and Hoiles was intentionally walked.

That brought the left-handed hitting Goodwin to the plate. He smashed a grounder through the middle, and Huson scored.

The Orioles fell just one stolen base short of the team record, set in 1986. It came as no surprise, then, when Ron Karkovice replaced the beleaguered Tremie at the start of the eighth inning.

Left-hander Jesse Orosco replaced Mussina with a runner on first and two outs in the eighth, and ended the inning by whiffing John Kruk. Then Doug Jones came on to pitch the ninth and protect a four-run lead. The Orioles' closer gave one run back -- Karkovice hit a solo homer -- but Jones finished off the White Sox.

The Orioles have won 11 of their past 16 games.

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