After 81 games and what seems like a few million roster moves, the '95 Orioles finally can make this unique claim: They are a winning team.
The Orioles, buoyed by another solid start by Jamie Moyer and another home run by Leo Gomez, beat the Texas Rangers, 7-6, last night before 41,159 at Camden Yards, pushing their record over .500 for the first time this year.
"It took us a good 81 games to do it, but it's better late than never," reliever Jesse Orosco said. "We've been aiming for .500 for the longest time."
The Orioles (41-40) moved into a virtual tie with the Rangers (42-41), who have lost 10 in a row, in the wild-card race. They moved into sole possession of second place in the American League East with the New York Yankees' loss and remained 4 1/2 games behind winning Boston.
The Orioles have gone 19-9 since June 24. Only Cleveland (20-8) has a better record during that span.
They're not in the Indians' league yet, but they're over .500.
"It's a good feeling to be over .500," Moyer said. "Now the important thing is to stay over it."
Moyer (6-3) rebounded from the shortest start of the season by allowing three hits and three earned runs in seven innings. He has pitched seven or more innings in seven of his 10 starts.
Gomez homered for the second straight game against his former manager, Johnny Oates, and for the third time in four games.
Moyer's pitching and Gomez's hitting were almost wasted. The Orioles barely escaped a late surge by the Rangers, who had the tying run at the plate during a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the eighth inning.
Terry Clark, after giving up a double, walk and a single, struck out Jeff Frye looking. Orosco relieved for the fourth time in four games against Texas to face Will Clark. Clark made an out for the fourth time, flying to shallow center as the runners held.
Doug Jones, pitching in an eighth-inning save situation for the first time since May 3, relieved Orosco. Jones gave up a two-run single to Juan Gonzalez, but struck out Mickey Tettleton on a changeup to end the inning.
The Rangers struck again in the ninth. Jones gave up a leadoff homer to Ivan Rodriguez, then retired the side for his 18th save.
"Jones closed it out in style," manager Phil Regan said. "He told me in the ninth it was never in doubt."
Neither was their winning record.
"Finally to get over .500, that's been our goal," Regan said. "It's a good start to this homestand."
The Orioles knocked out Texas starter Dennis Cook (0-2), a last-minute replacement for ailing Bob Tewksbury, with four third-inning runs.
Jeff Manto, starting as the designated hitter, walked; Greg Zaun singled to left; and Mark Smith, making his first major-league start, laid a nice sacrifice bunt down the first base line.
Brady Anderson singled, scoring Manto and Zaun. Bret Barberie walked, and Rafael Palmeiro singled to right to score Anderson.
That sent Oates to the mound, Cook to the showers and Mark Brandenburg in to pitch.
The Orioles led 3-0. They made it four on Cal Ripken's dribbler to third that scored Barberie. It was Ripken's first RBI since July 17 in Texas.
The Rangers came back with three runs in the fourth inning on a three-run blast by former Oriole Tettleton, who has three home runs and 10 RBIs in his last three games.
But with the Orioles clinging to a 4-3 lead, Gomez came through. His home run started off a three-run fourth-inning rally.
Brandenburg threw a high fastball that tailed over the heart of the plate and Gomez hit it high and deep into the left-field stands.
Gomez stopped for a second to admire the blast as if to say, take that former manager who didn't want to play me.
His two home runs in the last two nights against Oates' Rangers doubled Gomez's home run total (4).
Gomez has done more than prove to his former manager that he can play in the big leagues. He seems to have won the confidence of his current one. Regan, desperate for offense until the team trades for another hitter, is going with the hot bat right now at third base.
And that bat belongs to Gomez.
"I feel more comfortable now," Gomez said. "Sometimes it's a little bit easier to play every day. Seeing more pitchers and getting more playing time has made it easier for me to produce."
He has hit safely in five straight games, going 9-for-18 with a double and three home runs. All four of his home runs have come since the All-Star break.
After Gomez's homer, pinch hitter Harold Baines walked. Smith hit a swinging bunt that died in fair territory at third base for a single. Anderson walked. Barberie singled to right, scoring Baines, and Smith scored on Palmeiro's sacrifice fly.
It was Palmeiro's second RBI of the game.
And the Orioles' first winning record of the season.
"The important thing is that we're playing well," Palmeiro said. "I always thought we were going to get over .500 sooner or later. We're there now. It's not too late."
HITS AND MISSES
On the field: Orioles manager Phil Regan went out to talk with plate umpire Al Clark twice about Texas starter Dennis Cook going to his mouth and his cap, Regan suspecting that Cook was loading up his pitches. But Cook neither was checked nor reprimanded. Regan, who accused Milwaukee starter Ricky Bones of doctoring pitches earlier this season, was foiled again.
In the dugout: Regan made a good move in the third inning, having Mark Smith lay down a sacrifice bunt with men on first and second and no outs. Two singles and a walk later, the Orioles had three runs.
In the clubhouse: Bret Barberie and Leo Gomez have worked their way out of Regan's doghouse and into the starting lineup for the past four games. Barberie said: "I think as long as we win with this lineup, he's going to stick with it."
Opponent: Texas Rangers
Site: Oriole Park at Camden Yards
TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Rangers' Roger Pavlik (5-6, 5.87) vs. Orioles' Kevin Brown (5-6, 3.84)
Tickets: 7,100 remain