Mercedes wrecked as Phillies roll, 13-4


PHILADELPHIA - The next phase of Jose Mercedes' baseball life looked suspiciously like Jason Johnson's last one.

Lots of pitches were thrown. Runners littered the bases. A manager stewed in the dugout.

And a game was lost.

Starting for the first time since April 27 as Johnson's replacement in the rotation, Mercedes couldn't make it beyond the third inning last night in the Orioles' 13-4 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at Veterans Stadium.

The Phillies batted around in the first inning, taking advantage of three walks and an error to score five times and assure that Mercedes' stay would be brief.

He threw 40 pitches in the inning, forcing Pat Rapp to begin warming in the bullpen. Rapp had thrown 90 pitches in New York three days earlier, but Mike Hargrove's long-relief choices were limited.

Gabe Molina, who joined the club yesterday after Johnson was optioned to Triple-A Rochester, went five innings on Wednesday, but entered last night in the sixth and gave up a run.

Mercedes was charged with six earned runs. He threw 80 pitches and left with the Phillies ahead 9-2. Rapp gave up two more in the fourth.

The Orioles (37-48) have one game left before the break. They've lost 18 of their past 23 away from Camden Yards.

Mercedes (3-4) began the season as the club's fifth starter before going to the bullpen, where he made 15 appearances. Slowing his delivery, he allowed one run in his past 12 2/3 innings. Four scoreless innings in relief of Johnson on Monday sealed his promotion.

Last night's first inning sealed his fate.

A single and two walks loaded the bases with one out. Catcher Mike Lieberthal reached when second baseman Delino DeShields booted a high bouncer off the turf. Mercedes walked in a run, Rob Ducey singled in two more and Alex Arias lofted a fly ball to center that produced the fifth run.

The Phillies added four runs in the third inning. Again, the rally was juiced by an error, this one from third baseman Jeff Conine. Doubles by Pat Burrell and Arias accounted for three runs, and pitcher Andy Ashby singled in another.

The Orioles had given Mercedes a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Actually, the Phillies gave it to him.

DeShields reached on a three-base error with two outs after an errant throw by Arias. The next batter, Albert Belle, hit a chopper down the third-base line that Scott Rolen fielded while sliding on his knees. He had time to get Belle by two steps, but also made a bad throw as DeShields scored.

Belle, credited with a hit, took second on the error. He scored on a double by B.J. Surhoff into the left field corner. Surhoff also drove in a run in the sixth.

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