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Dome-hexed O's crack the Sky, 9-5


TORONTO - The roof was open at SkyDome last night. So were some old wounds.

The reminders come to the Orioles each time they walk onto the field. The surface is artificial, but their failures are all too real.

Fourteen straight games here had ended in defeat, including three this season. They had lost at the wire and by a mile, fallen into early holes and coughed up late leads, been run over and allowed walk-off home runs.

Looking to stop the madness, they ended a streak that threatened to match the longest in club history. Delino DeShields, Harold Baines and Will Clark homered in support of Pat Rapp, who won for the first time in three weeks, 9-5, over the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Orioles (42-53) came within a defeat of equaling their record for most consecutive road losses to one team. They dropped 15 in a row at Cleveland from April 30, 1955, to July 27, 1956. When combined with six losses in Montreal, the Orioles were 0-20 in Canada going into last night.

The streak in Toronto began June 13, 1998. It started to fray last night when DeShields homered in the first inning. It snapped when Raul Mondesi popped up against Mike Timlin in the ninth.

"All streaks end sometime, whether good ones or bad ones," said manager Mike Hargrove. "The odds certainly were in our favor for it to end."

"On every team I've been on, there's always one team that gives you trouble," said Clark, who's homered in three straight games for the second time this season. "Evidently, it was the Blue Jays. But maybe the tide's turning."

DeShields crushed a 3-2 pitch from Roy Halladay (4-6), sending it 402 feet over the fence in center field. No longer restricted by spasms between his right shoulder and neck, DeShields had three homers in 20 at-bats since the break after connecting off Halladay. He had three in 292 at-bats during the first half.

Rapp (6-6) allowed four runs and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings. He surrendered home runs to Shannon Stewart in the third and Tony Batista in the sixth, and his only strikeout came when he got Stewart swinging to close the sixth and leave the tying run on base.

Hargrove passed along a 6-4 lead to the bullpen after Rapp, who threw 89 pitches, had gotten two outs in the seventh. Left-hander Buddy Groom retired Triple Crown candidate Carlos Delgado, but also gave up Batista's second homer in the eighth inning after the Orioles had scored twice. Mike Trombley and Timlin finished up."[Rapp] was good today," Hargrove said. "He kept us in the ballgame and got us to a point where our bullpen could be effective. It looked like he had better command of his curveball, which helped a lot. He didn't have to rely on the cutter all the time."

Rapp's last win came against the Blue Jays on June 30, when he allowed two runs in seven innings. The opposing pitcher was Halladay, who's given up 12 runs in two starts against the Orioles this season. He hasn't gotten through the fourth inning either time.

A popular theory for the Orioles' past difficulties at SkyDome centers on the turf, which benefits faster clubs. But they looked at home last night, running down balls in the outfield, beating out high choppers, taking the extra base. When Harold Baines counts two infield hits among a 4-for-5 night, there's nothing typical about the game.

In the first inning, center fielder Brady Anderson raced into shallow right to catch a lazy fly ball from Mondesi and hold Craig Grebeck at second. After an intentional walk to Delgado, Anderson sprinted to the warning track in left-center field to grab a drive from Brad Fullmer.

Anderson made another sterling play to end the fourth, denying Jose Cruz an extra-base hit and the Blue Jays a run with a leaping catch. But the odds caught up to him in the fifth when he missed a sinking liner by Stewart that went for a triple during a two-run inning.

The Orioles scored three runs in the second inning to stake Rapp to a 4-0 lead. Again, one of baseball's oldest clubs showed it still had legs.

B. J. Surhoff led off with a double and took third on Clark's infield hit. Charles Johnson stroked a single to score Surhoff, and both runners advanced when Mondesi bobbled the ball.

Baines brought in the third run when he beat out a bouncer to short, and a double-play grounder by rookie Ivanon Coffie scored Johnson. Anderson doubled with two outs - the fifth hit of the inning - and stole third without a throw before Mike Bordick struck out.

Coffie's speed and base-running instincts paid off in the eighth. After a leadoff walk, he hustled to third on Bordick's one-out single into left-center field, setting up a sacrifice fly by DeShields. Albert Belle drove in Bordick with a double to left for an 8-4 lead.

"Going from first to third on that base hit, I don't think anybody in this part of Canada expected that to happen," Hargrove said. "He's aggressive, he made things happen. You like to see that."

Orioles today

Opponent: Toronto Blue Jays

Site: SkyDome, Toronto

Time: 4:05 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Jose Mercedes (4-4, 5.92) vs. Blue Jays' Esteban Loaiza (5-6, 5.37)

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