Orioles pitcher Pat Rapp was determined not to let a harsh season have the final word. His resistance last night came in large part from an offense that finally spoke up.
By the end, its vocal cords were strained.
Rapp was perfect through three innings, and the Orioles were relentless most of the night, breaking the club record for runs in a game in a 23-1 dismantling of the Toronto Blue Jays before an announced crowd of 32,203 at Camden Yards.
The Orioles batted around twice and had 21 runs after the fifth. That was the most scored at home in exactly 27 years, when they tallied 18 against the Cleveland Indians. Delino DeShields had a career-high five RBIs, three coming on a home run off the foul pole in the fourth, before being removed in the fifth.
Brook Fordyce went 4-for-5, including a bases-empty homer in the sixth for a 22-1 lead. His blast allowed the Orioles to tie the franchise record for runs set last June 13 in Atlanta. Backup catcher Fernando Lunar bounced to short with one out in the eighth to bring home Ryan Minor and eclipse the mark.
The game also included Brady Anderson's 200th career home run and Albert Belle's first two RBIs since Sept. 2. The Orioles sent 13 batters to the plate in the fourth against relievers Roy Halladay and Lance Painter, tying a club record by scoring 10 times - all unearned - to build a 16-0 lead.
The Orioles finished with 23 hits against four Toronto pitchers. It was quite an explosion for a lineup that's displayed pop-gun power since a series of waiver-deadline trades.
"Obviously, it's unusual to score that many runs, no matter what kind of offense you have or what team you're playing," Anderson said. "Most every ball we hit hard fell, and we probably had four or five bloopers fall, too. To score that many runs, a lot of things have to go right, and they did."
Anderson reached base four times, including a two-run double. Eugene Kingsale knocked in three runs, and Cal Ripken contributed three singles and an RBI before leaving for a pinch-runner in the fifth.
The loss eliminated Toronto from the American League East race and continued the Orioles' role of spoilers. The Blue Jays went out with a whimper, committing four errors in the first four innings.
"They should have a mercy rule," said Blue Jays manager Jim Fregosi. "Every ball they hit found a hole or flared in somewhere. It was just one of those nights."
"That was fun," said Orioles manager Mike Hargrove. "It was nice to do that to somebody else for a change.
"Everything we swung at found a hole. We'd beat the ball in the ground and it was just out of their reach, or we'd get jammed and flare it over somebody's head. We hit the ball hard, too."
In many ways, especially from a personal standpoint, it's been the most trying summer of Rapp's career. A 3-0 start was countered by a stretch where he registered one victory a month before going 0-3 in August. He posted three wins in September to finish 9-12 in his first season with the Orioles after signing as a free agent.
The death of his father, James, on Aug. 20 overshadowed every accomplishment and failure. He'll return to Louisiana Sunday night to further assist his family. At least when he reflects on his pitching performance, the freshest memory will be when he allowed only a bases-empty homer to Darrin Fletcher among a season-low two hits. Rapp walked one and struck out seven before Jay Spurgeon replaced him in the eighth.
"I got a plaque from my mom today in the mail," he said. "The title of it was, 'Never quit.' With all the stuff I've had go on this year, she just wanted me to read it and not quit. She knew I only had one start left. She didn't want me going out there and just messing around and trying to get through the year. It made me feel good to get that. It brought a couple tears, but I came back and tried to stay strong and do what I had to do. My family's been behind me the whole year and they still are."
Shut out by Frank Castillo and two relievers on Wednesday, the Orioles erupted for three runs in the first inning against Chris Carpenter. They provided Rapp with generous run support at the beginning of the season, and apparently were determined to do the same at the end.
Anderson cleared the fence in right on a 2-2 pitch, his seventh leadoff homer this season and the 43rd of his career. Carpenter walked DeShields, but was one strike away from stranding him before rookie Chris Richard stroked a double into the right field corner for a 2-0 lead.
Ripken grounded the next pitch into right to score Richard, who easily beat a wide throw from Dave Martinez. It was Ripken's seventh RBI in 61 at-bats since being activated from the disabled list.
The Orioles hadn't scored more than two runs in an inning since Sept. 13 in Texas, when they tallied three in the first. Rapp also started that game, the last time he had achieved a victory. The Orioles scored nine runs for him, then were limited to 26 over their next 12 games. Remove an 8-7 loss in Boston, and their output becomes more sickly.
They got healthy last night, scoring three more runs in the second before the fourth-inning massacre.
Fordyce led off with a single and moved up on a one-out walk to Anderson. Second baseman Craig Grebeck booted Hairston's ground ball, allowing Fordyce to score for a 3-0 lead. DeShields singled to center to score Anderson, and Hairston raced home when Jose Cruz's throw skipped past third baseman Tony Batista, who was charged with an error.
Grebeck committed his second error in the fourth after a leadoff walk to Anderson. Kingsale singled in two runs. Six players had RBIs, and another run scored when an attempted pick off throw by catcher Alberto Castillo hit first-base umpire Al Clark on the foot, forcing his removal from the game.
Kingsale, DeShields, Belle and Jerry Hairston each singled in a run in the fifth, when 11 batters came to the plate, and Anderson added a sacrifice fly. Anderson retrieved the ball from his milestone home run. It cost him three autographed balls and two bats. "And three paid nights at Cal's house."