5 HRs get O's back on track


The line score always seems a little backward when Orioles pitcher John Stephens takes the mound, with crooked numbers in the early innings giving way to late-inning zeros. He usually gets better, if not stronger, as the game goes on.

Maybe it's an Australian thing. Where Stephens comes from, winter comes during the American summer months, today is actually tomorrow, and the toilets flush counterclockwise.

Stephens had another one of his bizarre outings last night, as the Toronto Blue Jays pounded him for two innings and barely touched him after that.

The Orioles hit a season-high five home runs, including two by Chris Singleton, to overcome an early three-run deficit and roll to a 10-4 victory before 20,486 at Camden Yards.

Jay Gibbons hit his 25th home run, Tony Batista hit his 31st, and Marty Cordova added his 18th , as the Orioles continued to distance themselves from their recent 1-18 stretch, winning for the third time in five games.

Toronto had three runs, five hits and three walks against Stephens in the first two innings. Over the next four innings, they had no runs, no hits and one walk.

Stephens threw 56 pitches in the first two innings, and needed just 41 more to get through the sixth.

"I have no idea." Stephens said when asked to describe his early-game struggles and late-game sucesses. "It's just working out that way. It hasn't always been that way, but since I've been here it has M-' hopefully, I'll change that."

Orioles manager Mike Hargrove had reliever Chris Brock getting loose in the second inning, but Stephens lasted into the seventh, when he gave up a leadoff home run to Shannon Stewart.

By that point, the Orioles had built a 9-4 margin, and Stephens left to a warm ovation, as the Men at Work song "Down Under' played over the ballpark's loudspeakers.

Stephens (2-4 ) ended his five-start winless drought, earning his first victory since he defeated the Detroit Tigers on Aug. 17. This time, he was charged with four runs on six hits in six-plus innings.

Basically with Stephens, the scouting report says get to him early. He has made nine major-league starts, and in innings one through three, he has allowed 29 runs. From the fourth inning on, he has allowed a total of seven runs.

"It gives you reason to hope." Hargrove said. "Very special people are able to do that. All the really good pitchers you"ve ever seen, you had to get them in the first four innings because after the fourth, they found themselves and got in the groove.

"Now I'm not putting John in that sort of company, but that seems to be his trend since we"ve seen him here."

The Blue Jays, who sit 1 1/2 games ahead of the Orioles for third place in the American League East, had won seven of their past eight games.

But after falling behind 3-0, the Orioles came back to tie the score in the second inning against Blue Jays starter Justin Miller. Gibbons belted a two-run homer, and Jerry Hairston hit a run-scoring single on a two-out smash that bounced off the glove of Toronto third baseman Eric Hinske, scoring Melvin Mora from second base.

With one out in the third, Batista connected for his 10th home run in the past 31 games.

Gibbons doubled off the center-field wall and Miller walked two batters to load the bases before hitting Mike Bordick with a pitch, forcing home the Orioles" fifth run.

That was all for Miller (7-5 ), who had won his previous three decisions.

Blue Jays reliever Corey Thurman didn't fare much better, as Singleton and Cordova led off the fourth and fifth innings, respectively, with a home run.

With two outs in the fifth, Jeff Conine added a two-run single, increasing the Orioles" lead to 9-3.

Singleton hit another bases-empty home run with two outs in the seventh, his ninth of the season, giving him the second multi-homer game of his career and first since Sept. 22, 1999.

The Orioles had hit four home runs in a game four other times, with the last coming Aug. 23 against these same Blue Jays. That was also the last time the Orioles were at .500. After last night's win, they sit 67-83 .

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