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Gibbons leads hit parade in O's 11-2 rout

The weather was hot and humid. The mound had Derek Lowe's footprints on it.

No wonder the Orioles were sweating.

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Even if the temperature had dipped into the 60s, they would have been wet under the collar. To the Orioles, Lowe is a blast furnace with a goatee and a good sinker.

It wasn't until last night, in the sixth inning, that they finally could turn down the heat.

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With Lowe again in command, the Orioles sent 10 batters to the plate and scored seven runs, sending him to the air-conditioned clubhouse and producing an 11-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox before 49,334, the second-largest crowd in Camden Yards history.

Jay Gibbons went 4-for-4 with three doubles and a walk to lead a 16-hit attack against Lowe and three relievers. The Orioles scored 10 runs in the last three innings they batted.

The game changed soon after Nomar Garciaparra hit a two-run homer off Rodrigo Lopez in the fifth inning to give Boston a 2-1 lead.

The Orioles got three straight singles to begin the sixth, the last by Tony Batista that tied the score. They moved ahead on Brook Fordyce's slow grounder to third baseman Damian Jackson with the bases loaded and one out, and rookie Jose Morban lined a two-run single into center field for a 5-2 lead.

"We kept looking for another ground ball that might turn a double play," said Red Sox manager Grady Little, "and it didn't happen."

Former Oriole Mike Timlin replaced Lowe, and the barrage continued. Brian Roberts singled and Luis Matos hit a two-run homer, marking the occasion with a Sammy Sosa-like hop out of the batter's box.

The biggest leap was the Orioles going from pawns to kings against Lowe (11-5), who always made the game too complicated for them.

Lowe was 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA in his past five starts against the Orioles.

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He shut them out over seven innings in an April 13 game at Fenway Park, and almost no-hit them last season.

"The game's amazing," said manager Mike Hargrove, whose team has won eight straight at home since the All-Star break. "You're sitting there wanting Brook to hit a sacrifice fly so you can take a one-run lead, and the next thing you know, you're up by six and you're thinking, 'How did that happen?' We hit the ball where they weren't standing.

"Derek Lowe is one of the big-time pitchers in the American League, and to be able to do what we did tonight was very unusual."

Morban provided an oddity while batting ninth as the designated hitter. The single gave him three RBIs this season, the other coming on a pinch-hit home run on April 19.

"He really made an adjustment because his swing was so long, and he shortened it down," Hargrove said.

Held to four earned runs in their past 34 innings against Lowe, the Orioles scored in the first inning on Jeff Conine's two-out single and an opposite-field double by Gibbons.

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The ball cleared left fielder Kevin Millar's head and rolled to the fence as Conine sped around the bases. Garciaparra made a one-hop relay to Jason Varitek, who blocked the plate with his foot while applying the tag.

Umpire Ted Barrett began to call out Conine until the ball squirted from Varitek's mitt and rolled toward the grass behind him. Conine, who never touched the plate, scrambled back to it and gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead.

Conscious not to keep pulling the ball, Gibbons also doubled to left in Friday's game and hit a two-run, opposite-field homer Tuesday in Minnesota. His average rose to .299 last night.

"I started off slow with the bat," said Gibbons, who was hitting .233 on April 17. "I'm just happy I'm able to put the ball in play as much as I can."

Gibbons didn't get an RBI in the first inning because Varitek was charged with an error, but he delivered Matos in the eighth with the last of his three doubles, which gave him a career-high 31.

Gibbons has a checklist of areas he wants to improve, including his proficiency with runners in scoring position and against left-handers. It's all part of establishing himself as an everyday player - he has started 105 of 107 games this season - and perhaps evolving into a legitimate cleanup hitter.

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"I just need to be a little more consistent at the plate," he said. "I feel pretty good right now about the season, and hopefully it can continue."

Maybe Lopez's season has taken a sharp left and headed in another direction.

Unlike his past two starts, when he didn't complete five innings, Lopez (4-6) made it through the sixth. One big mistake, traveling at 91 mph before it reached Garciaparra's bat, wouldn't haunt him.

"Your heart sinks," Hargrove said. "Derek doesn't give up a lot of runs. He did tonight."

"I made some other little mistakes," Lopez said, "that didn't cost me any runs."

Hargrove was going to remove Lopez after the sixth inning with his pitch count at 115, no matter what the Orioles did in the bottom half.

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"Thank goodness we scored him some runs and gave him the win," Hargrove said. "He deserved it."

The Orioles rewarded Lopez after Garciaparra's homer by scoring at least seven runs in an inning for the fourth time this season - most of them against Lowe, a pitcher who used to make them melt.

"We knew the home run could be the game," Lopez said, "but we kept battling to the end."

Orioles today

Opponent:Boston Red Sox

Site:Camden Yards

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Time:1:35 p.m.

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

Starters: Red Sox's Tim Wakefield (8-5, 4.16) vs. Orioles' Rick Helling (6-7, 5.47)


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