O's stand tall with 7 in row


It had been 35 years since the Orioles went undefeated on a seven-game homestand, and when they finished that feat yesterday, they had a story that could last the years.

Someday, Miguel Tejada and Melvin Mora may recall this day when Tejada was so sick, he spent most of the morning and several moments between innings throwing up in wrenching pain.

Tejada was so sick, he grimaced toward Mora and asked him to pick up the slack. So Mora went out and hit a two-run homer in the first inning. Then he added another home run in the fifth, and the Orioles rolled to a 7-3 victory over the Texas Rangers before 39,850 at Camden Yards.

Bad teams don't have many stories like that. Now these Orioles do.

The Rangers had come to Baltimore sitting atop the American League West, but the Orioles (53-57) exposed their every weakness and sent them scurrying back to Texas after a four-game sweep.

Throw in the three wins the Orioles rattled off against the hapless Seattle Mariners last week, and it adds up to the second 7-0 homestand in franchise history. The other came in September 1969.

"I think the guys see the light," said Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli, whose club improved to 29-29 at home. "They're playing good defense. They're doing the things that we know they're capable of doing."

For the homestand, that was an understatement. The Orioles outscored their opponents, 50-24. They hit .306 as a team, and pitched to a 3.28 ERA.

By yesterday, their confidence was obviously at a season high. Most of the players had never been through a winning streak like this with the Orioles, who hadn't won seven in a row since September 1999.

Sick as he was, Tejada was in the lineup, extending baseball's longest active consecutive-games streak to 704 games. But the first inning looked like a potential disaster.

Texas jumped to a 1-0 lead on David Dellucci's home run, and after an error by Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, the Rangers had the bases loaded with one out.

But Orioles starter Dave Borkowski further solidified his reputation as a pitcher who doesn't let daunting situations faze him. Borkowski (3-2) retired a pair of veteran hitters - Brian Jordan and Eric Young - to escape the first without further damage and wound up holding Texas to two runs on four hits over six innings.

For the Rangers, that first inning continued a trend that helps explain how they've fallen 2 1/2 games behind the Oakland Athletics in the West. After stranding 11 runners on base yesterday, they are batting .193 with runners in scoring position over their past 16 games, going 5-11 in that stretch.

"You learn from it," Texas manager Buck Showalter said. "You learn from everything. We'll move on."

Injuries and experience have forced the Rangers to use 15 different starting pitchers this season, and in this series, their patchwork efforts seemed to come apart.

Making the second start of his major league career, left-hander Mike Bacsik, 26, got in trouble quickly. Brian Roberts hit a leadoff double, and with one out, Bacsik fell behind in the count to Mora, 3-0.

With the green light to swing, Mora crushed the next pitch into the left-field seats for his 19th homer of the season.

"Today was one of those days I'm swinging because Tejada's not feeling good," Mora said. "Today he said, 'I'm not going to be there, so I want you to help out.' We have to take care of him."

Tejada followed Mora with a walk and raced around the bases to score when Javy Lopez doubled off the left-field wall.

The Rangers trimmed the lead to 3-2, but Larry Bigbie hit a two-run homer off Bacsik (1-1) in the fifth, and Mora added a bases-empty shot off Rangers reliever Joaquin Benoit that inning to make it 6-2.

That second homer was a milestone for Mora. He had never reached 20 home runs for his career, and his efforts to do so in 2002 had produced an ugly display of upper-cut swings. After entering September that year with 18 home runs, Mora finished with 19 and hit just .137 over the final month of the season, as the team completed its nightmarish 4-32 stretch.

Now Mora is challenging for a battling title with his average at .351, six points behind Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki. He has an 11-game hitting streak, and finished the homestand batting .542 (13-for-24) with four home runs and 11 RBIs.

"He's a kid who has real quiet hands," Mazzilli said. "There's not a lot of movement there, and you see it when he takes a pitch. But he has real quick hands, and he knows what he wants to do up there. He can hit. There's no question, the kid can hit."

As the team packed for California, where they'll begin a three-game series tonight against the Anaheim Angels, Tejada dressed slowly into his suit and recalled his conversation with Mora before the game.

Sure, Mora had given everyone a lift, Tejada said. "He picks us up every day."

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Anaheim Angels

Site: Angel Stadium of Anaheim (Calif.)

Time: 10:05

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Daniel Cabrera (8-5, 3.66) vs. Angels' Aaron Sele (7-0, 4.60)

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