It took until the fourth inning of the series' second game for everything to make sense. The Orioles were scoring runs in bunches, Colorado's starting pitcher couldn't get anyone out, the Rockies were being bludgeoned on the road.
Wasn't it supposed to be this way all along? Wasn't it just a matter of time? The Orioles sent 10 batters to the plate in the pivotal inning last night, getting back-to-back homers from Miguel Tejada and Sammy Sosa. Eight consecutive hitters reached base, and a 7-2 victory before 43,067 at Camden Yards had taken shape.
Sosa's homer was the 583rd of his career, tying Mark McGwire for sixth place on the all-time list. It was part of a sudden and brutal beating absorbed by Rockies starter Byung Hyun Kim, whose only out of the inning came on a fly to left by Melvin Mora that reached the warning track in the left.
B.J. Surhoff and Sal Fasano had RBI singles, and Brian Roberts drove in two before manager Lee Mazzilli rested him in the fifth.
"We got everything together in that inning," Tejada said. "Everyone came through for us."
The Orioles' record got healthier as the team tried to do the same. Center fielder Luis Matos was activated from the disabled list after the game, with David Newhan optioned to Triple-A Ottawa.
Newhan leaves with assurances that he'll be a likely recall if an outfielder is moved in a trade. One club official predicted that a front-line starting pitcher or position player will be acquired within the next two weeks.
"He's got to go down and play," Mazzilli said of Newhan, who's batting .194 in 40 games. "It's very hard. He's a kid who was a big part of the team last year. It wasn't an easy decision, but we just didn't see a lot of playing time for him right now."
Enough teams are interested in Larry Bigbie, who started in center last night, that he could be packaged in a deal. Though Bigbie has produced only one home run and 11 RBIs, his ceiling remains high enough as a former first-round draft pick that many scouts remain intrigued.
The Rockies, a potential match for the Orioles (40-27) in trade discussions, are one team that would like to reacquire Newhan, who played for their Triple-A affiliate in 2003. A Colorado official confirmed the Rockies would accept Newhan as the second player in a deal involving outfielder Preston Wilson, whose name has come up in discussions with the Orioles.
In the meantime, the Rockies (22-44) are trying to find ways to win on the road, where they are 5-27. They were shut out through six innings last night before former Orioles farmhand Eddy Garabito hit a two-run homer off Sidney Ponson in the seventh.
Ponson had lost three of his previous four decisions after a 5-1 start and had failed to complete the seventh inning in three straight tries. Against the Cincinnati Reds last Sunday, he twice surrendered leads in a 10-6 loss that raised his ERA to 5.36.
"In Cincinnati I had a bad game. You're going to have a couple more of those," he said. Hopefully, not seven-run games."
Last night's biggest challenge was waiting through the fourth inning, which kept him in the dugout long enough to violate the team's facial hair policy.
"From the get-go, I had my sinker going," said Ponson, who didn't walk a batter and struck out six in seven innings. "If I have that going, and I mix in my other pitches, it makes my life easier."
The Orioles had two hits through three innings - nothing to suggest the eruption that would come.
Mora doubled with one out in the first and Tejada reached on an error, but Sosa grounded into a double play. Bigbie singled with one out in the third inning, but he was thrown out trying to steal. Another opportunity was lost, bringing reminders of Friday's failures against Jason Jennings.
The Rockies' 5.64 ERA ranked as the worst in the National League, but the Orioles were held to one run in a series-opening loss, and it didn't come until the ninth inning. Colorado starters strung together 10 1/3 scoreless innings before Tejada lined an 0-1 fastball into the left-field seats for his 19th home run, tying for the major league lead.
That's when it all fell apart for Kim (1-6), the former Boston Red Sox closer. Sosa launched another fastball onto the flag court in right for his ninth homer. Rafael Palmeiro singled and Jay Gibbons doubled to right, the ball hitting high off the out-of-town scoreboard. Surhoff singled on the next pitch, and Fasano fell behind 1-2 before bouncing a single through the left side.
Bigbie walked to load the bases, and Roberts lined a single into left field to increase the lead to 6-0.
Career HR leaders
Hank Aaron ............................755
Babe Ruth ..............................714
Willie Mays ...............................660
Mark McGwire ..........................583
Harmon Killebrew .....................573
Rafael Palmeiro-x .....................559
Opponent: Colorado Rockies
Site, time: Camden Yards, 1:35 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Rockies' Jeff Francis (5-4, 5.69) vs. Orioles' Hayden Penn (1-0, 4.71)
Palmeiro's quest for 3,000 hits
Last night: 2-for-4 against Rockies with two singles Today: 1:35 p.m., vs. Rockies (Francis 5-4)