TORONTO - One of the worst teams in baseball decided it no longer wanted outfielder Eli Marrero. The proclamation came within two months. The hurt and confusion easily could have lasted a lot longer.
Marrero, designated for assignment by the Kansas City Royals, has become a regular presence in the Orioles" lineup whenever the opposition starts a left-handed pitcher. This is where his value lies, and this is why a first-place club deemed him worthy of a trade.
Giving up little to acquire him, a 25-year-old, low Single-A player the asking price, the Orioles received plenty from Marrero last night. He drove in three runs in the first four innings, including his sixth homer, and had eight total bases in a 9-5 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre that included an injury to third baseman Melvin Mora.
Mora limped off the field in the eighth inning after pulling up as he approached first base on a bouncer to shortstop. His status for tonight's game is uncertain.
Marrero is batting .400 (8-for-20) against left-handers since the Orioles swapped infielder Pete Maestrales for him. He had hits in both plate appearances against Blue Jays rookie Gustavo Chacin, and doubled in the sixth inning against left-handed reliever Scott Downs.
Catcher Geronimo Gil hit a two-run homer in the sixth and a bases-empty shot in the eighth, providing a cushion for rookie reliever Chris Ray. The former closer at Double-A Bowie took over for starter Rodrigo Lopez after the fifth with the Orioles ahead 6-4 and allowed one run in two innings.
The Orioles trailed by four runs in the first inning Monday night in an 11-2 loss, so they decided to go a different route and be the aggressors. Five straight batters reached with two outs in the first, leading to five unearned runs.
Marrero had a two-run double to keep the inning alive, and he launched a 2-0 pitch from Chacin into the second deck in left field leading off the fourth inning, the ball traveling an estimated 426 feet.
A change of scenery is doing Marrero a world of good. He was batting .174 in 40 games before last night, including 32 with the last-place Royals. The trade occurred with him mired in a 1-for-22 slump, his average with Kansas City down to .159, his on-base percentage at .222.
After starting out 1-for-14 with the Orioles, Marrero has gone 7-for-11 in his past four games. He has four extra-base hits and five RBIs in this series, including two home runs.
Lopez (7-2) is sitting on one loss since May 19, though the seat can get awfully uncomfortable. He has won five straight decisions, tying Sidney Ponson for the team lead in victories, but the Blue Jays hit two home runs last night and kept applying pressure.
He had a personal score to settle with them. Lopez was 1-4 with a 6.80 ERA in 10 career games against Toronto, the most losses and highest ERA against any American League opponent. In five games at Rogers Centre, Lopez was 1-3 with a 9.64 ERA.
An early lead removed some of the burden.
Brian Roberts reached on an error by shortstop Russ Adams, and the Orioles loaded the bases with two outs on a soft single by Miguel Tejada and a walk to Sammy Sosa. Jay Gibbons beat out a grounder to the right side, out-racing Chacin (6-5) to the bag, and Chris Gomez and Marrero each drove in two runs with hits to stake Lopez to a 5-0 lead.
Lopez threw two pitches before ending any thoughts of a shutout, with Alex Rios hitting his first career leadoff homer. He walked the first two batters in the second inning, but he struck out former Oriole Gregg Zaun and Orlando Hudson, and retired Adams on a fly ball.
In two innings, Lopez already had thrown 42 pitches as the game slowed to a crawl. The hockey strike didn't last this long.
Appearing to find his stride, Lopez retired nine in a row before Zaun opened the fifth with a double. Hudson singled, and Adams atoned for his error with a three-run shot that reduced the Orioles" lead to 6-4.
Opponent: Toronto Blue Jays
Site, time: Rogers Centre, Toronto, 7:07
TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Daniel Cabrera (5-6, 5.54) vs. Blue Jays' Pete Walker (2-0, 1.24)