Division wins keep multiplying

The Baltimore Sun

The five victories in six games over the Kansas City Royals and Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the past 10 days were an important step for the Orioles, who first need to prove they can beat the subpar teams before they even can consider making a run at the American League East hierarchy.

But the Orioles have also showed over the past two days that they are plenty good enoughto match up with one of their division rivals, too. The Orioles took their second straight gameagainst the Toronto Blue Jays last night, 5-2, thanks to an opportunistic offense and another nearperfect outing from their bullpen.

Before 25,898 at Camden Yards, the Orioles (10-7) got two RBIs from Miguel Tejada and one each from Corey Patterson, Melvin Mora and Kevin Millar en route to their seventh victory in eight games. They?ll go for the series sweep of the Blue Jays today at 1:35 p.m.

Against a division foe, a sweep would be important for Orioles manager SamPerlozzo.

"I don?t know that you want to say that we?re sending a message to them," Perlozzo said. ?We're just trying to play good against them ? teams in our division that are good teams. If we?re going to be anything, that's what we?ve got to do. We've been fortunate enough to go out and play good baseball so far and everyone's chipping in. It's been a total team effort, we get something from everyone different every night. We need to just keep riding it as long aswe can."

Chris Ray pitched the ninth for his sixth save, and the Orioles' bullpen logged a scoreless 3 1/3 innings to preserve the victory for Adam Loewen, who improved to 2-0 after an erratic outing.

The Orioles opened up a 5-2 lead with a two-run sixth inning, buoyed by a throwing error by Josh Towers. The Toronto starter fielded Paul Bako's sacrifice bunt attempt and fired an errant throw into center field in an attempt to get Chris Gomez, the lead runner.

Patterson then dropped a single into left-center field to score Gomez. Jeremy Accardo relieved Towers and after striking out Mora, walked Nick Markakis to load the bases and then walked Tejada on a 3-2 count to bring in the Orioles' fifth run.

Loewen pitched five solid innings but appeared to run out of gas in the sixth. After two quick outs on Frank Thomas' double play, he walked Lyle Overbay on four pitches and then walked Aaron Hill on six. Shortstop Royce Clayton ripped an RBI single by the diving Miguel Tejada to cut the Orioles? lead to 3-2.

After a laboring Loewen walked Jason Phillips to load the bases, Perlozzo had seen enough and summoned Chad Bradford out of the bullpen. Bradford struck out pinch hitter Jason Smith on a slow curveball to end the inning and keep Loewen in position for his second victory.

"I wasn't worried at all when Bradford came in today," Loewen said. "Those were my runs out there, and whatever he did was fine. I really knew he was going to come through the way they?ve been pitching lately. That gives us starters a good feeling coming out of the game."

Loewen allowed two earned runs on five hits and a careerhigh seven walks, while striking out four and throwing 97 pitches.In his previous outing, Loewen said that he wasn?t concerned with his walks and the number of pitches he was throwing and said that he knew how to rectify the problem. He vowed to "pitch more to contact."

But with his seven walks yesterday, he has an American Leagueleading 19 this season in 19? innings. The 23-year-old left-hander still hasn?t made it through six complete innings this season.

"I'm excited about the way I'm throwing even though it hasn?t been that great," Loewen said.

"Things can only get better, I think. I just want to keep on winning, I don't care how we do it. It's fun coming back in the clubhouse and having fun with the guys after a win, there's no better feeling."

Toronto, whose manager John Gibbons was ejected in the fifth inning by home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi for arguing balls and strikes, lost for the fourth straight time.

The Orioles connected for three straight singles in the first with the last one being a scorched liner up the middle by Tejada, who drove in Mora and gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead.

It appeared the Orioles? lead would grow to three runs, but Toronto center fielder Vernon Wells made a running catch in front of the center field wall on Aubrey Huff?s deep drive with two men on.

Kevin Millar followed Huff with an RBI single to give the Orioles a 2-0 lead, but Wells? catch kept the Orioles from a bigger inning.

"I know it's still early," Tejada said, "but I think everybody believes in here that we can beat

anybody right now. I think the starting pitching is doing a great job and our bullpen is doing agreat job.?I think what we have right now, isn?t like we have before. Now, it's not just one guy. It's everybody. Every night, it?s a different guy. And the pitching. I think this is why we have the confidence right now and we?ll have it the rest of the season."


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