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small ball has huge payoff in O's victory

The Baltimore Sun

CHICAGO // It was a moment where sentiment could have easily prevailed over judgment. Garrett Olson had overcome nerves and 10 base runners just to get to this point, where he was two outs away from being eligible for a victory in his major league debut.

But Orioles interim manager Dave Trembley walked to the mound, took the ball from the 23-year-old pitcher and offered a reassuring word. Trembley, who managed 2,782 games in the minor leagues before finally getting his shot in the majors, appreciates more than anybody else the opportunity to succeed at the game?s highest level.

He also knows there will be plenty of chances for Olson. It wasn't a commanding performance by Olson by any means. But the pitching prospect did show some grit and guile in the Orioles' 9-6 Independence Day victory over the Chicago White Sox in front of an announced 33,640 at U.S. Cellular Field.

In 4 1/3 innings, Olson allowed two runs, butwas able to mostly pitch around five hits and five walks. It's unclear whether the left-hander will get another start anytime soon, but the most important thing was that he got the first one out of the way and the Orioles won.

"It's the Fourth of July and he ismaking his first big league start," Trembley said before the game. ?How much better does it get?"

A victory would have provided a nice ending for Olson, but he settled for long reliever Rob Bell getting the win. TheWhite Sox didmake it interesting as Rob Mackowiak hit a three-run homer in the ninth off Paul Shuey. But Jamie Walker got the final two outs to end the game.

[ The Orioles (37-46) had 14 hits and scored six runs in five innings off Chicago starter Jose Contreras. Jay Gibbons hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning and Kevin Millar a two-run double in the sixth to break the game open after the Orioles scored four runs in the third to overcome an early 2-0 deficit.

Olson, a sandwich pick in the 2005 draft and one of the organization's top pitching prospects, was 7-6 with a 3.46 ERA when his contract was selected from Triple-A Norfolk. With Steve Trachsel expected to be activated from the disabled list in time to make his next start after the All-Star break, it may only be a one-time audition for Olson. However, there?s no denying that the club feels that he?ll be a major part of their future.

"Hopefully, if he does well, he'll get another [start], but it won?t be until after the break," Trembley said. "The guy has merited the opportunity to come here. He put good numbers up at Triple-A, land when you are successful at the league down below you, you get challengeda little bit at the next level, and that's what we're trying to do."

Trembley said his expectations were for Olson to "[Log] innings, throw strikes, keep your pitch count down and get a little better each inning as you go out."

To do that, Olson would first have to beat his nerves. His first pitch was in the dirt. His second one was high and outside. His third pitch also missed. He eventually threw a strike to Chicago leadoff man Andy Gonzalez before walking himon five pitches.

He then fired an errant pickoff throw to first base that ended up in the camera well, giving Gonzalez second base. Olson?s first out occurred when center fielder Corey Patterson made what the umpires ruled was a diving catch of Tadahito Iguchi's sinking liner despite replays appearing to showthat he trapped the ball.

Olson got out of the first unscathed, striking out Paul Konerko looking and getting Jermaine Dye to fly out to center. But Olson wasn?t able to get the early jitters out of his system.

He walked Josh Fields and Luis Terrero to start the second before Toby Hall plated the game's first run with a sacrifice fly. Gonzalez followed with a single to give the White Sox a 2-0 lead.

However, the Orioles answered with four runs in the third inning against Contreras, taking advantage of small ball, some timely hits and Contreras' lack of control. Patterson got things started with a bunt single and then stole second base. Brian Roberts then laid down a bunt that Contreras fielded and then fired an errant throw down the right-field line, allowing Patterson to score and putting Roberts at second base.

Chris Gomez, starting his third straight game at third base in place of the injured Melvin Mora, grounded out to second base, moving Roberts up a base. He scored to tie the game at 2 on Nick Markakis' single. Millar followed by hitting a ball that dropped in front of the diving Dye and then trickled behind him, allowing Markakis to take third and Millar to slide into second.

Gibbons gave the Orioles a 3-2 lead with a sacrifice fly, and Jay Payton made it 4-2 with an RBI infield single. Contreras finally got out of the inning by striking out Paul Bako, but the damage was done. His pitch count was up to 70 after the inning, in which the Orioles got six hits, three of theminfield singles.

Given a lead, Olson got two quick outs in the third, including striking out Jim Thome. But Konerko doubled, barely missing his 16th home run. Olson then walked Dye and surrendered a single to Fields. However, he struck out former Oriole Terrero to end the inning. He then got out of the fourth by inducing a double play.

Gibbons expanded the Orioles? lead to 6-2 with a two-run homer off Contreras in the fifth inning. It was Gibbons' fourth home run of the season and his first since May 14.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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