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Trachsel, offense provide boost

The Baltimore Sun

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It was more of a hint than a directive, but the message was sent. Orioles veteran starter Steve Trachsel needed to give the Orioles a chance to win last night after failing to accomplish that task in three of his past four starts or his rotation and roster spot would be in jeopardy.

Trachsel responded, and so did the Orioles' bats, in a 7-4 win against Kansas City, the Orioles' 11th straight victory over the Royals.

"I've had bad performances in more than two games in a row. I've had five or six consecutive," Trachsel, 37, said. "It's definitely nothing I haven't gone through before. That probably helped. I could see 10 years ago I'd be a mess out there. But I was very relaxed today. I had my plan. I knew what I needed to do. I just had to go out and execute. Now I just have to do it again."

After pitching just three innings in each of his past two games, Trachsel (2-4) lasted into the sixth, allowing two runs and five hits in 5 1/3 innings for his first win since April 4. He surrendered a two-run homer in the first to Alex Gordon, but then kept the Royals in check.

Using two homers, including a three-run shot by Aubrey Huff, the Orioles (18-18) rallied for their second consecutive win after a season-worst five-game losing streak.

Heading into yesterday, Orioles pitching coach Rick Kranitz said Trachsel's approach needed to be simplified: throw strikes early in the count, especially with his breaking pitches, so teams can't wait on his below-average fastball.

That he did, throwing a first-pitch strike to 15 of the first 22 batters he faced.

"That's exactly the opposite of what he has been doing," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "He has been pitching behind and then trying to get people out with his breaking ball. A lot of teams haven't been swinging at it because it hasn't been a strike and he's forced to come in there with a fastball and they've been hitting it."

Trachsel walked just one, his lowest total of the season, and was removed in the sixth, with one out, a runner on second base and the Orioles leading 5-2.

His potential victory was soon jeopardized when reliever Matt Albers threw eight straight balls to load the bases. But Albers got Ross Gload to ground into a double play to end the threat.

The Royals didn't get another run until the seventh, when Gordon singled against reliever Jamie Walker.

Kansas City had a chance to get closer in the inning, but Miguel Olivo flied out against Jim Johnson with two on and two out.

The Royals scored a run in the eighth against Johnson, and they had the tying run up with no outs in the ninth, but George Sherrill escaped with a strikeout and double play for his 12th save.

Meanwhile, home runs allowed the Orioles to tie the game and take the lead against starter Gil Meche (2-5).

In the third, Melvin Mora hit a two-out, two-run homer to left field, his fifth of the season. In the fifth, the Orioles took the lead on a Royals gamble.

With Freddie Bynum at second, the Royals chose to intentionally walk Nick Markakis to face Huff. The Orioles cleanup hitter, who had been 3-for-20 with seven strikeouts in his career against Meche, hit his sixth homer of the season.

"It was kind of shocking in the fifth inning. I wasn't really expecting it," Huff said. " ... In those situations you really want to come through and bear down and make them pay."

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