Roberts fills in for Cintron, helps lift O's to gutsy win

The Baltimore Sun

The Orioles were looking for something, anything to break a five-game losing streak and end a terrible homestand with a positive last night.

What they received in an 11-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox was an offensive explosion, an adequate pitching performance and several fine defensive plays.

They also got a key assist from a plate of bad scallops.

Melvin Mora, Aubrey Huff and Kevin Millar each homered, and rookie Radhames Liz (5-3) pitched just well enough to win.

But the hero was leadoff hitter Brian Roberts, who tied a season high with three RBIs despite not knowing he would be playing until three-plus hours before the first pitch.

Orioles manager Dave Trembley attempted to give Roberts, who has played in all but four of 133 games this season, the day off, inserting Alex Cintron at second base.

Cintron, however, was violently ill when he arrived at the ballpark after eating a plate of bad scallops at home.

So Roberts was pressed into duty and delivered with a two-run single in the second and a RBI double in the fourth against Chicago starter John Danks (10-7).

"It was a good thing," Cintron said of his food poisoning after the game. "Brian Roberts got three RBIs, and we won."

Roberts said the change in plans was no big deal.

"Even when you have an off day, a lot of times you end up in the game. You try to stay mentally ready no matter what," Roberts said. "I've played enough games in my career so that I can jump back in the lineup and play. I'm not too worried about it."

It was the kind of fortunate break the struggling Orioles (63-70) craved. They had lost five straight and seven of eight at home heading into last night.

"It hasn't been the kind of homestand that we drew up on a blueprint," Trembley said. "We played all very good teams that are all in contention. I think it just goes back to a real simple formula: If you don't pitch good, you don't have a chance."

Liz, who hadn't won a major league game since July 21, allowed three hits and walked five in 5 1/3 innings, but his defense helped him out of jams and a trio of Orioles relievers held the powerful White Sox to one run.

Perhaps the most important thing Liz accomplished was exiting the opening inning scoreless - the first time the Orioles have had a 1-2-3 first inning since Aug. 16. This season, they had allowed runs in the first inning in 59 of 132 games and 11 of their previous 15.

"A very simple thing for us is that Liz put a zero up in the first inning on six pitches," Trembley said. "I think everybody could take a deep breath and say, 'OK, let's play.' Because it has been such a mountain to continue to climb night after night after night."

The White Sox nearly rallied in the third, but Mora made a great diving stab on the third base line and made a long throw to get Jermaine Dye at first.

"Unbelievable," said shortstop Juan Castro, who broke an 0-for-13 slump with two hits and two RBIs. "That was a bullet, and when I saw him dive, wow."

The next batter, Jim Thome, singled home a run but then was thrown out at second by right fielder Nick Markakis, his major league-leading 15th assist.

It was Roberts' performance as a substitute, though, that changed the night.

"I think Cintron was the player of the game. He was supposed to be in the lineup, then all of a sudden, Roberts plays, and he killed us," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "I blame Cintron for this one."

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