Saturday, June 21, 2008

O's celebrate first three-game sweep

BALTIMORE -- Minutes after capping off a 7-5 victory against the Astros on Thursday night, Orioles closer George Sherrill walked into the clubhouse and placed a broom on Kevin Millar's chair.

After all, it wasn't just another win for the Orioles. It was the team's first three-game sweep of the season and the latest win came without the now almost-standard comeback heroics. The Orioles went ahead mid-way through this one and never looked back -- even when the Astros cut the four-run lead to two in the top of the ninth.

"When you get a sweep, I don't care if it's easy, hard, indifferent or whatever, you'll take it," manager Dave Trembley said. "It's a positive occurrence around here [and] I don't think that's happened very much. We had to work for it like last night, but I thought the intent after last night's game, from what I heard in the clubhouse, [a sweep] was the purpose tonight."

Although it began to look like it might be easy, the win was anything but that for the Orioles. After taking a 7-3 lead into the ninth inning, reliever Dennis Sarfate walked the Astros leadoff batter Ty Wigginton to start the inning. The Orioles then looked to have a double play in hand in the next at-bat when Mark Loretta hit a come-backer to Sarfate who turned and threw to second. Shortstop Alex Cintron, however, could not come up with the ball and the Orioles were not able to get a single out.

The Orioles allowed two runs to score in the inning but Sherrill was able to close it out, getting Lance Berkman to fly out to left field for the final out.

"I kind of probably spoke too soon when we talked earlier this afternoon -- I said there are two parts of the game, the first six innings and the last three," Trembley said. "The last three were totally different than the first six [tonight]. We got a little sloppy there at the end."

"We got some big hits," Trembley added. "We let [Shawn] Chacon off the hook early in the game, but we're swinging the bat really well."

Down a run in the fourth inning, catcher Ramon Hernandez took a 3-1 offering from Chacon over the fence in left field, tying the game at 2. Just two batters later, Cintron hit the first pitch he saw into the center-field bleachers. It was Cintron's first homer of the season and his first since September 7, 2007.

And in the fifth the Orioles tacked on three more runs. With Melvin Mora and Aubrey Huff leading off the inning with back-to-back singles, Kevin Millar then hit an RBI double and Jay Payton smacked a two-run single to drive them in -- a hit that would ultimately be the difference in the game.

Trembley called Payton's hit the single biggest of the game.

Huff then added a solo shot in the bottom of the seventh for good measure, his 12th homer of the year.

Orioles starter Brian Burres pitched well enough to earn the win, giving up three earned runs -- two off solo homers to Hunter Pence and Miguel Tejada respectively. Burres finished after 5 2/3 innings, giving up seven hits and two walks while striking out three.

"They hit two decent pitches," Burres said of the homers. "They weren't too bad of pitches, so you've got to just give them some credit."

"It's always nice even having the chance for the sweep," Burres added. "And then our bats just did a great job giving me support and room to pitch."

The Astros got on the board early with Michael Bourn scoring in the first inning on an RBI single by Lance Berkman and took a 2-0 lead by way of Pence's solo homer in the second. Chacon was tagged with the loss, going five innings and allowed six earned runs on eight hits and four walks.

"Hair's 2-0," Millar said of the team's record with his current bleach-blonde locks. "Lets get some blonde, platinum men out there in the stands. [The hair] won't be going anywhere, it's here for a little bit, we'll see how it goes on this roadtrip."


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