08/16/08 12:25 AM ET
Mora leads Orioles to win over Tigers
Third baseman has four RBIs, falls double short of cycle
By Nick Zaccardi / MLB.com
He finished a double shy of a cycle, but Baltimore's offense again had more than enough firepower. They pounded the Tigers, 11-2, for their third win in a row on Friday night. The O's have scored 66 runs in their last eight games.
"There's a lot at stake," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "Guys want to finish on a real positive note. Guys are picking each other up, hitting behind each other, running the bases a lot better. It's fun to watch."
Rookie Lou Montanez came up big on Thursday, and on Friday it was Mora, the veteran third baseman who had battled shoulder problems in the first half. He finished 3-for-4 with four RBIs and two runs scored, a walk and a sacrifice fly. Mora is hitting .404 since the All-Star break, one of many Orioles who are surging in the second half.
"He looks like the guy we saw in the first 10 days of Spring Training when he started playing games," Trembley said. "He's running hard, hitting the ball on the button. He looks locked in, it's that simple. I hope he stays that way."
Mora's name constantly came up during Baltimore's barrage. He tripled and scored to put the visitors on the board in the first and hit what proved to be the game-winning home run -- No. 18 on the season -- to go up, 3-0, in the third. He plated Juan Castro (2-for-4, two doubles, three runs) with a sacrifice fly in the sixth to up the lead to 5-2. Finally, in a six-run ninth, Mora knocked a two-run single for a suffocating 10-2 advantage.
Teammates are conjuring Mora's 2004 season, when he hit .340 with 27 homers and 104 RBIs. But even Mora, at 36, admits he's not feeling that good again.
"That was an outstanding year, I was hitting like .370 all year," Mora said. "There's no way I can feel better than that year."
The pitching was solid, too, save for a stumble in the fifth. In his third career start, Baltimore left-hander Chris Waters fell one out shy of his second win. He gave up a two-run homer to Placido Polanco with one out in the fifth and gave up two more singles before Trembley yanked him.
"He let them back in the game by pitching tentative," the manager said. "Really, you could see that he was pitching defensive. I'll be darned there if I'm going to let the team lose because he's going to [get beat by Marcus] Thames, who was running up to the batter's box. He couldn't wait to get in there. I'm not going to let him get beat. It's not instructional league, it's that simple. I couldn't live with that, I couldn't face my team if I would have left him in there and he would have given one up."
Lance Cormier came out of the 'pen and induced an inning-ending Thames groundout. Cormier (2-3), Jim Johnson and George Sherrill combined for 4 1/3 scoreless frames to shut the door.
Sherrill missed out on his 32nd save because of a wild ninth inning that saw Baltimore score six times, but only one run was earned.
Aubrey Huff led off with a single, Millar doubled and Jay Payton was intentionally walked to load the bases with one out. Montanez hit a dribbler that Miguel Cabrera couldn't field fast enough to plate Huff.
Then, Castro hit a potential double-play ball that was broken up when Montanez raised his hands upon sliding into second, knocking down Polanco's relay throw with his left hand.
The Tigers still got the second out on the play, but two runs scored and Polanco was thrown out for arguing that Montanez interfered with his throw. Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis walked to load the bases again, setting the table for mighty Mora to line a two-run single. Huff capped it with a run-scoring single.
It was a sight to see, but one that many back home probably missed since it took place while Baltimore native Michael Phelps raced to his seventh gold medal in Beijing.
With Phelps' domination almost done, the focus shifts to the O's onslaught. From one through nine, all the Orioles are contributing. Roberts (2-for-4) has hit safely in 16 of 17 games. Huff (3-for-6) has hits in 22 of his last 23 games, and catcher Ramon Hernandez in 14 of his last 15.
"There's no pressure on anybody," Millar said. "It could be somebody any given night. There's not one guy in our lineup that has to carry this club, and that's what makes it neat."
Nick Zaccardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.