Huff helps Orioles blow past Cubs

Huff helps Orioles blow past Cubs

CHICAGO -- There were no secrets for the Orioles on Thursday, not in the visiting clubhouse and not outside of it. Everyone familiar with Baltimore's team knew that it had a shaky starter and a short bullpen for its series finale against the Cubs, but the road team's batting order rendered both of those themes moot by exploding for 11 early runs in an 11-4 win.

The Orioles needed that type of performance because of a demoralizing game on Wednesday that saw their starting pitcher indisposed because of illness and their replacement injured in his first inning of work. Baltimore's bullpen worked 8 2/3 innings in the middle game of the series, and the batting order paid them back in the series finale.

"The way we started yesterday, it was pretty important we get a big lead," said third baseman Aubrey Huff, who scored three times and tied his career highs with four hits and three doubles. "It was nice to score five or six [early] like we did, to give us a chance to give the pitcher a big lead and give guys in the bullpen maybe just one inning here, one inning there."

"I thought today the attitude of the club was, 'We're going to go out and score a bunch of runs,' " added manager Dave Trembley. "These guys are very intuitive. They know what's going on.

"They knew what happened last night, and I think they all took it upon themselves to do it. There were some tremendous contributions from a lot of guys, and some guys that probably go a little unheralded."

The offense truly came from all over the lineup, and four Orioles -- Huff, Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis and Kevin Millar -- scored at least two runs. Baltimore finished one run shy of its season high and didn't allow a run until the sixth inning, and the resulting victory made the Orioles just the second road team to take a series at Wrigley Field this season.

Baltimore broke the game open in the third inning, using a five-run rally that was keyed by Huff's two-run double. The Orioles (40-37) went on to score in the next three straight innings -- twice in the fourth, once in the fifth and three times in the sixth -- to get into Chicago's bullpen and serve notice that they can beat any team in any stadium.

Prior to Baltimore's arrival, Chicago had won 14 straight games at home and owned a league-best 32-8 record.

"I don't care who we're playing right now," said left fielder Jay Payton. "We just feel like we have a chance to beat anybody we're playing. We're playing well. It doesn't matter if we're playing the Cubs or whoever."

"Everybody said we're supposed to be terrible this year," said Huff of Baltimore's statement win. "And probably a lot of teams think that. But we play in a tough division [and] we've been playing great baseball all year long."

Rookie starter Radhames Liz was put on the spot, weighed down by two recent shaky starts and the knowledge that all of the team's long relievers were unavailable. That shortage never became an issue, though, and Liz steadily worked his way through the opposing lineup. He used almost all fastballs the first time through the order, then began to mix things up.

The right-hander stranded three runners in the bottom of the second inning, a phase of the game that may have been the key turning point. And as his offense began to heat up, Liz (2-0) continued to hold the Cubs (49-30) in check. He didn't run into trouble again until the sixth, when he walked two straight batters and Trembley elected to go the bullpen.

"I think he learned from the last time he pitched on the road," Trembley said. "I talked to him after that start and told him when he pitches, he's got to pitch like it's a one-run game every time. You can't get wrapped up in the environment. You can't get wrapped up in who's hitting. He can't change his game. I thought his mound presence was much improved."

"He needs to work on his delivery," said catcher Guillermo Quiroz. "He did good with a lot of the hitters, but he had a lot of 3-2 counts. This start was really, really good for him. He's going to gain a lot of confidence from the start."

Baltimore got an inning of relief from erstwhile starter Brian Burres, whose Wednesday illness started the pitching shortage. The southpaw worked the sixth inning, then Chad Bradford and Jim Johnson handled the rest of the game.

The Orioles are now 3-3 on their six-game road trip and will head to Washington for a three-game series this weekend -- and they'll do it with a rested bullpen and an offense with a full head of steam. Baltimore hadn't scored 10 runs since a June 10 victory over the Red Sox, and hadn't won by an eight-run margin since routing the Yankees on May 20.

"You need hits in the middle of the lineup. That was the difference today vs. yesterday," Trembley said. "Payton came up big for us and so did Quiroz. It's a team game and that's what we've been stressing since Day 1. This was a big game for us. I thought we kind of rebounded from last night. We just came out here ready to play today."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.