The Baltimore Orioles can go into the All-Star break feeling good about themselves.
Too bad the 34-51 record they had before their current two-game winning streak still counts.
Scott Erickson pitched eight strong innings and the Orioles ended their terrible first half with two straight wins, beating the Philadelphia Phillies 6-2 Sunday.
"Hopefully we'll come back and win a lot of ballgames," Orioles manager Ray Miller said. "Hopefully we'll pitch better in the second half. We made some strides the past two days."
In a stunning turn of events but a pleasing one for Miller the Orioles' bullpen finished the first half with three straight scoreless innings. Mike Timlin pitched a perfect ninth for the second straight day.
Then again, Timlin's last two appearances of the season were not save situations. He leads the majors with eight blown saves, and the Orioles also are tops in baseball with 20 blown saves.
"Timlin took his time between pitches," Miller said. "That's what we've been trying to do."
Brady Anderson had three hits, Will Clark was 2-for-4 and Albert Belle added a two-run double. Cal Ripken, 3-for-31 in his career against Phillies starter Chad Ogea, got a rare day off.
The Orioles, who finished the first half 15 games below .500, rocked Ogea (4-9) for four runs and seven hits in four innings. Although the Phillies (46-40) lost their second straight, they have their best record at the All-Star break since they were 39-29 in 1995.
"We're not where we want to be," manager Terry Francona said. "We're getting better, I can feel it. I do think we're on the right track."
Erickson (4-8), the majors' premier groundball pitcher, needed only three outfield putouts in his second consecutive strong outing. He allowed three runs and five hits in seven innings against Toronto in his last start, his fourth straight no-decision.
"I messed p early in the season," Erickson said. "Over the last couple of starts, I've been progressing in the right direction."
Ron Gant broke up Erickson's shutout bid with an RBI triple in the eighth, and he scored on Bobby Abreu's groundout for the Phillies' only runs.
Ogea's first chance to be a regular starter was a bust at the All-Star break. He had a 5.43 ERA and allowed 114 hits in 104 1-3 innings, making it past the sixth inning only five times in 19 starts.
Asked if he was glad the first half was over, Ogea said, "Heck, yeah."
"It seemed like every time I tried to do something, it would go wrong," Ogea said. "I'll just take a few days with my family and try to get away from the game."
B.J. Surhoff made it 1-0 with an RBI double that missed going over the right-field fence by a couple of feet. Clark's double made it 2-0, and Ogea escaped a 21-minute first inning with minimal damage by getting Jerry Hairston to fly out with the bases loaded.
Charles Johnson drove in Clark, who doubled, with a double off the top of the left-field wall for a 3-0 lead in the third. Hairston led off the fourth and scored on Anderson's RBI single.
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