Originally created 05/12/00

Ford extends streak in Jackets' 7-5 win



After just two Columbus RedStixx batters and four Brad Baker pitches, the GreenJackets already were trailing 1-0, thanks in part to a rare error by center fielder Lew Ford.

Ford misplayed a lined single to center by Columbus' Marques Esquerra, which allowed leadoff man Eric Johnson to score the first of three RedStixx runs off Baker in the first two innings.

At that point, all signs were pointing to another frustrating night. But luckily for the Jackets, the hot-hitting Ford more than atoned for the miscue.

With a three-hit night, the 23-year-old Ford extended his hitting streak to seven games as the Jackets scored six runs in the second and third innings to defeat the first-place RedStixx, 7-5.

"He makes our offense go," Jackets manager Mike Boulanger said of Ford. "When he was hurt, that was when our club was scuffling a bit. Boy, what a difference he's made since he came back."

After missing the first two weeks of the season with a pulled hamstring, Ford struggled at the plate upon his return to the lineup.

He has rediscovered his swing over the past week. In his past seven games, the speedy leadoff hitter is 11-for-29 (.379) with 10 RBI and eight runs scored, raising his season average 77 points to .277 during the streak.

"It was just a matter of time for him to get comfortable," Jackets hitting coach Victor Rodriguez said. "He's a guy you knew was not going to stay at .220 for a long time. He's a good hitter and a hard worker, and you're seeing now some of the hard work he has put in paying off."

Ford wasn't alone Thursday, as the Jackets pounded 12 hits, including two hits apiece for Cesar Saba, Chris Warren and Jon Anderson.

The victory for the Jackets (15-20) snapped a three-game losing skid against Columbus, who won four of the first six meetings between the teams this season, including the first two of the four-game series.

After the shaky start, Baker recovered nicely. The 19-year-old right-hander allowed just two hits and two earned runs in five innings to improve his record to 4-1. It was his first victory since April 25.

"Things just started off rocky," said Baker, the first-round supplemental draft choice by Boston last June, who had the best ERA in the minors (0.83) after his first four starts before slumping in his previous two outings.

In those two starts, Baker -- who was named the Red Sox organization's pitcher of the month in April -- had allowed 10 earned runs and 11 hits in six innings.

"I was throwing strikes, but things just weren't going my way," he said. "But after the first two innings, I started to pitch instead of throw, and I got things turned around."

Columbus cut the Jackets' lead to two in the eighth inning on a two-run home run by Nate Grindell off reliever Corey Spencer, but closer B.J. Leach finished with 1 2/3 innings of hitless relief to nail down his ninth save, which ties Columbus' Jose Colon for the league lead.

"I really didn't have a bad feeling after we fell behind early," Boulanger said. "I was obviously irritated, but with the way Baker was throwing, I felt we'd be OK. He was throwing well; his stuff was good, but he got some bad breaks. Fortunately, we were able to do some things to manufacture some runs tonight and pick Baker up."

Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425.



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