ATLANTA -- If the Braves had promoted the event, they might havebilled Thursday night's 6-5 win over the Baltimore Orioles as "Calversus the Quarterback."
It isn't often a raw youngster outshines the century's greatestshortstop, but by the end of the night the klieg lights shone brighteston Mark DeRosa, who delivered the game-winning hit on `Cal Ripken Jr.Night' at Turner Field, sending a two-out single into left field tovault the Braves into a first-place tie with the Phillies.
"Growing up a shortstop, everybody emulated Cal Ripken," saidDeRosa, a former Penn quarterback who is batting .426 as RafaelFurcal's successor. "You always hope the game comes down to your hit.I grew up always wanting to be the guy up in those situations."
But the outcome was still in doubt when Ripken singled with twoouts in the ninth against closer Steve Karsay, and was replaced bypinch runner Jerry Hairston. With pinch hitter Tony Batista at theplate, Karsay picked Hairston off first base to end the game.
"I was looking for a good jump," Hairston said. "I'm sorry I gotpicked off. Karsay was a lot quicker than I thought."
While DeRosa, who also doubled home a run in the first, spoiledRipken's party, there were many subplots to this one. B.J. Surhoffsaid hello to his ex-teammates with a first-inning home run, launchingO's starter Sidney Ponson's 1 and 2 delivery against the right fieldfoul pole for his 1,000th career RBI.
In the third, Andruw Jones hit Ponson's 0 and 1 offering for a396-foot home run into the left-center field seats, his 20th home runof the season and his first since June 26, to make it 3-2.
"Runs are a beautiful thing," said Greg Maddux, who gave up fiveruns on nine hits, but improved to 11-5. His 251st win ties him withBob Gibson for 39th place on the all-time list. "As bad as I tried toscrew it up, the guys played a good game."
David Segui and Jeff Conine drove in first-inning runs to stakePonson to a 2-0 lead, but he gave it all back inside two innings. Down,3-2, in the fourth, Segui led with a single. Conine flied out toshallow center, then Chris Richard ripped a double over Andruw Jones'head in center, sending in Segui with the game-tying run.
In the sixth, Chipper Jones blasted Ponson's first pitch into theright field seats for his 26th home run, a drive estimated at 417 feet,then Ken Caminiti, whose misadventures at first base won't be treatedkindly on future blooper reels, launched Ponson's next pitch into theleft field stands to make it 5-3.
Maddux, who has reeled off seven wins in a row, made two mistakesin the seventh. Melvin Mora led off with a double against the leftfield wall, then following a visit to the mound by manager Bobby Cox,pinch hitter Jay Gibbons launched a high fastball into the left fieldseats to tie the score 5-all.
"Bobby said he likes high fastballs and that's what I threw him,"Maddux said. "I threw it right where he said not to throw it. You'dthink you'd listen to your coaches better than that."
The Braves, humiliated by the Orioles in three-game sweeps here in1997 and 1999, finally pinned a loss on the hapless Birds. DeRosa, whowas called up from Class AAA Richmond on June 1, followed BrianJordan's two-out single, and a walk to Javy Lopez in the eighth, with asharp grounder through the left side, sending Jordan in with whatproved to be the winning run.
"He's got off to a great start and he has to because he's under amicroscope," Jordan said of DeRosa. "I'm happy to see him get anopportunity. When I was on third, and I saw him come up, I said, `we'vegot this game.' "
DeRosa, who kiddingly asked how many at-bats he needs to qualifyfor the batting title, viewed the crowd of reporters around his lockerafterward in mock horror.
"I'm not ever going to get used to this," he said. If he continues his torrid pace at the plate, he'd better becomeaccustomed to the glare of TV lights.
"I'm not going to replace Rafael (Furcal), he's the spark plug ofthis team," DeRosa said. "I'm just going to play within mylimitations. I'd like to think I can handle myself out there. If Iproduce, I'll stay in there."
Reach Bill Zack at email@example.com.