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RIPKEN LOST FOR THE SEASON BUT ORIOLES EXTEND STREAK

Cal Ripken's 1999 baseball season, which began with grief and pain and careened from frustration to rejuvenation and back, ended Wednesday when the Baltimore Orioles announced that the sport's one-time "Iron Man" was to have surgery this morning to repair his injured back.

Ripken, 39, is expected to be ready for spring training in February, when he would launch his 20th major league season and resume his pursuit for 3,000 career hits. Ripken finishes his season with 2,991 hits and some of the best offensive numbers of his career.

The back problems tainted an otherwise rejuvenating season for Ripken. His .340 batting average and .584 slugging percentage are the best of his career and lead the Orioles. He hit his 400th career home run on Sept. 2. He finishes with 18 homers and 57 RBIs.

Ripken's teammates didn't find out he had left the team until just hours before they extended the second longest winning streak in team history.

Scott Erickson gave up four runs to the Texas Rangers in the first inning but gave up just four more hits in the next seven innings as the Orioles rallied for their 13th straight victory, 7-4.

Baltimore came back by hitting three homers off of Rick Helling, who leads the majors with 38 homers allowed. Charles Johnson and Brady Anderson hit consecutive homers in the fifth inning, and second baseman Jesus Garcia hit his first in the majors in the second. Albert Belle hit his 35th in the seventh after Helling was replaced.

The Orioles' longest winning streak in club history is 14, in 1973. Baltimore also won 13 in a row in 1978.

"He was in a lot of discomfort," Orioles General Manager Frank Wren said. "And he felt it was the time to do it."

The surgery, described as a "decompression" to relieve Ripken's nerve root inflammation, will be performed by specialist Henry Bohlman at University Hospitals of Cleveland. Ripken suffers from a narrowing of the spinal column, which produces nerve irritation.

The condition forced him onto the disabled list in April for the first time in his 19-year career, and in August.

Yankees lower number

NEW YORK -- Three times, Hideki Irabu gave up home runs -- two of them to Chris Singleton. All three times, the bases were empty.

"All the great pitchers give up home runs because they challenge hitters," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "You give the Singletons up -- which is a play on words -- I didn't mean to be that funny."

Torre laughed a lot easier Wednesday night. After New York came from behind to beat the Chicago White Sox 5-4, its lead over the Boston Red Sox was back up to four games and the magic number for clinching a playoff berth was down to three.

New York tied the score on Jorge Posada's two-run, two-out single in the eighth and won it when Jaime Navarro (8-13) walked Paul O'Neill with the bases loaded in the ninth.

The Red Sox made five errors, allowing eight unearned runs, and surrendered 22 hits as the Blue Jays ended a seven-game losing streak, 14-9. Toronto's Shawn Green hit his 40th homer.

Around the horn

Jaret Wright allowed two hits in seven innings and Jim Thome's two-run double keyed a four-run Cleveland first as the Indians pounded the Tigers, 9-1. Wright (8-9), who was winless in six starts since July 6, allowed one unearned run. Harold Baines reached 100 RBIs for the first time in 14 years, a major league record for the longest span between 100-RBI seasons. He drove in 113 runs in 1985 for the White Sox. Roberto Alomar notched his 2,000th career hit. At 33, he is the second-youngest player to reach that plateau, trailing only Robin Yount. . . . The Twins scored all their runs with two outs in the seventh, an inning in which the A's used five pitchers, in a 5-4 win over the Athletics. Oakland trails Boston by five games for the wild card berth. . . . Ken Griffey Jr. hit his AL-leading 48th homer for Seattle, but Jermaine Dye homered and drove in four runs as the Royals defeated the Mariners, 12-6. . . . Mo Vaughn reached the 100-RBI mark for the fifth time, driving in five runs with a homer and double as the Angels beat the Devil Rays, 8-5.

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