FREDERICK -- The home opener drew 6,506 chilled fans to an overflowing Grove Stadium, but the Frederick Keys couldn't supply a fitting climax last night.
The defending Carolina League champions, the Class A farm club of the Baltimore Orioles, played a futile game of catch-up and dropped a 6-3 decision to the Durham Bulls, evening both teams' records at 4-4.
"We had a lot of hits that were not exactly timely," said Keys manager Wally Moon. "When you outhit a team like that [12-8], you wonder why you don't score more often."
Durham scored all it needed with four second-inning runs against left-hander Shane Hale on a walk, Javy Lopez's double, an error by T.R. Lewis, a run-scoring grounder, a run-scoring single by Pat Kelly and a two-run single by Ramon Carabello.
"He [Hale] came a little unglued," said Moon. "Big crowd, Opening Day, all that sort of stuff. But these are young pitchers we're dealing with this year and all they need is to get the ball. He just got to pressing too much."
The Keys rallied with single runs in the fourth and fifth, but blew an opportunity in the second when Cesar Devares ran through a stop sign at third base and made the final out of the inning at home plate.
He had doubled with two out and tried to score on Sergio Cairo's hit to deep shortstop. But first baseman Eddie Perez picked him up for an easy throw home to end the jam for winning pitcher Pedro Borbon.
"He just ran past the holdup sign," explained Moon. "You don't like to see that happen. But he won't make that one again."
Mark Carper pitched well in middle relief for Frederick, holding the Bulls scoreless until he tired in the seventh.
The Bulls then executed "a play that doesn't work very often," according to Moon. It was a two-on, none out double by Brian Kowitz, who swung away in a sacrifice situation and laced the ball past Frederick first baseman Mel Wearing.
Both runners scored to give Durham a 6-2 lead.
The Keys continued to hit against reliever Jeff Cronin but couldn't score again until the ninth when Lewis singled home Damon Buford, who had doubled, with the final run.
Wearing walked to continue the rally, but Ed Horowitz flied out to right to end the game. Cronin had struck out the first two batters in the inning, giving him six for the night.
NOTES: Jay Hemond, son of Orioles general manager Roland Hemond, is working for the Keys as director of special projects. He handles the public address duties and heads the team's Knothole Gang, a "just-say-no-to-drugs" kids group.