Rare is it a game at Camden Yards is played in a mid-June fog. But Wednesday night's evaporating starting pitching, stumblebum fielding and lackluster relief validated the weatherman's forecast.
The team with the first-inning grand slam and four-run eighth inning beat the team that sent 11 hitters to the plate during its seven-run fourth inning. The Orioles may have looked better in almost all their previous wins, but it's doubtful they've been more resilient than in Wednesday night's 11-10 beating of the Texas Rangers before an announced crowd of 39,231 at Camden Yards.
In a game that revealed a widening leak in the back end of their starting rotation before offering an uplifting finish, the Orioles blew an early 5-0 lead then rallied from a 10-6 deficit to win for the third time this season when trailing after seven innings.
They tied the game on B.J. Surhoff's two-run, two-out, eighth-inning single, then won it with Delino DeShields' broken-bat single that scored pinch runner Brady Anderson in the bottom of the ninth.
"It wasn't pretty to watch, but you have to feel good any time you win," said Surhoff, who keyed a four-run eighth inning with a two-run single off the second of four Rangers relievers. "The encouraging thing is we found a way to win. We got up early, they came back, but we still fought back."
The turnabout extended the Orioles' winning streak to four games, while dropping the Rangers, last in the AL West, into a season-high seven-game funk.
The win nullified both a ruinous start by Pat Rapp and seven extra-base hits by the Rangers, including three by catcher Ivan Rodriguez.
The Orioles received two important shutout innings from Chuck McElroy and a perfect ninth from Mike Timlin (2-1), who gained the win.
Surhoff contributed his 11th home run and his game-tying single during a five-run outburst covering the seventh and eighth innings.
The Orioles capped their rally in the ninth with Cal Ripken's leadoff single that brought Anderson off the bench as a pinch runner. Rangers manager Johnny Oates replaced reliever Tim Crabtree with closer John Wetteland. A one-out walk forced Anderson into scoring position before DeShields pulled Wetteland into right field for the game-winner.
After more than three hours of sloppy ball, the Orioles celebrated their comeback after facing what would have been their fifth loss of the season after leading by five runs.
"I think we're a very competitive team when we play well. We have to hit on all cylinders," said manager Mike Hargrove.
The Orioles benefited from two playable balls that squirted off Rangers shortstop Royce Clayton's glove for hits. Center fielder Rich Amaral's two-run single in the eighth that kicked off Clayton into shallow left field brought a 10-8 game to Surhoff, who followed with a lined single to right field.
"Richie's ball in the hole was a good play," said Surhoff. "The mist was in your face. The ball was slippery. I thought it was real tough in the infield today."
"You do what you have to do. It's not impossible. The wet grounds probably helped us more than it hurt us," said Hargrove. "The ball got on Clayton a couple times and we caught a break there. We were very resilient tonight. The character of this club showed. We certainly come to play. It may not always look like it. But we do show up and come to play every day."
Rangers starting pitcher Kenny Rogers stumbled through the first three innings while allowing five runs on five walks and four hits. He pitched nervously in the first inning and didn't get his first out until he trailed 4-0. Nine of the first 16 hitters he faced reached base as the game assumed a glacial pace. Mike Bordick's single and a four-pitch walk to Surhoff brought the inning to Belle. Rogers kept Belle waiting for several minutes as he picked mud from his spikes.
The delay did nothing to unsettle Belle, who turned on Rogers' first pitch, hooking it hard against the webbing just inside the left-field foul pole. Belle's grand slam was the 12th of his career and his first since 1997.
For three innings, Rapp was as efficient as Rogers was sloppy. But Rapp is always one inning away from lapsing into a nibble mode with his cut fastball and sharp-breaking curve. His previous start included 123 pitches in 5 2/3 innings, the third time this season he had averaged 20 pitches or more per inning in a game. The Rangers cut into his lead quickly when Rodriguez doubled, Rafael Palmeiro walked and designated hitter David Segui sliced a three-run homer.
Rapp never regained his footing. A one-out walk to Lamb, Gabe Kapler's double to left field and a walk of No. 9 hitter Clayton loaded the bases and brought Hargrove out of the dugout, ending Rapp's night with a two-run lead five outs short of the five-inning minimum needed for a win.