Rally is ray of hope

O's trip Tampa

Bats erupt for 6 runs in 2 innings as O's win, 6-5, climb to 5-6

Hargrove `very encouraged'

Bale bails out McElroy

O's make up 4-0 deficit

April 15, 2001|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

It is the province of optimists to point out that things may not be quite as bad as they seem, but the glass-half-full philosophy of Orioles manager Mike Hargrove was beginning to wear thin in the early innings of yesterday's game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

After 10 games, the Orioles rotation still hadn't recorded a victory, and No. 5 starter Chuck McElroy was struggling.

The offense was averaging just over two runs per game, and the Devil Rays already had four.

In short, things weren't looking very good when the Orioles suddenly erupted for four runs in the fourth inning and went on to score an uplifting 6-5 victory before 43,621 at Camden Yards.

Just that quickly, Hargrove's stubborn optimism was rewarded and he was able to make the case that - all things considered - the Orioles aren't in such bad shape after all. They are 5-6 and, yesterday notwithstanding, they haven't hit a lick yet.

"I'm very encouraged that the ballclub has been able to do what it has done to this point without our swinging the bat the way we can," said Hargrove, who recorded his 800th career victory as a major-league manager. "I've been frustrated just like everybody else, but we're nearly .500 and we've played nine games against two teams [the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians] that are supposed to contend for the American League championship."

The Orioles batted around for the first time this year in the fourth inning and the bullpen bailed out McElroy to score the club's fourth one-run victory of the young season.

Rookie left-handed reliever John Bale pitched 2 1/3 innings of what he thought was going to be mop-up relief, but instead registered his first major-league victory when the Orioles scored all six of their runs in the fourth and fifth innings.

Mike Trombley followed with two perfect innings and rookie closer Ryan Kohlmeier overcame a leadoff homer in the ninth to earn his second save.

"The game could have gotten out of hand," said McElroy, "but I was able to get some outs when I needed them. I wish I could have stayed around a little longer, but the bullpen did a great job and the offense came around."

McElroy fell behind on a two-run homer by Devil Rays infielder Russ Johnson in the first inning and allowed another two-run shot to third baseman Aubrey Huff in the fourth. The Devil Rays would become the first team to hit three homers in a game against the Orioles this year when Randy Winn greeted Kohlmeier with a pinch homer in the ninth.

The early four-run lead had to look like a mountain to a team that managed just three hits the night before against Devil Rays ace Albie Lopez, but six straight Orioles reached base with one out in the fourth on the way to equaling the team's biggest inning of the year.

"I think that given the press that we've gotten, they showed a lot of character not to fold up their tents," Hargrove said. "Obviously, some people got some big hits in the four-run inning and the two-run [fifth]. We got some breaks, but we'll take them any way we can get them."

They had managed just a pair of singles off Devil Rays starter Paul Wilson through the first three innings, but DH David Segui got the comeback under way with a one-out walk and the Orioles reeled off four straight singles to cut the four-run deficit in half.

First baseman Chris Richard set up the first run with his second single of the game and reserve catcher Greg Myers brought it home with a base hit through the right side of the infield. Cal Ripken followed with a sharp single that scored the second run and Melvin Mora loaded the bases with a line drive into left.

The other two runs in the fourth scored without the benefit of another hit. Jerry Hairston took a curveball off the shoulder to make it a one-run game and Brady Anderson tied the game with a groundout to first.

Devil Rays reliever Rusty Meacham walked Delino DeShields and Segui to open the fifth. DeShields moved to third on a fly ball by Richard and scored when veteran first baseman Fred McGriff bobbled a grounder by Myers for an error. Mora scored Segui with his second hit of the game, a double to left that knocked Meacham out of the game.

"It's important for us to get into good hitting counts and do something when we get there," Hargrove said. "Our guys needed to step back and not try to do too much when they have the advantage. We caught some breaks, but if you watch every team play, you need breaks along the way to sustain things. The key is to take advantage of them, and we had not done that with any consistency until today."

Trombley took over in the seventh and retired six straight batters to hand the two-run lead over to Kohlmeier, who made the ninth inning a much more interesting affair than anyone in an Orioles uniform had in mind.

He followed up the pinch home run by Winn with a no-out walk to pinch hitter Steve Cox, bringing the potential winning run to the plate three times before the Orioles could even the series.

It took him 19 pitches before he recorded the first out of the inning, but he struck out Gerald Williams and Johnson and got slugger Greg Vaughn on a pop fly down the first base line to end the game.

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