O's bats finally pitch in, 10-8

Kohlmeier blows lead in ninth, but Orioles' hitters batter Rays

Season highs in runs, hits

DeShields, Hairston drive in runs in 11th

Paronto gets 1st win

April 23, 2001|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The Orioles learned something yesterday about their offense. And their resolve. On an afternoon when the starting pitcher was prone to occasional lapses and the closer handled a three-run lead like a fistful of hot coals, they could carry the load rather than drag down an entire team.

Collecting their most runs and hits this season, even before the game extended beyond regulation, the Orioles overcame a ninth-inning comeback by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays by scoring twice in the 11th for a 10-8 victory at Tropicana Field.

Delino DeShields and Jerry Hairston had run-scoring singles to break an 8-8 tie, and Chad Paronto recorded his first major-league win with two perfect innings. DeShields was 7-for-14 in the series, raising his average from .106 to .197. David Segui had three more hits, including a run-scoring single in the ninth, to finish 7-for-12 and lift his average from .167 to .271.

Even while prospering, Segui deals with pain and disappointment. He suffered a cut on his left knuckle after being spiked at second base while trying to break up a double play in the ninth. X-rays were negative and no stitches were needed, but it's uncertain whether he'll play in tomorrow's series opener in Detroit.

The Orioles' team average jumped from .201 to .221 in three games. They had 16 hits yesterday, and needed them all to hold off the Devil Rays and spare Ryan Kohlmeier further grief. Kohlmeier gave up a two-run homer to Russ Johnson after running the count full with two outs in the ninth, and Greg Vaughn crushed a high fastball two pitches later to wipe out what remained of an 8-5 lead.

Kohlmeier, still classified as a rookie despite his 13 saves last season, has allowed 21 base runners in 8 2/3 innings. He walked Damian Rolls on four pitches to begin the ninth, which proved just as costly as his lost battles with Johnson and Vaughn. He also kept Jose Mercedes winless after the right-hander allowed four runs and six hits in seven innings.

"I've had a few outings where I've struggled with my control, and as a closer that's a cardinal sin," he said. "You cannot come into a save situation and walk a guy. You're always putting yourself in a bad situation when you put guys on base."

The Orioles' 18th lineup in 19 games included Melvin Mora's first start at second base since being traded by the New York Mets last July. Without a reserve middle infielder on the 25-man roster, Mora must vacate the outfield when manager Mike Hargrove chooses to rest Hairston or shortstop Mike Bordick.

"I'm comfortable everywhere," said Mora, who reached base six times in nine plate appearances in the series. "I've been taking ground balls at second and short once in a while. You never know what's going to happen. If it's better for the team, what can you do? Every time I come here I'm ready to play, no matter where."

Hairston, bogged down by a slump he traces to a glitch in his swing, found himself out of the lineup for the first time this season. He went from batting leadoff on Saturday to watching from the bench, his average stuck at .183 after a 1-for-19 skid. But after entering the game in the ninth as a defensive replacement, Hairston padded the Orioles' lead in the 11th with a single that scored Bordick.

"I remember Tiger Woods saying when he was struggling, he knew exactly what he was doing wrong," Hairston said.

That knowledge can apply to baseball, as well. Hairston's bat wasn't remaining level at the point of contact, a problem he's tried to correct with hitting coach Terry Crowley.

"My bat's angled wrong," he said, demonstrating with a slight turn of his wrists. "I'm still hitting the ball, but that's the difference between a fly out and a line drive. I know what I'm doing wrong. I've just got to keep working hard, which I've been doing.

"I've got to get my bat head where it needs to be. I need to use a little more of my top hand. It's very minuscule, maybe an inch. There are things I can control in this game. This is one of them."

His absence in the lineup gave Hargrove another chance to tinker. Chris Richard made his third start in center field, with Hargrove keeping Brady Anderson in right. Anderson hit a three-run homer in the second inning, and Richard pulled a two-run shot just inside the foul pole in the third for a 5-0 lead.

By the ninth inning, Hairston had gone to second base, Mora to center and Richard to first. Mike Kinkade didn't play yesterday after making his first major-league start behind the plate in Saturday's 6-5 loss. Jay Gibbons has been in the lineup for four of the past five games and contributed a run-scoring single off left-hander Doug Creek.

"We've got to find out if these guys can play," Hargrove said. "If they can, which I think they can, then how much can they play? The only way to find out is to get them in the lineup and let them swing the bat."

And get more comfortable in the field, which presented the occasional challenge yesterday for Richard and Mora.

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