Conine's HR douses Rays in wet win

O's wait out rain delays totaling 2 1/2 hours to end 4-game skid in 5-3 victory

Julio holds lead, nemesis Winn

Swinging for fences, vet connects for 150th homer

Gil drives in three runs

May 18, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

With David Segui headed to the disabled list for up to three months, the Orioles are going to need Jeff Conine at his best.

A few hours after learning just how significant Segui's left wrist injury is, Conine eased the Orioles' minds last night with a big performance in their 5-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Camden Yards.

The game featured two rain delays that lasted a combined 2 hours, 26 minutes, but Conine rewarded the few thousand fans who stuck around for the finish as the Orioles ended a four-game losing streak.

With two outs in the seventh inning and the score tied 3-3, Conine hit his 150th career home run, blistering a 1-0 fastball from Devil Rays reliever Victor Zambrano an estimated 431 feet into the left-field bleachers.

Conine later acknowledged he was swinging for the fences.

"It was the seventh inning, and they told us the rain was coming," Conine said. "There were two outs. I hate to say I was trying to do it, but I wanted to put something in the air."

Conine, who will continue in the everyday first-base role while Segui is recovering, also had a run-scoring single in the third inning.

The Orioles had some other clutch performances, as well. Geronimo Gil drove in three runs and closer Jorge Julio recorded the final four outs for his eighth save.

Julio, who blew two ninth-inning leads and suffered two crushing losses on the Orioles' recent road trip, didn't exactly provide a calming influence at the end of a long and crazy game.

The Devil Rays, who handed Julio a blown save one week ago today, brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth. With two outs they sent Randy Winn to the plate as a pinch hitter. Winn hit the three-run homer off Julio last week that broke Tampa Bay's 15-game losing streak.

"The thought went through everybody's mind," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "The last time Jorge saw Randy Winn, he hit the ball 400 feet off him."

In dramatic fashion, Winn and Julio battled to a full count this time, and Winn grounded to second base for the final out.

"It was dM-ijM-` vu all over again," Hargrove said. "But Jorge did a good job. He threw more breaking balls to left-handed batters, and that makes his fastball even more effective."

The weather played tricks on the teams all night. With the forecast for heavy rain, there wasn't a drop all day until five minutes before game time. Those showers delayed the start of the game for 74 minutes, and then the teams played in relatively dry conditions until the Orioles' half of the fifth inning, when the skies opened up again.

Devil Rays catcher Toby Hall, batting .198 this season, hit a three-run homer in the fourth inning off starter Calvin Maduro, erasing the Orioles' 2-0 lead.

The Orioles tied the game 3-3 when Gil grounded to third baseman Jared Sandberg in the sixth inning, scoring Gary Matthews. Sandberg was charged with his second error of the evening on the play, but Gil still received credit for an RBI.

Maduro left the game after the second rain delay, having allowed three runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings. Orioles trainer Richie Bancells and pitching coach Mark Wiley went to the mound to check on Maduro in the third inning, but he waved them away, saying he was fine.

Hargrove later said Maduro strained his right hamstring covering first base in the first inning.

Early on, Maduro was brilliant. He retired the first six batters and needed just four pitches to get through the second inning, but he walked Jason Conti to lead off the third.

Chris Gomez doubled, putting runners on second and third with no outs, but Maduro struck out Sandberg, waved off his concerned pitching coach and trainer, and then pulled a Houdini-like escape.

Brent Abernathy popped to shortstop for the second out, and Jason Tyner grounded to first base, ending the inning.

Marty Cordova singled in the second inning, stole second and scored on Gil's two-out single. The ball bounced past Conti, allowing Gil to reach third. But Gil was stranded when Mike Bordick flied out to center.

Chris Singleton, who has been red hot during May, hit a one-out double in the third inning, and Conine followed with a run-scoring single up the middle.

After batting .400 with runners in scoring position a year ago, the third-highest mark in the American League, Conine has struggled in those situations this year. With that base hit, he is now batting .234 (11-for-47).

The Orioles had a chance for more that inning, as Sturtze walked Jay Gibbons, but Batista flied out and Cordova grounded to third base for the third out.

Batista made a costly error in the fourth inning.

Steve Cox and Ben Grieve started the fourth with singles, and Greg Vaughn hit a hard grounder toward the third base line. Batista fielded the ball and stepped on third base for the force out, but his throw to first base sailed over Conine's head, allowing the runners to advance to second and third.

Hall followed with his second home run of the season, and had Batista been able to get a second out on his play, the home run would have tied the game at 2 instead of putting the Devil Rays in the lead.

Batista started the season with a 25-game errorless streak, but this was his fifth miscue in the past 15 games. He also made a throwing error Tuesday in Cleveland with two outs in the ninth inning, opening the floodgates for the Indians in their stunning four-run comeback and 6-5 victory. That one was capped by Matt Lawton's two-run homer off Julio, but last night Julio persevered.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 7:05

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Devil Rays' Paul Wilson (2-3, 3.42) vs. Orioles' Sidney Ponson (2-3, 4.64)

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