7-5 win strange relief for O's

Ryan, Bauer and Perez fill in, stop Texas

Mora's 2-run triple in 9th wins it

July 07, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

ARLINGTON, Texas - With his three leading men in the bullpen in dire need of some rest last night, Orioles manager Mike Hargrove decided it was time to rely on their understudies.

So instead of using Willis Roberts, Buddy Groom and Jorge Julio to close out the game, he turned to the unlikely trio of B.J. Ryan, Rick Bauer and Yorkis Perez.

In the end, Perez wound up with his first save in seven years, as the Orioles held on after blowing an early lead for a 7-5 victory over the Texas Rangers at The Ballpark in Arlington.

The win broke the Orioles' eight-game losing streak against the Rangers, dating to May 28, 2001. The Orioles are 41-43 overall and 3-2 on this road trip, which concludes here tonight with the final game before the All-Star break.

"I decided to really make a push this road trip to try to finish the first half at .500," Hargrove said. "I think that would be a good accomplishment. So we really pushed those three guys [Roberts, Groom and Julio] in the last three ballgames. And it just finally caught up with them."

So there the Orioles were, tied 4-4 with the Rangers in the sixth inning, trying to use their second-best relievers to earn the victory. The Orioles went ahead in the ninth, on a two-run triple by Melvin Mora and a sacrifice fly by Brian Roberts.

Ryan, who entered with a 7.56 ERA, retired all four batters he faced.

Bauer, who entered with a 5.02 ERA, retired the side in the eighth, faltered in the ninth to allow a run and then recovered just in time to avert disaster. He improved to 4-4 with his first victory since May 31.

Perez, who had a 5.40 ERA and four big-league appearances in the past two years, stranded the tying runs on base by striking out pinch hitter Herbert Perry to end the game. It was his first save since June 9, 1995, as a member of the Florida Marlins.

"I didn't realize I was going to pitch tonight," Perez said. "But I had a lot of confidence in myself. I thank my manager for giving me a chance. It's only my second [career] save, so I'm very happy. My team needed this game."

A loss would have made the struggles of starting pitcher Sidney Ponson seem all the more glaring. He remained winless since May 23, a span of eight starts, and left in the sixth inning after aggravating the blister on his right middle finger.

The Orioles handed Ponson a 4-0 lead in the third inning, then watched the Rangers come back with one in the third, two in the fourth and one in the sixth.

For Ponson, it marked the third straight start against the Rangers in which he has been unable to protect a four-run lead. It happened in back-to-back starts last season. He blew a 5-1 lead on July 24 at Texas in a game the Orioles lost, 8-7, and he blew a 4-0 lead on July 30 in a game the Rangers won, 6-4, in 11 innings.

"A lot of people have had four-run leads against these guys," Hargrove said. "A four-run lead, especially early in the ballgame, is not necessarily a good deal against the Rangers with the people they bring to the plate. You really need to tack on to that, and we weren't able to do that."

Rangers starter Dave Burba lasted only four innings, but Todd Van Poppel turned in three innings of perfect relief.

The Orioles finally broke through in the ninth against Rangers reliever Colby Lewis (1-1).

Geronimo Gil singled, Lewis hit Mike Bordick with a pitch, and then Mora hit his two-run triple into the right-center-field gap. Roberts added the sacrifice fly against Rangers reliever Juan Alvarez.

Bauer looked like he might lose it in the ninth, as he walked Rafael Palmeiro and Ivan Rodriguez with eight consecutive balls. Mike Lamb almost tied the game with a ball that center fielder Chris Singleton caught on the warning track.

Kevin Mench made it 7-5 with a single to left field, scoring Palmeiro. And then Carl Everett, who hit the Ballpark's longest home run of the season off Ponson in the third inning, flied to left for the second out.

With the left-handed-hitting Frank Catalanotto coming to the plate, Hargrove went with the left-handed Perez, figuring any pinch hitter was better than facing a guy batting .372 against the Orioles for his career who had beat them the night before.

Perry came on to pinch hit, and watched a Perez fastball for strike three.

"We made it interesting, but we got the job done," Bauer said. "B.J. was in dire need of a good outing and he got one tonight. And I just needed something positive, and getting a win is positive. And then Yorkis stepped up big with that huge pitch at the end."

Orioles tonight

Opponent:Texas Rangers

Site:The Ballpark in Arlington (Texas)

Time:8:05

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

Starters: Orioles' Rodrigo Lopez (7-3, 2.89) vs. Rangers' Kenny Rogers (9-4, 3.12)

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