Hairston, O's remain a hit in 3-2 victory

Resurgent 2nd baseman sparks 11th-inning rally to turn back Devil Rays

3rd straight late-inning win

Stephens goes solid 6 as O's near .500 mark, capture season series

August 23, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

Jerry Hairston's up-and-down season reached a high point last night, and he finished with his uniform covered in dirt, just the way the Orioles like it.

Hairston had three hits, including a sixth-inning home run, but his manager was more excited about the effort Hairston gave in the 11th inning.

After leading off with an infield hit, Hairston slid home with the winning run on Tony Batista's single, as the Orioles claimed a 3-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays before 21,447 at Camden Yards.

FOR THE RECORD - In yesterday's editions of The Sun, Orioles player Tony Batista was incorrectly identified in a photo caption on Page 6D describing a game-winning celebration. The Sun regrets the error.

It was the smallest crowd in Camden Yards history, but the group that came saw two rookie pitchers keep the game hitless until the bottom of the fifth inning. And the few who stayed saw Hairston put an exclamation point on his recent resurgence.

"I hope what we're seeing is not a mirage," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said of Hairston, who raised his average to .271. "Jerry's really turned it up a notch, and he should be congratulated for that."

Hairston secured the leadoff role coming out of spring training, but Hargrove quickly moved him down in the order after he hit .156 in the first eight games. In late May, Hairston was relegated to the bench as Hargrove handed his playing time to Brian Roberts.

It was a tough time for Hairston, but Hargrove was pleasantly surprised with the way Hairston handled it. When Roberts struggled, Hairston got his job back, and now he is hitting .300 over his past 58 games.

"The big leagues is no joke," Hairston said. "This is a high level, and you've got to improve every night. That's what I've been trying to do."

This was a big win for the Orioles because they finally wrapped up their season series with the Devil Rays, going 10-9, and improved to 62-63 this season, placing them one game below .500 for the first time since July 20.

The Orioles had won the previous two games in dramatic fashion, and last night was more of the same.

"That team, for us, has been tough," Batista said of the Devil Rays. "They've been hitting pretty good, and they've been pitching pretty good. This series was difficult."

This time, Orioles rookie John Stephens and Tampa Bay Devil Rays rookie Jorge Sosa combined to record 28 outs before anyone had a hit.

The anticipation of dueling no-hitters didn't exactly create a buzz at the ballpark, even though the drama built for more than half of a regulation nine-inning game.

This was a makeup game replacing the teams' April 9 rainout at Camden Yards, and the crowd was smaller than the 21,748 that showed up for a makeup against the Texas Rangers on June 20, 1996.

Both pitchers' no-hit bids ended with a home run. Orioles first baseman Jeff Conine hit a one-out shot in the fifth inning, driving a fastball from Sosa over the center-field wall for his 12th homer of the season.

Chris Gomez led off the sixth inning with a home run for Tampa Bay's first hit. It was Gomez's third homer of the series and his 10th of the season. With a full count, Stephens left a 69-mph changeup over the plate, and Gomez hit it 340 feet down the line, just over the left-field wall.

The Orioles came right back and took the lead the next inning, when Hairston hit his fourth home run of the season. But Tampa Bay tied it again in the seventh, when Jared Sandberg drew a leadoff walk, stole second and scored on Steve Cox's single.

The game turned into a battle of the bullpens, and the Orioles got five innings of scoreless relief from B.J. Ryan, Willis Roberts, Buddy Groom and Jorge Julio (5-5).

Hairston singled to start the 11th against Devil Rays reliever Travis Harper (5-7). Gary Matthews singled to left field, moving Hairston to second. Batista hit the game-winner to left, and Hairston slid home ahead of Carl Crawford's throw.

The Orioles improved to 9-2 in extra-inning games.

"We eat our Wheaties every morning, I guess," Hargrove said. "The team I had in Cleveland, we were 13-0 [in extra innings] in '95, and in '96, with essentially the same club, we were 2-11. This team battles real well, and that's real comparable to the teams I had in Cleveland."

Orioles tonight

Opponent:Toronto Blue Jays

Site:Camden Yards


TV/Radio:Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters:Blue Jays' Steve Parris (5-4, 5.18) vs. Orioles' Scott Erickson (5-11, 5.03)

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.