ARLINGTON, Texas - Fatigued from traveling all night to reach their next destination, the Orioles needed a shot of adrenaline yesterday. If it came in two-liter bottles, all the better.
They didn't need an opponent that's forgotten how to lose, with its lineup full of hitters - including a very familiar one - who can make the sturdiest knees buckle.
Rafael Palmeiro and Michael Young boosted Texas' major league lead in home runs last night, and the Rangers outlasted the Orioles for a 5-3 victory before 23,175 at The Ballpark in Arlington.
The Rangers scored twice in the fifth inning off Orioles starter Pat Hentgen to move in front, with Palmeiro driving in his third run to break the tie.
Ismael Valdes (4-2) and three relievers blanked the Orioles after the second. Closer Ugueth Urbina walked two but got the final out to put the game to bed. The Orioles wanted to climb in with it.
After flying cross-country from Anaheim on Thursday night, they shuffled into the lobby of their hotel yesterday at 6 a.m.
The energy level in the clubhouse might have generated enough heat to toast bread, but only lightly.
"We're just trying to get through this game," manager Mike Hargrove said.
It wasn't the most opportune time for the Orioles to be short a player, but they battled the Rangers with only 24 yesterday after losing Gary Matthews in a waiver transaction.
They most likely will activate B.J. Surhoff from the disabled list before tonight's game if his left knee responds favorably to yesterday's workout.
"He needs to go out and stretch his knee," Hargrove said, "and then the next day show up and it's not sore and swollen."
Hargrove's bench was weak and thin. Down to three reserves, he had as late-inning options only rookies Carlos Mendez and Jose Morban - with five major-league at-bats between them - and catcher Geronimo Gil. And his closer, Jorge Julio, had appeared in five consecutive games.
The Rangers were cooking, with six straight wins before last night. The Orioles just looked fried. But they scored once off Valdes in the first inning and twice in the second. They had 10 hits by the fourth inning, including two each by Brian Roberts, Melvin Mora and Luis Matos.
Gradually, however, they ran out of gas. Ten straight batters were retired before Francisco Cordero hit Jay Gibbons with two outs in the eighth.
"I think everybody was pretty alert and ready to play," Roberts said. "We could have used a couple hits at the right time, and we didn't get them."
"There are times you can blame things on yourself," Hargrove said, "and there are times you have to give the other guy credit. And Valdez started throwing some good pitches."
Due to injuries and general ineffectiveness, the Orioles are slowly transferring Triple-A Ottawa's roster to their own, with Roberts and Matos starting last night and Mendez in reserve. All were in the minors last week.
Reliever Travis Driskill moved up on May 4, two weeks after injured outfielder Larry Bigbie. And if the Orioles aren't contending before the July 31 trade deadline, more flights could be leaving Ottawa.
Having posted his first victory in two years in his last start, Hentgen surrendered Palmeiro's 501st career homer in the first inning that gave Texas a 2-1 lead, and Young's bases-empty shot leading off the fifth that tied the game, 3-3. He was removed after the sixth with his pitch count at 116.
Palmeiro was 7-for-42 with no homers lifetime against Hentgen before last night. "My game has changed a little bit," Hentgen said, "but his hasn't."
A dubious call by umpire Rick Reed in the fifth cost Palmeiro another homer and two more RBIs. His fly ball to right field appeared to hit the yellow stripe at the top of the fence, but only Carl Everett scored when Reed ruled it a single.
Palmeiro represents the Orioles' past. Part of their future was on display in Arlington.
Roberts reached on an infield hit in the first inning and moved up when Valdez couldn't make a play on Mora's bunt. Jeff Conine lined out to right field, with Roberts scoring.
Consecutive two-out singles by Deivi Cruz, Matos, Roberts and Mora gave the Orioles a 3-2 lead in the second. That was before someone hung a Do Not Disturb sign in the dugout and left a mint on the bench.