O's 'pen writes perfect ending in 7-6 victory

Four scoreless innings bail out Ainsworth, give team series win over Rays

Parrish, Ryan, Julio close door

Orioles' 2-out, 2-run rally in seventh is difference

Palmeiro hits 530th HR

April 23, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

The game started with a story from last season - two pitchers who had come to the Orioles in the same trade going head-to-head at Camden Yards.

By the end, it was another reminder of how far the Orioles have come since that deal was consummated.

Kurt Ainsworth and Damian Moss had their struggles, making last night a showcase for the Orioles' revamped lineup and the American League's best bullpen, as they pulled out a 7-6 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays before a crowd of 19,250.

Rafael Palmeiro hit his 530th career home run - his first at Camden Yards in five years - pulling the Orioles within one run in the sixth, and with two outs in the seventh, the top of the order rallied to take the lead.

Leadoff man Brian Roberts and Melvin Mora hit back-to-back doubles, tying the score, and Miguel Tejada singled home Mora with the go-ahead run.

That put the Orioles six outs from victory, and they trusted the job to a bullpen that leads the AL with a 1.69 ERA.

"Teams are going to notice this," Palmeiro said. "If we can get to our bullpen with the lead, we're going to have a lot of wins."

Orioles left-hander B.J. Ryan escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the eighth inning, and closer Jorge Julio pitched a perfect ninth for his second save.

The Orioles won for the sixth time in seven games, moving back into first place in the AL East, a half game ahead of the Boston Red Sox.

Afterward, Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli pointed to his bullpen, which turned in another four scoreless innings, including two by left-hander John Parrish (1-1).

"They're making me smart, I guess," Mazzilli said. "They almost sense a situation is coming, and they know what to do."

Moss, who came to the Orioles with Ainsworth and minor-leaguer Ryan Hannaman in the July 31 trade that sent Sidney Ponson to the San Francisco Giants, returned to Camden Yards about 40 pounds lighter than he was last season.

The Orioles made Ainsworth the centerpiece of that deal, but he didn't perform like it last night, allowing six runs (five earned) on seven hits in five-plus innings.

Tampa Bay scored three in the second inning, and the Orioles came back with four off Moss in the fourth, as Tejada delivered a two-run single. When David Segui hit a broken-bat single to center, scoring Javy Lopez for a 4-3 lead, Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella yanked Moss and went to his bullpen.

Ainsworth settled down, holding the lead until the sixth, when Tampa Bay struck for three more runs. Aubrey Huff had a run-scoring double, and Robert Fick lifted a two-run homer over the right-field wall, putting the Devil Rays back in front 6-4.

But the Orioles were far from finished.

"Sooner or later," Mora said, "we're going to hit."

Leading off the sixth inning, Palmeiro launched a 2-2 fastball from Devil Rays reliever Jorge Sosa onto the right-field flag court. It was the 102nd home run of Palmeiro's career at Camden Yards, where he is the all-time leader, but it was his first since May 23, 1999, when he was in his first year with Texas.

The Orioles were storming toward another comeback, and Piniella simply didn't have the options Mazzilli did. Devil Rays left-hander Trever Miller retired the first four batters he faced after relieving Sosa, including Luis Matos and Larry Bigbie to start the seventh.

Then, batting right-handed, the switch-hitting Roberts fought off a tough pitch from Miller and dropped a bloop double down the right-field line. Piniella turned to right-hander Chad Gaudin, who had started the season with five scoreless appearances.

But Mora drilled an 0-1 pitch from Gaudin down the left-field line, scoring Roberts with the tying run. Tejada lined his single to right field, and Mora tested the arm of Jose Cruz Jr.

The one-hop throw pulled catcher Toby Hall off target, and he dropped the ball, as Mora slid around him safely with the go-ahead run. Mora punctuated the moment by lifting his arms.

Then it was Ryan's turn. He has yet to allow a run in seven appearances this season, spanning 9 1/3 innings, but this time he came close. Orioles center fielder Luis Matos dropped a fly ball from Fick, putting runners at second and third.

After walking Cruz intentionally to load the bases, Ryan struck out Tino Martinez with an 84-mph slider for a huge second out.

"He's definitely the go-to guy in the bullpen," Parrish said of Ryan. "I got chills watching him pitch tonight."

That brought the right-handed Julio Lugo to the plate, but Mazzilli had no intentions of pulling his left-hander.

"This kid's got fire in his belly right now," Mazzilli said.

With the crowd on its feet, Lugo hit a sharp grounder to shortstop, and Tejada was there. He fielded it cleanly and fired across the diamond for the out.

After dropping two of three games at Tampa Bay earlier in the month, the Orioles came back to even the season series.

"This team always finds a way to get it done," Mazzilli said. "It's hard to keep coming back, but they kept coming."

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Toronto Blue Jays

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 7:35

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

Starters: Blue Jays' Josh Towers (0-0, 5.79) vs. Orioles' Eric DuBose (1-2, 3.44).

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