O's comeback almost surreal, but dejection, reasons decidedly real

`You can't let it slip away early,' says Mazzilli

May 15, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

Orioles reliever Mike DeJean used to pitch at Coors Field, a place where baseball often imitates slow-pitch softball, and this is how he described what happened last night at Camden Yards: "It was 10 innings of edge-of-your-seat, mind-bending baseball."

DeJean walked through a somber Orioles clubhouse, trying to put the team's 10-9 loss to the Anaheim Angels into perspective.

The manager, Lee Mazzilli, had already scolded the troops, reminding them that one of the greatest comebacks in team history was necessary because of poor execution in the early going.

Coming back to erase a 9-0 deficit is special, especially when it involves scoring three runs in the ninth inning against one of the game's best closers in Troy Percival. But Mazzilli wanted them to remember how they got themselves into that hole.

"These guys busted their [butts]," Mazzilli said. "They're spent. Their tongues are hanging out because they came back and battled. But you can't let it slip away early."

But sometimes a team learns more about itself in defeat than in victory, and Game No. 32 of this season could one the Orioles reflect on for months.

Take away Kurt Ainsworth's start - nine earned runs in 1 1/3 innings - and the night was full of positives:

Rick Bauer tosses 4 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. John Parrish adds two more scoreless innings, and even the beleaguered DeJean comes on and pitches a scoreless ninth, setting the stage for the comeback.

The offense gets home runs from Javy Lopez (No. 5), Rafael Palmeiro (No. 6), Melvin Mora (No. 6) and Luis Matos (No. 3). And then Miguel Tejada, the team's heart and soul, comes through with a bloop two-run single to tie it in the ninth.

"I've been part of some games at Coors Field that were surreal, but this here tonight against a team with that kind of pitching ... " said DeJean, who pitched for the Colorado Rockies from 1997 to 2000. "If I was on an opposing team in the American League, I'd be scared to death of this lineup."

B.J. Surhoff, another veteran, was taking the loss hard. Pinch hitting for Larry Bigbie in the ninth inning, he went hitless in two at-bats, and then had the winning run score against his arm.

Chone Figgins hit a single to left field, and Adam Kennedy scored from second when Surhoff's throw pulled catcher Javy Lopez up the first-base line.

"I thought I had a good chance to throw him out," Surhoff said. "It felt great coming out of my hand, it just went off-line."

After the dramatic comeback against Percival, the 10th inning was a letdown, but even Surhoff saw the silver lining.

"It was good for some of the young guys to see that you can come back from that," he said. "You've just go to keep playing."

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