The Orioles and Tampa Bay Devil Rays played through 11 innings of rain last night, while a crowd of 32,139 at Camden Yards gradually dwindled to a scattered few loyalists.
Those who remained saw some rare feats, from Melvin Mora's first career grand slam, to some uncanny defensive plays, to a Devil Rays pitching staff issuing 12 walks as the Orioles overcame an early five-run deficit.
After taking an eighth-inning lead, the Orioles saw closer Jorge Julio squander it in the ninth. And by the 11th, the fans were booing beneath their umbrellas, as the Devil Rays scored the winning run off this season's pincushion, Mike DeJean.
Yes, Tampa Bay won this one, 8-7, extending the Orioles' losing streak to four games.
Yes, DeJean (0-5) took the loss. But this time, in all seriousness, it wasn't his fault. Julio Lugo led off the 11th with what normally would have been a routine grounder to shortstop. But Miguel Tejada slipped in the mud and fell on his rear as Lugo took first with an infield single.
"I don't feel sorry for myself," DeJean said. "Bad weather games like this one are bad for both teams. Miguel falling down shows you how the conditions were. I'm way too fortunate to feel snake-bitten."
Figuring Lugo might steal, the Orioles tried a pitchout and guessed right, but Lugo still got a good jump and beat Javy Lopez's throw.
Then DeJean threw a wild pitch, allowing Lugo to reach third, as Lopez tried to make a backhanded stop. Pinch hitter Fred McGriff followed with a single to right field, scoring Lugo with the go-ahead run, and the Devil Rays held on for their 11th victory in 15 games.
Afterward, Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said there were no discussions with the umpires about delaying the game or improving the slowly deteriorating infield conditions. And Mazzilli refused to make it an excuse.
"Both sides played on the same field," he said. "I won't do that. I won't take that way out. ... You've got to hold them down when you get the lead."
Trailing 6-5, the Devil Rays scored a run against B.J. Ryan in the seventh, who walked off the field after the inning and fired his glove into the dugout.
And trailing 7-6, the Devil Rays got another run in the ninth, against Julio, who has converted eight of his 10 save opportunities.
Those blown leads overshadowed the Orioles' big comeback.
The Devil Rays scored five runs off Erik Bedard in the first three innings, before Mazzilli turned to Rick Bauer for three innings of scoreless relief.
Mora, who committed his major league-leading 14th error of the season in the first inning, hit the team's first grand slam of the season in the third off Devil Rays starter Victor Zambrano.
The Orioles capitalized on Zambrano's four walks to take the lead with two runs in the fourth. But Rafael Palmeiro lined out to end that inning with the bases loaded. Palmeiro also flied to right field to end the sixth inning with the bases loaded. He had stranded seven runners when he came up again in the ninth with the bases full of Orioles.
That time he delivered a sacrifice fly, and it seemed like the Orioles would put their latest losing streak to rest.
But Julio couldn't come through, and it took a smart defensive play by center fielder Luis Matos to keep the Devil Rays from taking the lead right there. Lugo led off the ninth with a single, and Rocco Baldelli followed with a double into the right-center-field gap.
Lugo probably would have scored on the play, and the speedy Baldelli was headed for a rare triple at Camden Yards. But the ball got lodged beneath the padding under the outfield wall, and Matos wisely lifted his arms to signify the ball was unplayable for a ground-rule double.
The umpires agreed, and after walking Aubrey Huff intentionally to load the bases, Julio escaped the mess with just one run.
Matos said a similar play during the last homestand helped him realize it was possible to make Baldelli settle for a ground-rule double.
On a night when the conditions were tricky, both teams needed every break they could get. The Orioles have already had eight games delayed by rain this season and that's not counting the five games that have been rained out.
"When it's raining, it's not a normal game," Matos said. "You've just got to get through it. And it seems like it's been raining on us every day. It's crazy."
Opponent: Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Site: Camden Yards
Time: 4:35 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Devil Rays' Rob Bell (1-2, 4.96) vs. Orioles' Rodrigo Lopez (4-2, 2.76)