Rallying O's go wild in 8th, top Toronto

8-run inning trips Jays, 11-7, shows club's `heart' as wild-card long shot

August 16, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

TORONTO -- Coming back from six runs down against the Toronto Blue Jays yesterday didn't exactly spawn wild-card fever inside the Orioles' clubhouse.

Sure, the players were excited after scoring eight runs in the eighth inning to pull out an 11-7 victory at SkyDome, but the scene was rather subdued.

Miguel Tejada, David Newhan and Brian Roberts sat on a couch finishing their food as they watched the end of the Chicago White Sox's victory over the Boston Red Sox.

That loss by Boston pulled the Orioles within seven games in the wild-card race, but Roberts said none of the players actually knew where the team stood in the standings.

"We were asking, but we weren't sure," he said. "You can't really look at the numbers. We know if we play well, we'll give ourselves a shot. It's exciting, I guess.

"It's exciting just to be able to ask how far back we are."

So it goes for the unassuming Orioles, who keep plugging along on their best stretch of the season. They have won 11 of their past 13 games.

Yesterday's huge comeback win made it two of three against the Blue Jays. That gave them a 4-2 road trip after they took two of three from Anaheim.

The players happily packed for home, where they'll begin a three-game series tonight with the Oakland Athletics, and no one seemed more excited than Tejada.

This will be his first chance to see the A's since he departed as a free agent and signed his six-year, $72 million contract with the Orioles.

"I'm not going to lie to nobody," Tejada said. "I'm really excited to see my friends from Oakland. I'm going to get the ball when I get a hit, and give it to my kids.

"I'm excited to see those guys, and at the same time, I'm excited for them to see the way we play."

Roberts said Tejada was the one who kept everyone going yesterday, when the Orioles fell behind 7-1 by the fourth inning, with the Blue Jays knocking around rookie stalwart Daniel Cabrera.

"He was just yelling, every pitch," Roberts said of Tejada. "He gets everybody going, and I think we feed off of that. And even the people who don't say a whole lot, all of a sudden they're starting to say something."

For most of the day, it looked like all the momentum the Orioles had gained on their recent winning surge had expired. Cabrera had one of his poorest showings of the season, allowing seven runs on eight hits in 3 2/3 innings.

Trailing 6-1, manager Lee Mazzilli turned to Eddy Rodriguez with the bases loaded in the fourth, and Rodriguez promptly issued a four-pitch walk to Frank Catalanotto, making it 7-1.

But the Blue Jays wouldn't score again.

Rodriguez quickly settled down and got the Orioles to the sixth inning, still trailing 7-2.

"Eddy could have folded up the tent, but he didn't," said Orioles reliever B.J. Ryan. "That's the way he is. He battled, and he picked up the starter and picked up the rest of the team."

The Orioles made it 7-3 in the seventh, as Melvin Mora hit a sacrifice fly for the third of his three RBIs on the day. And then, the bottom fell out for Toronto.

It started innocently enough. B.J. Surhoff hit a grounder to shortstop to start the eighth against Blue Jays reliever Vinnie Chulk. But Surhoff raced down the line, and Chris Gomez had to rush his throw, and the ball bounced past first baseman Carlos Delgado for an error.

"I couldn't put my finger on a key moment," Newhan said. "It might have been B.J. beating that ball up the line. It's something as easy and simple to do as running down the line hard. He busted his tail and put the pressure on them."

Karim Garcia flared a single into right-center field, and then Larry Bigbie lined a single to right, loading the bases.

Then Mazzilli turned to his bench, using Javy Lopez as a pinch hitter for catcher Robert Machado. Lopez laced a ball that Gomez tried to glove but deflected into left field for a two-run double.

The dugout was still stirring, when Roberts went up and stroked a two-run single up the middle, tying the score.

"It snowballed in a hurry," Ryan said.

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons turned to reliever Jason Frasor, but Newhan lifted an RBI double to the left-field wall, giving the Orioles an 8-7 lead.

Tejada and Surhoff added RBI singles, and Garcia hit a sacrifice fly, as the Orioles sent 12 batters to the plate in the inning.

The eight runs were the most the Orioles have scored in an inning this season. And the six-run deficit was the biggest they have overcome in a victory since they came back from 6-0 to defeat these same Blue Jays, 11-7, on Aug. 23, 2002.

Mazzilli called it the best victory of the season.

Orioles hitting coach Terry Crowley said, "They showed their talent today, but more than anything else, they showed their heart."

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Oakland Athletics

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 7:05

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

Starters: A's Mark Redman (8-9, 4.56) vs. Orioles' Erik Bedard (5-6, 4.32)

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