Orioles get no relief vs. A's in losing 7th in row

Down two runs in sixth, Oakland rallies to win, 4-3

August 24, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

Miguel Tejada said he had tears in his eyes yesterday when he arrived at Network Associates Coliseum, the ballpark he called home for his first seven major league seasons.

What happened later to the Orioles was enough to make anyone weep.

On the night Tejada finally got a chance to hear the Oakland Athletics' fans cheer his name again, the Orioles put themselves in position to break their latest losing streak.

But the A's came back with three runs in the sixth inning, getting two big hits against Orioles reliever Jason Grimsley, to pull out a 4-3 victory.

The loss gave the Orioles' their third seven-game losing streak of the season and pushed them back to nine games under .500, at 57-66.

This one brought new levels of frustration on a night when Orioles starter Rodrigo Lopez had a chance to defeat Oakland starter Tim Hudson.

Lopez took a 3-1 lead to the mound in the sixth inning, and while he had labored to get there, it was just the start the Orioles needed.

But with one out, Eric Byrnes hit a little spinner up along the first-base line, and it changed the complexion of the game. For some reason, veteran first baseman Rafael Palmeiro waited for the ball behind the base, and the ball stayed fair, hitting the base and bouncing a few feet toward second out of his reach.

By that time, Byrnes had sped down the line for a single.

With Lopez's pitch count at 106, Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli turned to his bullpen, summoning left-hander Buddy Groom with three consecutive left-handed hitters coming to the plate.

But the strategy didn't work. Scott Hatteberg singled to right field, and Eric Chavez singled to left, loading the bases. Groom struck out Erubiel Durazo for a big second out, but Mazzilli turned to Jason Grimsley, and Jermaine Dye followed with a two-run single up the middle.

That tied the game, and then Adam Melhuse gave the A's the lead with a run-scoring single to right.

Hudson (9-4) allowed three runs, just one earned, in 7 1/3 innings to get the win. Ricardo Rincon recorded two outs in the eighth, and Octavio Dotel pitched the ninth for his 14th save.

After signing autographs for a throng of fans at the Orioles' hotel in downtown San Francisco, Tejada hopped into a black limousine and rode across the Bay Bridge, into Oakland.

It was a clear, cool day, and Tejada said he "cried a little bit" when he spotted Network Associates Coliseum.

"I was thinking, `I'm coming back today, and I'm going to just try to play the team I should have been playing for my whole career,' " Tejada said. "It's hard for me, but at the same time, I was happy to come back here and see my old friends."

The sparse crowd cheered Tejada's name when the baritone-voiced public address announcer, Roy Steele, announced the starting lineups. Tejada was batting cleanup, and his first at-bat didn't come until the second inning, as A's starter Tim Hudson retired the side in the first.

Oakland grabbed a first-inning lead, as Durazo, who had three home runs in Thursday's victory at Camden Yards, hit an RBI single against Lopez.

It was a long inning for Lopez, lasting 24 pitches, and the task already looked daunting for the Orioles against Hudson.

But Tejada led off the second inning, and most of the crowd came to its feet when Steele announced his name again. Tejada walked to the plate slowly, doing a half-circle toward third base, and tipping his helmet briefly to acknowledge the applause.

Then he stepped in against Hudson, and with a 1-2 count, he hit a chopper to the left of third baseman Eric Chavez. The ball was hit hard, and Chavez backed up on the ball defensively, allowing it to bounce off his glove and into the outfield.

Chavez had his career-best 47-game errorless streak broken, and the play seemed to rattle Hudson. He made his only mistake of the first five innings to the next batter, leaving a 93-mph fastball about thigh-high for Javy Lopez, who lined the pitch to left field for a double.

With runners at second and third, B.J. Surhoff showed the virtues of bat control. Surhoff lunged at a sinker, low and well outside of the strike zone, pounding the ball off the front of the plate toward second baseman Marco Scutaro. That allowed Tejada to score, and Lopez to reach third.

Hudson walked Palmeiro on four pitches. The A's would have been out of the inning with the game still tied, but after making a diving stop on a hard grounder from Garcia, Scutaro bungled the flip to shortstop Bobby Crosby, allowing the ball to get tangled in his glove.

Crosby had to leap over Palmeiro, as he slid into second, and had no play on Garcia at first. Lopez scored, and the Orioles led, 2-1.

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