HRs in 12th lift Orioles after 2 blown saves, 10-6

Mora, Gibbons connect to put away elusive victory over Devil Rays


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Pulling up early as they tried to enter the wild-card race, the Orioles must lower their expectations over the remaining 32 games. Third place has become the carrot that's dangled in front of them. Though not as tasty as a postseason spread, it's quite filling for a team that hasn't finished out of fourth the past six years.

"It's the immediate goal right now," manager Lee Mazzilli said. "Third is better than fourth but not as good as second."

One helping at a time.

Tampa Bay left fielder Aubrey Huff hit his second homer last night with two outs in the ninth inning to leave closer Jorge Julio with another blown save at Tropicana Field, and his two-out single in the 11th off Buddy Groom extended the game a little further - just enough for one last outburst by the Orioles.

Melvin Mora and Jay Gibbons homered in the 12th off Lance Carter, and the Orioles were the last team standing in a 10-6 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Mora led off the inning with a shot to left field, giving him 31 RBIs in August. B.J. Surhoff doubled to score Rafael Palmeiro, and Gibbons followed with his second homer of the night.

The Orioles thought they won the game in the 11th when Surhoff singled off Jesus Colome to score pinch runner Val Majewski for a 6-5 lead. But Dave Borkowski, trying for his first major league save, gave up a bloop single to Julio Lugo with two outs, and Groom walked former Oriole Brook Fordyce.

Huff grounded a single to right, scoring Lugo, but Gibbons threw out Fordyce trying for third. More distance remained in the marathon.

Huff hit a two-run homer off Bruce Chen in the fifth, but the Devil Rays never led.

Chen took a two-run lead into the sixth inning before Mazzilli went to his bullpen with the Orioles ahead 4-3. Jose Cruz homered off Jason Grimsley in the seventh to make it 5-4, but B.J. Ryan kept the Devil Rays scoreless for 1 1/3 innings.

Mazzilli turned to his closer, who proceeded to blow his fifth career save in 10 chances at Tropicana Field. Julio was 2-2 with a 7.82 ERA.

The dome protected the players from a vicious storm that echoed outside. Who's going to protect Julio from the Devil Rays? All three of his blown saves this year have come against Tampa Bay, including one at Camden Yards, where he's 42-for-47 lifetime.

What does it say about the Devil Rays that they've slipped behind a club that lost 12 in a row before ending the streak Sunday? They're 5-14 since Aug. 9 and 19-34 since moving two games above .500 on July 3.

The Devil Rays had spent 61 of 75 days in third place, including the past six, but were evicted last night. It just took a while.

Returning to right field after starting at first base Sunday, Gibbons gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead in the third inning with his first home run since May 21 in Anaheim.

Rafael Palmeiro produced another run off Rob Bell in the fourth with a double to right-center field that scored Miguel Tejada, and Brian Roberts' 40th double of the season scored Gibbons in the fifth.

The first four batters reached in the sixth, with Lopez's single driving in Tejada, and Roberts reached on an error leading off the seventh and came home on a single by Mora.

Chen turned in seven scoreless innings in his debut last Wednesday against the Oakland Athletics, mixing and locating his pitches and showing decent velocity - traits that made it difficult to believe he's been with seven organizations since 2002.

A journeyman in every sense of the definition, Chen wasn't treated like one when he joined the Orioles. "Whenever you acquire a player, you always want to have a clean slate because you weren't there. You don't know what happened," Mazzilli said. "I think it's unfair to bring that over with a player. You've got to give him a clean slate."

Once rated as the No. 1 prospect in the Atlanta Braves' system by Baseball America, Chen struck out the first two batters and retired the first six before running into trouble in the third. The Devil Rays loaded the bases with one out before Chen struck out rookie B.J. Upton with the count full and retired Huff on a pop-up.

The Orioles appeared to catch the Devil Rays at the right time last night, with outfielders Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli missing from Tampa Bay's lineup. Baldelli most likely will be activated from the disabled list today when rosters expand.

Tampa Bay general manager Chuck LaMar was trying to deal Cruz before the midnight deadline. He was seen working the phones during batting practice in a suite beside the press box.

The Orioles had seen both sides of Bell before last night. They reached him for five runs and 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings in June, but he limited them to two hits over seven shutout innings the following month.

Bell exited last night after Lopez's single in the sixth gave the Orioles a 4-2 lead. He allowed seven hits.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Site: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Time: 7:15

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

Starters: Orioles' Daniel Cabrera (9-7, 4.94) vs. Devil Rays' Mark Hendrickson (8-13, 4.91)

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