Orioles' late surge sweeps away Devil Rays, 13-2

O's score five in 7th, four in 8th to back Bedard, win fourth in row

September 03, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Taking the long walk through 132 games of their season, the Orioles once again stand at a familiar crossroads. It's a busy intersection, capable of whisking a team to a better neighborhood or flattening them. And tread marks don't look good on any uniform.

The Orioles can begin losing again or make another run at .500 and the salvation of blessed mediocrity. If the summer has proved anything, it's that they are prone to wandering in any direction.

Using a new pitch, Erik Bedard completed seven innings for the first time since early July, a late offensive surge removing the tension from his start, and the Orioles extended their winning streak to four games with a 13-2 win over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays yesterday at Tropicana Field.

Never before had the Orioles (61-71) swept Tampa Bay in a three-game series, but five runs in the seventh and four in the eighth made it a certainty.

Losers of 12 in a row before Sunday, the Orioles continue to leave more streaks than a bad paint job. They now face the Yankees in New York, the final stop on a four-city, 14-day trip, convinced the worst times are behind them.

"I guess it's just the flow of a season," said Brian Roberts, "but you would like to cut down the bad ones less than we have."

Miguel Tejada drove in three runs to increase his RBI total to 121, most in the majors. Melvin Mora, Rafael Palmeiro, B.J. Surhoff, Jay Gibbons and Geronimo Gil each had two RBIs.

"We scored a lot of runs, and we pitched well," Mora said. "When you put it all together, you'll win games."

The Orioles outscored Tampa Bay 31-8 and outhit them 47-19 in a series that also allowed two rookie pitchers to gain their second wind.

Daniel Cabrera turned in 6 1/3 shutout innings Wednesday night for only his second victory in his past eight starts, and Bedard won for the third time in 12 outings.

"He's trying to find a changeup and he came up with a split grip, and he threw a bunch of them today," Orioles pitching coach Ray Miller said. "If he gets that over the plate, they'll swing more at the marginal fastball. He gets so many pitches fouled off and so many pitches just miss that are taken because everything's hard. This is something slow to get over the plate. I've told him that's how he's going to win ballgames.

"We actually saw him smile on the mound a couple times."

Bedard (6-9) hadn't gone seven innings since his last start of the first half, a span of 10 appearances. He hadn't won since Aug. 6. But he held the Devil Rays to one run over seven innings and issued only one walk.

"I couldn't throw a change, so I started working on this," he said. "I needed one my whole life. I just never could throw one, but I finally found something that I was comfortable with and it helped a lot."

Bedard lost his shutout in the sixth after Rocco Baldelli led off with a bouncer to third that got past Mora as he charged the ball. The play was scored a double, and Baldelli later came home on Jose Cruz's grounder.

The Devil Rays had stranded a runner on third the previous inning after a bizarre play involving Gil, who was making his first start behind the plate this season. Aubrey Huff singled and was awarded second base after a pitch in the dirt lodged beneath the throat protector on Gil's mask - a violation of Rule 5.09g.

Bedard was charged with a wild pitch. The ball is ruled out of play and the runner advances one base.

"You see all kinds of stuff every day," Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said.

The Orioles broke through against Rays starter Dewon Brazelton (6-6) in the fourth, scoring twice on consecutive doubles by Palmeiro and Surhoff and a grounder by Gibbons.

Their lead increased to 3-0 in the fifth on Tejada's sacrifice fly after David Newhan doubled, and the Orioles sent 10 batters to the plate and scored five runs in the seventh.

Gil, called up from Triple-A Ottawa on Wednesday, delivered the last two runs of the seventh with a bases-loaded double.

"When you're not down 4-0 or 5-0 in the second or third, I think everybody relaxes a little bit," said Roberts, who reached base 11 times in the series. "Even though it might be 0-0 in the fifth, we know we can score runs."

The Devil Rays (59-74), still on pace for the best record in team history, have lost six straight while tumbling into fourth place.

"It should get your dander up a little bit," Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella said. "If this doesn't wake you up, then you're going to sleep for a while. Who in their right mind wants to get beat like this?"

It happened a few times to the Orioles during their losing streak. Maybe those days are behind them. Or maybe they're fast approaching again.

"Coming back like this after losing 12 games, it's a good sign," Mazzilli said.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: New York Yankees

Site: Yankee Stadium

Time: 7:05

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Rodrigo Lopez (10-8, 3.83) vs. Yankees' Kevin Brown (10-3, 3.96)

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