Ryan hangs on in ninth as O's edge Rays, 7-6

Tampa Bay stranded after leadoff triple

Sosa hits 1st HR, Roberts his 4th in win

April 13, 2005|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The drama over Sammy Sosa's first home run as an Oriole ended last night, leaving them with one small detail that needed their immediate attention.

They still had a game to win, a task that became much harder when B.J. Ryan surrendered a leadoff triple in the ninth. But victories don't come easily for the Orioles at Tropicana Field. Just ask their closers, past and present.

Brian Roberts flexed more muscle with his fourth homer, reliever Todd Williams produced two scoreless innings at a critical juncture, and Ryan escaped a huge jam to give the Orioles a 7-6 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays before 10,563.

Aubrey Huff never left third base after his triple and a walk to Josh Phelps. Ryan struck out the next two batters and retired pinch-hitter Eduardo Perez, moving the Orioles (4-3) above .500 for the first time since Opening Day.

"That wasn't the way I drew it up," Ryan said.

Sosa's homer was the 575th of his career. He drove a 2-2 slider from Scott Kazmir over the left-field fence in the third inning for his first RBI of the season.

Tropicana Field represents the 41st ballpark that Sosa has homered in, leaving Camden Yards, Jacobs Field and RFK Stadium as the exceptions among 2005 facilities.

"It's only seven games into the season," Sosa said. "A lot of people have been asking so many questions, but we still have 150-something games to go. Come on. But it's all right."

A Devil Rays employee retrieved the ball and arranged for a male fan from Sosa's native Dominican Republic to meet the right fielder.

"I'm very happy that we're playing good baseball right now," said Sosa, who thought he had an opposite-field home run in the first, only to have the ball ruled foul. "I don't worry about myself because I know I'm going to be there."

Roberts began the night leading the team with three homers. Luis Matos had the other one, while the big thumpers - Sosa, Javy Lopez, Miguel Tejada and Rafael Palmeiro - still waited for their first.

Sosa was getting most of the attention for being shut out, so manager Lee Mazzilli decided to have a little fun with it.

"I was going to bat [Roberts] fourth and lead Sosa off," Mazzilli joked.

Roberts also singled, walked, drove in three runs, scored twice and stole his first two bases of the season.

"He's done a phenomenal job since Day One," Mazzilli said.

A bad hop in center field in the fifth inning allowed Sosa to collect his first triple since April 16, 2002, and he scored the tying run on Lopez's sacrifice fly.

The Orioles went ahead for good in the eighth after reliever Casey Fossum began the inning by walking Jay Gibbons. Matos and Larry Bigbie followed with singles, allowing Gibbons to score, and Matos came home on Roberts' grounder.

Williams shut down the Rays in the sixth and seventh innings - he still hasn't allowed a run dating to spring training - and Ryan recorded the save after Jorge Julio permitted a run in the eighth. Ryan got the last four outs to cover for Julio, who was 5-for-10 in save situations here as the closer, and spare himself some embarrassment.

Huff crushed a belt-high fastball to center field, the ball slamming off the fence, but Ryan protected the lead.

"I've faced Aubrey a lot of times the last couple years and that's the first really bad pitch I've made, and I thought he killed it," Ryan said. "I thought it was way gone."

After Phelps walked, Travis Lee struck out swinging for the first out, perhaps the key at-bat of the inning.

"It gives you something inside you that you can go after the guy," Mazzilli said. "All of a sudden, there are a lot of things that can happen."

Orioles starter Daniel Cabrera used 36 pitches to complete the first inning, when the Devil Rays scored three times. He kept falling behind in the count, going 3-0 on consecutive batters, and left after the fifth.

Having gone only 3 1/3 innings in his first start, Cabrera was primed to make another early exit. Rick Bauer began warming after the first, and John Parrish and Williams also took turns.

Cabrera retired six of seven batters after the first inning, but his poor command became an issue again in the fourth, when the Devil Rays loaded the bases with one out. Carl Crawford lifted a fly ball to right-center field, and Matos dropped it after reaching in front of Sosa, allowing two runs to score.

Williams replaced Cabrera to begin the sixth. Cabrera was charged with four earned runs (five total), leaving his ERA at 9.72, and walked three. He threw 98 pitches, two fewer than Kazmir in the same number of innings.

"That's not a bad game," Cabrera said. "Every time I pitch and the team wins, that's a good game."

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Site, time: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Fla., 7:05

TV/Radio: ESPN2/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Erik Bedard (0-0, 1.29) vs. Devil Rays' Mark Hendrickson (0-0, 2.70)

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