Roberts, Sosa homer as O's trip Rays, 7-6

Williams, Ryan provide big lift in relief

Sosa's first gives him HRs in 41 ballparks



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 to win a game.

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

Ryan a l l owed a leadoff triple to Aubrey Huff and walked Josh Phelps before striking out the next two batters and retiring pinch-hitter Eduardo Perez.

Sosa's homer was the 575th of his career. He drove a 2-2 pitch from Scott Kazmir over the left-f ield 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.

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

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.

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 Rob e r t s ' f i elder 's choice grounder.

Williams shut down the Devil Rays over the sixth and seventh innings - he still hasn't allowed a run dating back 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 continues to wilt beneath the dome, and save his own embarrassment.

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 finally left the game after the fifth.

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 and giving Tampa Bay a 5-4 lead.

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

Using the perfect illustration of how to manufacture a run, the Orioles played small ball to take a 1-0 lead in the first.

Roberts opened with a broken-bat single to center field, the ball dropping behind the outstretched glove of second baseman Jorge Cantu. Melvin Mora laid down a sacrifice bunt, Roberts stole third and scored on Tejada's sacrifice fly.

The inning continued with Sosa walking - shortly after his fly ball to right field hit either the edge of the foul pole or the fence below it. Either way, it was ruled foul. Palmeiro bounced a single into center field, but Javy Lopez lined to right.

The lead lasted two batters. Cabrera gave up a double to Crawford and a run-scoring single to Julio Lugo, hardly the start he needed after struggling in his first outing.

Lugo stole second and continued to third on Lopez's throwing error, and he scored on a Josh Phelps single. Pitching coach Ray Miller visited the mound when Cabrera fell behind 2-0 to Travis Lee, who eventually walked. Cabrera fell behind 3-0 to Cantu before Tejada ranged behind second base to field a high chopper and twisted his body to make the throw for the out.

Joey Gathright also got ahead of Cabrera 3-0 and beat out a chopper to Mora, who leaped for the ball and made a strong throw. Most runners would have been out, but few of them have Gathright's speed.

The inning might still be going on, if the Devil Rays hadn't run themselves out of it. Gathright broke for second, but Lopez instead fired to third and got Lee in a rundown. Lopez applied the tag after taking the return throw from Mora.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Site, time: Tropican 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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