O's rise in 11th on big night of comebacks

Tejada, Sosa hit first HRs since June 18, Bedard stars in return as Twins fall, 3-2

Lefty shuts out Minnesota for 6

Ryan blows save in ninth

Julio: scoreless 10th, 11th

July 19, 2005|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

MINNEAPOLIS - With the deal to acquire Florida Marlins right-hander A.J. Burnett apparently not complete, the Orioles are still looking for a pitcher to star at the top of their rotation. However last night, they took comfort in knowing that they officially had their ace back.

Their two biggest home run bats returned to the lineup, too.

Pitching for the first time in nearly two months, Erik Bedard shut out Minnesota for six innings and Sammy Sosa broke a scoreless tie with a two-run home run in the seventh inning. But it was Miguel Tejada who ultimately turned a gut-wrenching loss into a satisfying victory.

After B.J. Ryan blew his fourth save by surrendering a run in the ninth, Tejada slammed a bases-empty shot in the 11th to give the Orioles a 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins, before 20,308 at the Metrodome.

Jorge Julio (3-2) pitched a scoreless 10th and 11th to secure the victory.

"Before he went up, I said, `Miggy, this is your time of game,'" said Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli. "He's done it many times before. He felt that he needed to do that."

After his 420-foot blast off Twins reliever Juan Rincon on a 1-2 slider that caught way too much of the plate and rocketed toward the left-field bleachers, Tejada pointed to the Orioles' dugout on his way down to first base. It was Tejada's 20th home run, but his first since June 18, a span of 24 games.

That June 18 also marked the date of Sosa's last home run until his home run last night, a two-run shot off Minnesota starter Carlos Silva that went 420 feet. The homer, his 10th, ended Sosa's longest home run drought since 1992.

"You knew you need to do something for the team," said Tejada, who claimed that Mazzilli's reminder gave him "a lot more confidence."

With a loss by Boston, the Orioles (50-42) are now in a second-place tie with the Red Sox in the American League East, a half game behind the New York Yankees, who came back and beat Texas last night. They also moved a half game ahead of the Twins (49-42) in the AL wild-card standings.

The Orioles didn't get their 50th win last year until Aug. 6.

With the Twins down 2-1, Torii Hunter hit Ryan's first pitch for a double down the right-field line to lead off the ninth and he came around to score when the Orioles couldn't field a sacrifice attempt by recent Twins acquisition Bret Boone.

Oriole first baseman Rafael Palmeiro fielded Boone's bloop bunt, but Ryan was late covering first, and then he dropped the ball while attempting to tag the hustling Boone. The speedy Hunter tied the game at 2 without garnering even a throw, costing Bedard the victory.

Bedard showed no signs of rust, allowing only four hits, walking two and striking out seven. He threw 91 pitches, 60 for strikes, and finished by fanning the dangerous Hunter on an outside curveball to end the sixth inning. In his past seven starts spanning 50 innings, Bedard has given up just four earned runs.

"Tremendous," said Mazzilli. "His first outing in two months and to throw like that - his command was good. He used all of his pitches. It was where he left off at."

The Twins got the first run in the seventh, trimming the Orioles' lead to 2-1, when pinch hitter Luis Rodriguez drove Jason Grimsley's sinker between first and second base for a single, scoring Michael Cuddyer, who had a one-out double.

Tim Byrdak and Chris Ray combined to get out of the eighth to leave the game in the hands of Ryan, who, like the flip from Palmeiro on Boone's bunt in the ninth, dropped it.

"I felt good," said Bedard. "I was a little nervous in the first and the second innings, but I settled down and threw strikes."

Bedard hadn't pitched in a major league game since May 21 when he threw seven sharp innings to beat the Philadelphia Phillies at Camden Yards. It was also in that game when Bedard felt the sprained left medial collateral ligament in his knee getting worse.

Showing no rust with his ability to find the strike zone, Bedard struck out the side in the first.

Getting a no-decision "was tough," said Bedard, "but we won the game and that's what counts. It's been a long time, but to get back in the flow of things and help this team win is a plus."

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