Another lucky 7th carries O's, 4-3

Breaks aid O's big inning for 2nd night in row vs. A's

Ryan leaves bases full in ninth

August 17, 2005|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

OAKLAND, Calif. - Long held as the Orioles' very own house of horrors, the Oakland Athletics' McAfee Coliseum has turned soft on the visiting team the past two nights.

Its dimensions have comforted the Orioles' starting pitchers, and long-awaited breaks for the Orioles' offense have come from the unlikeliest of places.

On Monday, it was a seventh-inning error by sure-handed Oakland shortstop Bobby Crosby that was the decisive play in an Orioles victory. Last night, it was a blown call by first base umpire Chris Guccione that led to three unearned runs, helping the Orioles break a seventh-inning tie and top the A's again, 4-3.

Before taking the first two games of the series, the Orioles (59-60) hadn't beaten the A's (67-52) here since 2002, losing 10 straight and 15 out of 17.

Last night, they got some help. A's reliever Jay Witasick, a Bel Air resident who went to spring training with the Orioles, would have gotten out of the seventh inning unscathed, until Guccione ruled Melvin Mora safe at first with two outs, allowing Brian Roberts to score the go-ahead run.

Oakland third baseman Eric Chavez made a diving stop on Mora's grounder in the hole, but his bouncing throw forced first baseman Dan Johnson off the bag momentarily before he touched it. A's manager Ken Macha rushed out of the dugout to argue as replays clearly showed that Johnson had backed his heel on the bag before Mora reached.

The boos, which had been reserved for Rafael Palmeiro (2-for-4 with a run) for the first six innings, rained down on Guccione, getting louder with each successive Orioles hit.

Miguel Tejada doubled home Mora and Javy Lopez singled in Tejada, giving the Orioles a 4-1 lead.

Bruce Chen, who is just 3-5 on the road and has the sixth highest ERA (5.54) in the American League, allowed only three hits through the first five innings, but got touched for a bases-empty leadoff homer by Mark Kotsay that tied the game at 1 in the sixth.

It was also the only damage the A's would do all night against the left-hander as he left the game with two outs in the seventh inning. He gave up just four hits and one earned run, putting himself into position for the victory, reaching double digits for the first time at 10-6.

Jorge Julio gave up an RBI single in the eighth inning, but left-hander Tim Byrdak bailed him out of further damange, getting Johnson to foul out to Lopez with two men on. B.J. Ryan came on in the ninth and got his 27th save, allowing a run and leaving the bases loaded.

Much to the chagrin of A's fans, Palmeiro scored the Orioles' first run, coming around from second to score on Sammy Sosa's fourth-inning single.

Palmeiro, who was in the lineup last night as a designated hitter, his second start since returning last week from a 10-day suspension for a failed steroid test, started the inning by slicing a double down the left-field line. The double was eerily similar to Palmeiro's milestone 3,000th hit that he got last month in Seattle.

Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said that the 40-year-old would likely DH again today in the series finale, before heading back to first base on Friday when the Orioles start a three-game series at Cleveland.

"We talked about it and we're going to shoot him right in there in Cleveland, probably play the first two games in the field and then have Sunday off against [Cleveland left-hander C.C.] Sabathia," Perlozzo said. "The first step was to get him in there playing and the next one was getting him a DH spot and get him back-to-back days and the last step is to get him out in the field. He is on target so far."

Palmeiro faced a smattering of boos when his name was announced before the game, but the jeers grew louder as the game went on. They may have been at their loudest when Palmeiro scored in the fourth inning.

In his first at-bat, Palmeiro struck out on three straight pitches after catcher Javy Lopez led off the second with a single. Blanton then fanned Sammy Sosa for the second out, before allowing a single to Jay Gibbons and a walk to Luis Matos to load the bases.

Blanton got out of the inning by getting Brian Roberts to swing through an off-speed pitch out of the strike zone.

Given a one-run lead, Chen pulled out an escape of his own in the fourth inning. Kotsay and Eric Chavez singled. Chavez stole second and Chen walked Dan Johnson, loading the bases with one out.

The red-hot Jay Payton took a vicious swing at Chen's pitch, but he got under it, lifting a lazy fly in foul territory down the left-field line. Eric Byrnes caught it and let loose a high - and as it turns out, unnecessary because Kotsay bluffed coming to the plate - throw to home. The ball sailed over Lopez, but Chen was there to back up the play.

Chen then got out of the inning by knocking down Scott Hatteberg's hard grounder up the middle and firing home to get the forceout.

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