In need of a roll, O's greet little luck

Good fortune graces winning rally Monday

`There's a lot of those ... due us'

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

OAKLAND, CALIF. — Late Orioles game: Last night's game between the Orioles and Athletics in Oakland, Calif., ended too late to be included in this edition. A complete report can be found in later editions or on the Internet at www. baltimoresun.com.

OAKLAND, Calif. - To a man, the Orioles refused to put any extra significance on Monday night's 6-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics. A win is a win, manager Sam Perlozzo and his players maintained, and right now, the Orioles need to rattle off plenty of them to be realistic about their playoff chances.

But even Perlozzo admitted that there was something special about the Orioles' five-run rally in the seventh inning, which led to Oakland starter Barry Zito's first loss in about two months.

The baseball gods, who have been so cruel to the Orioles during their slide from first place to fourth place in the American League East, finally blessed them with some good fortune.

How else can you explain getting five runs while knocking just one ball out of the infield? How else can you explain a once-dominant Zito losing everything in a span of a couple of pitches? How else can you explain shortstop Bobby Crosby throwing the ball away on a potential inning-ending double play, plating two Orioles runs?

"We got a lot of breaks," said Perlozzo, who went into last night 7-4 as the Orioles' manager since Lee Mazzilli was fired on Aug. 4. "There's a lot of those coming due to us, I think."

Asked about the Orioles' sudden change of fortune, Sammy Sosa added, "It's got to happen. That's the game. That's why they call it a beautiful game."

With that, Sosa grinned broadly and exited the clubhouse. He may have been the beneficiary of the biggest dose of good fortune with his seventh-inning single that Zito was unable to field, leading to the Orioles' first run. Sosa barely got a piece of one of Zito's patented off-speed pitches, squibbing the ball down the third base line.

The A's pitcher tripped while attempting to catch and shovel the ball home. Instead of a forceout, it gave Sosa his first hit in 18 at-bats, and just his second in 28 at-bats. It also opened the floodgates on the type of inning for which the Orioles have been waiting.

"As good as stuff as [Zito] had tonight, he had no business losing that game, but that's baseball," said Orioles left fielder Eric Byrnes, who was chuckling after the game about the high and tight fastball his former teammate and close friend started him out with in the first inning.

"His stuff was incredible. We were going to have to scrap together some runs if we were going to score against him and fortunately, that's what we did. We haven't been getting a whole lot of breaks and it's little things like that that we need to help us win games."

Byrnes, who went 0-for-5 but did make a spectacular catch in left field in his return to Oakland, admitted that he was probably trying to do too much.

"Of course, I am sure I did," said Byrnes when asked if he was pressing. "Not intentionally, but it's only natural. But at the same time, it was one game and it was just great to get the win. That's the bottom line right now for this team. We are going to have to win a lot more times if we want to stay in this."

The Orioles arrived at the McAfee Coliseum, a place they hadn't won at before Monday since the 2002 season, treating this as just another three-game series. At least, that's what they were saying as players pointed to the Orioles' entire remaining schedule, which features 31 of 44 games, including last night's, against teams currently above .500.

The A's, who face the Orioles four times next week, are just one of five teams the Orioles trail in the AL wild-card race. With Monday's victory, the Orioles trimmed their deficit to nine games in the wild card.

"Every day, we have to prove to ourselves that we can do it," said pitcher Rodrigo Lopez, who got the win on Monday, improving to 12-6. "We are going to have a lot of series coming up with guys who are in the wild-card [chase]. Right now, I think we are just trying to get back into the race. We'll still play hard and we'll see it at the end. I don't think we have something to prove, but we have to try and go out and win every game."

Asked if the Orioles came to Oakland needing a three-game sweep, Perlozzo shot down that notion.

"We would love to take every game we play, but I don't think we put that kind of pressure on ourselves," he said. "We're in this thing and we're taking baby steps as we go. In another 10 days, we'll know where we stand."

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