O's move past Rays one base at a time in eighth, 2-1

Castro, Byrnes, Matos combine for winning run to back O's 2-hit pitching


September 18, 2005|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

If only for one afternoon, if only for a precious few players, this weekend's series between the fourth-place Orioles and the last-place Tampa Bay Devil Rays still carries great meaning.

Getting his first shot in the big leagues, Bernie Castro, a diminutive 24-year-old utility infielder, is trying to prove to the Orioles that he belongs. Eric Byrnes, the team's most recent trade acquisition, has yet to convince the Orioles that he can be an everyday contributor.

But in yet another game where the Orioles came up small in so many big situations, Castro, Byrnes and then Luis Matos had key eighth-inning at-bats with Matos' RBI single carrying the Orioles to a 2-1 victory before an announced crowd of 31,400 at Camden Yards.

Matos' liner into left field off former Oriole Joe Borowski broke a 1-1 tie, scoring Castro, who had led off the eighth with a pinch-hit single, stole second and advanced to third on Byrnes' sacrifice bunt.

B.J. Ryan needed just five pitches to retire the Devil Rays in the ninth, notching his 34th save for the Orioles (70-77).

"Right now, I am feeling comfortable at the plate and when I feel like that, I don't look for pitches," said Matos, who despite having 27 RBIs, is the Orioles' leading hitter with runners in scoring position. "I just look for something around the strike zone, something that I can handle. He threw me a slider and I pulled it."

If only things were that easy for Byrnes, who entered the batter's box after Castro's single in the decisive eighth inning mired in a 1-for-30 slump. Plus he had very little bunting experience - aside from his sacrifice in the sixth inning yesterday - to draw on.

Byrnes was groomed in the Oakland organization, which abides by the much-publicized "Moneyball" philosophy, scorning sacrifice bunts and any other means of giving up outs.

"Shortly after I took over, I asked him if he had ever bunted or hit and ran, and he said not really," recalled Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo. "To his credit, he's worked at it. That's one of those things when you are not doing one thing, you have to do some of the small things. He did. He beared down."

Byrnes deadened the ball down the third base line, allowing Castro to coast into third.

"It's something I've never really done before," Byrnes said. "You get in a game like this and one run makes a difference. It feels good to just contribute in one way or another. It obviously hasn't been that great of a run since I've been here, but it's a good feeling when you help your team win a game."

The Orioles needed it in a big way. They stranded 13 base runners yesterday, repeatedly letting Tampa Bay starter Casey Fossum off the hook for his inconsistent control. The Orioles, who got their only other run on Brian Roberts' infield single off Fossum's foot in the fourth, have now stranded 24 runners in this series and are 3-for-17 with runners in scoring position over the past two days.

"We go over this every day and basically, I don't have an answer for it, other than the fact that I think that we get to wanting to hit the ball too hard," Perlozzo said. "We need to spread the ball around the field with men on base, take what's given to you."

A lack of offensive support nullified another standout performance from starter Bruce Chen, who allowed just two hits and one run in seven innings. Chen essentially made just one mistake, a first-pitch, fourth-inning fastball that Carl Crawford lined just over the left-center-field wall.

It was the Devil Rays' first hit and they'd manage just one more the rest of the way. Todd Williams (5-4) pitched a scoreless eighth to get the win and Ryan followed suit in the ninth.

"We wish we could have done it early for Chen because he pitched a [heck] of a game," said Matos. "But at least, we won the game. That's what's important."

NOTES: Celebrated in his native Dominican Republic for his decision to return home every year and play winter ball after the major league season ends, Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada said yesterday that he will take this winter off and spend much of his offseason in Maryland with his family. "I think I've played enough baseball this year," said Tejada, who has battled shoulder soreness parts of this season. "I am going to get a rest and I am going to enjoy my family. I think it is time for that."

Seeking to find a way to get more of a look at some of the recent call-ups before the season is over, Perlozzo said that he is considering using Castro, a natural second baseman, in the outfield. ... Catcher Sal Fasano was named "Favorite New Oriole" for the 2005 season by the Oriole Advocates.

Orioles today

Opponent: Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Site/Time: Camden Yards/1:35 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/1090 AM

Starters: Devil Rays' Doug Waechter (5-10, 5.23) vs. Orioles' Daniel Cabrera (10-11, 4.69)

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