O's Ray strands L.A. to end trip

Orioles 7 Angels 6

May 29, 2006|By JEFF ZREBIEC | JEFF ZREBIEC,SUN REPORTER

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Ejected for arguing a call in the fifth inning, Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo was somewhere in "hollering range" to the dugout, unable to see Chris Ray on the mound in a tenuous spot in the ninth inning yesterday at Angel Stadium.

For some of the Orioles, it was the last thing that they wanted to see at the end of a long and often frustrating 10-game road trip. The bases were loaded with one out, and the Orioles' lead was down to one run. But it was exactly what Ray wanted at that point in time.

The young closer had just pitched around Los Angeles Angels slugger Vladimir Guerrero, perfectly content to walk him and move the tying run to third base and the winning run to second for one of the American League's top run producers over the past several years. Garret Anderson swung at Ray's first pitch and hit a hard grounder at second baseman Brian Roberts, who started a double play that ended the Orioles' 7-6 victory over the Angels before 40,856.

"I wasn't going to give in to [Guerrero], give him a pitch to hit," said Ray, who got six outs yesterday and is now 13-for-13 in save opportunities. "That's not the guy you want to do that to.

"I was just trying to throw a fastball away, either [get] a weak fly ball to left field or have [Anderson] roll over it to the right side of the field."

Before the imposing Guerrero strode to the plate, the majority of the Orioles' infield gathered on the mound to discuss the options with Ray, and a consensus was quickly reached. Because Anderson tends to stay on top of the ball, Orioles third baseman Melvin Mora reasoned, he - and not the free-swinging Guerrero - would be more likely to hit into a double play.

"You are never going to get beat [by] their best hitter," said Orioles catcher Ramon Hernandez. "It is one of those times where you really have to put the game on the line. You have to take a chance. It was a lucky shot, because [Anderson] hit it hard, too."

Earlier in the game, Roberts had joked with Anderson about the left fielder's ability to always hit the ball where the Orioles second baseman wasn't. Roberts barely had to move to start the double play.

"It never fails every series I play against him," said Roberts, who had three of the Orioles' 13 hits yesterday. "I move over one way and he hits it the other way. I took a guess on that one and it worked."

The Orioles (23-28) prevented a three-game sweep by the Angels (21-29). They finished the road trip with a 4-6 record, a disappointing mark considering all three teams they played - the Washington Nationals, Seattle Mariners and Angels - started the series with worse records than the Orioles.

After today's much-needed day off, they will begin a 10-game homestand. In a quiet clubhouse before the game, Orioles first baseman Kevin Millar said it is too early to panic, but things also need to change and soon. Millar said it needs to start with players communicating more with each other.

"Talk the game, be baseball players," Millar said. "We're not here to collect paychecks and have rims and tires on our cars and dress [fancy]. We're here to win baseball games. We've got to challenge each other, help each other and do that. I don't think that goes on enough. ... That's the thing we lack.

"We've got too many sideshows. We've got too many guys worrying about what suit they're wearing. ... That's the big thing here."

If the Orioles were waiting for something to energize them, perhaps Perlozzo provided some spark, sprinting from the dugout in the fifth inning to get into the face of plate umpire Tim Timmons.

Timmons ruled Chone Figgins' bunt down the third base line was fair, loading the bases with no outs, though Hernandez said he had swatted in foul territory. Perlozzo, who was ejected for the first time this season and the third for his managerial career, was particularly annoyed that Timmons made the call, despite appearing to be being partially blocked by the Orioles catcher.

"I saw my catcher knock the ball away like it was foul. Then, I saw my infielder and pitcher react, and that was good enough for me," said Perlozzo, who acknowledged that an apparently blown call by Timmons at first on Saturday night, which cost the Orioles two runs, probably added to his gripe.

Both Hernandez and Orioles starter Kris Benson said the ball was clearly foul. A key bunt that stayed fair started a big rally against Benson in his last start against Seattle.

"I'm tired of those bunt plays costing me ballgames, as far as wins are concerned," said Benson, who allowed four earned runs over 5 1/3 innings, making the start on three days' rest. "I think the umpire was blocked out of the play. As far as my angle toward the ball and Mora's angle toward the ball, you could tell there was dirt between the ball and the line."

Trailing 4-2 after that bases-loaded situation turned into a two-run fifth, the Orioles scored four runs and six hits in the seventh off Angels starter Kelvim Escobar (5-5) and then ace reliever Scot Shields, with Roberts, Mora and Miguel Tejada, who had been in a 4-for-29 slump, delivering RBI singles.

"I wasn't sure if I fired the club up or they were just glad to get me out of the dugout," Perlozzo said.

Leading 6-4, the Orioles added another run, an RBI groundout in the eighth by Nick Markakis.

It proved to be big.

Ray was needed with two men on and no outs in the eighth after LaTroy Hawkins gave up three hits and a run on a total of five pitches. The Orioles closer got out of the eighth by inducing a one-out double play. After allowing a run in the ninth, he was able to do it again.

"He's been a go-to guy, especially in games we need to win," Benson said of Ray. "He's been spectacular."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.