13-12 setback hard to forget

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Veterans put big-inning loss near top for strangest game they've seen

July 24, 2006|By DAN CONNOLLY | DAN CONNOLLY,SUN REPORTER

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The uncle of Orioles reliever LaTroy Hawkins called his nephew around midnight Saturday after he left his job at a steel mill and asked how that night's game against the Tampa Bay Devils Rays went.

"`I'm not even going to tell you,' " Hawkins said he told his uncle. "I said, `When you get home, turn on ESPN and then call me back.' And he called me back about 2 a.m."

This is how Hawkins summed up the Devil Rays' 13-12 victory, which was the first time in 73 years that two teams each scored nine runs or more in an inning in the same game.

"I've seen some wild things, but that was probably the wildest," Hawkins said. "I always tell young guys, `You have to put games like this in your memory.' It was one of those games that, man, you have to remember."

It's one the Orioles probably should try to forget. Up 3-0 in the fifth, Orioles starter Rodrigo Lopez and reliever Kurt Birkins combined to give up 10 runs to the Devil Rays, including two homers to shortstop Julio Lugo.

Trailing 13-3, the Orioles rallied in the seventh with a nine-run inning, but then couldn't score again - even with the bases loaded and no outs in the eighth - and ultimately lost by a gut-wrenching one run.

"It's almost like you'd rather lose 13-3 then do all that work, come back 13-12 and lose," said Orioles veteran Jeff Conine.

Orioles pitching coach Leo Mazzone has witnessed just about everything possible in baseball - he once saw near-certain future Hall of Famers Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux pitch against each other and each inexplicably throw 100 pitches by the fifth inning.

"But I don't think I've ever seen a game where your team got 22 hits and you lost. That's a first," Mazzone said.

The Orioles' 22-for-41 (.537 batting average) was the second-best single-game average in club history and their .608 on-base percentage set a single-game franchise record. According to www.retrosheet.org, it was the 96th time that a club hit at least .500 in a game; the other 95 won their games.

In a way, though, the craziness should have been expected. It seems whenever the Orioles and Devil Rays play - especially at Tropicana Field - the bizarre occurs.

"Every game we play here from the inception, it's like if you have a seven-run lead against them you don't feel like it's safe," said Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo. "I don't know what that is. Down here, for both teams, crazy things happen. I wish I had the answer to it."

Saturday night may have been the nuttiest of all. Twelve pitchers combined to throw 398 pitches, allowing 39 hits and 25 runs - all of which were scored in just four half-innings.

"That shouldn't happen but once in a blue moon, I guess," Mazzone said. "But once in a blue moon seems to happen a lot around here."

Patterson's night

Lost in the pinball scoring Saturday night was Orioles center fielder Corey Patterson having possibly the best offensive output of his big league career. Patterson was 5-for-5, the only time he has done that and just the second time he has had five hits in a game. He had two doubles, two RBIs and a stolen base, and said he knew he was in a special groove after his second at-bat.

"I was seeing the ball well and I was able to be relaxed and aggressive at the same time," said Patterson, who was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts yesterday. "As a player, that's what you are searching for. You can't be one way or the other. You can't be too relaxed and you can't be overly aggressive."

Fahey unavailable

Rookie Brandon Fahey was unavailable yesterday after playing most of Saturday's game with an injured right hand. Fahey said he hurt it sliding into second base in the first inning. It was diagnosed as a sprain and the knuckles of his ring and pinky fingers were still swollen yesterday. There is no exact timetable for his return, but Perlozzo said it "might be a couple days."

Around the horn

Jay Gibbons, making the first start of his rehabilitation assignment at Double-A Bowie, was 0-for-4 with a strikeout as the designated hitter in the Baysox's 5-1 win over Altoona. Reliever Tim Byrdak, recovering from elbow surgery, allowed one run in two innings, striking out three. ... Wednesday night's game against Kansas City, which previously was not scheduled to be aired in Baltimore, has been picked up by Comcast SportsNet.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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