Orioles steal a victory

Patterson's theft of home lends a boost

Roberts 3-for-3 with RBI

Orioles 5 Blue Jays 2

May 24, 2007|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,Sun reporter

Brian Roberts broke for second, but after realizing that the only thing that awaited him there was an out, he pivoted and retreated back to first base. Caught in a rundown, Roberts retraced his steps several times, moving back and forth between the bases, while shooting glances at Orioles teammate Corey Patterson, who crept farther and farther off third base.

Finally, when Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Royce Clayton flipped the ball to pitcher Dustin McGowan near first base, Patterson had his opening. He broke for home and slid in safely as McGowan's errant throw sailed past home plate.

With an offense that continues to struggle in RBI situations, the Orioles will gladly take runs any way they come, no matter how unorthodox the situation. Patterson's fifth-inning steal of home, the first for an Oriole since Chris Richard did it in August 2001, highlighted a 5-2 victory over Toronto last night in front of an announced crowd of 16,938 at Camden Yards.

"I knew right when I took off. I was like, `Man, I am in trouble,' " said Roberts, who broke for second when McGowan faked a throw to third base. "But I realized that Corey was over there. It kind of eased my mind a little. I figured if I could stay in it long enough, we probably could at least score a run out of it."

The play, which came after Roberts' single broke a 1-1 tie, extended the Orioles' lead to 3-1. With his team's lead down to one run in the seventh, Aubrey Huff added a two-out, two-run single with the bases loaded to give the Orioles (21-25) more breathing room.

The Orioles' bullpen retired all nine batters it faced in relief of an exhausted Steve Trachsel (3-3), who battled through command issues to get the victory.

"Tonight, every inning was a battle right from the beginning," said Trachsel, who allowed nine base runners in six innings, but gave up only two runs, thanks to several nice plays from his defense. "They picked me up. It's time for me to pick them up and give them some easy innings. I left them out there a long time."

It was Roberts who served as the Orioles' initiator for much of the night. He was 3-for-3 with the RBI single and two walks, reaching base in all five of his plate appearances. He is now hitting .419 over his past 11 games and last night surpassed Miguel Tejada as the team's leading hitter with a .307 average.

Asked how good he is feeling at the plate, Roberts, who hit just .245 in April, said: "Better than a month ago."

"It's baseball. It comes and goes like this," he said. "I love hearing when people say, `Guys are streaky and this and that.' Everybody in the world is streaky in this game. You try to ride it out as long as you can. Once you get some confidence going, it makes things a little easier. That's where things are right now."

Roberts acknowledged that he hasn't felt this good offensively since the beginning of the 2005 season when he parlayed a great first half into a starting role in the All-Star Game.

"I feel like I am the same kind of hitter [as in 2005]," said Roberts, who has hits in 19 of his past 20 games. "Home runs are one thing. But just being a good hitter, I feel like I am back to that stage, being healthy and being able to do the things that I feel like I am capable of."

He hurt Toronto with his glove in the seventh, diving and throwing out Alex Rios from his knees to get the first out of the inning. Two innings earlier, it was his speed on display as the Blue Jays chased him in the rundown but never got close enough to make the tag.

Asked when he was expecting Patterson to break for home, Roberts joked, "every throw they made." Patterson, the fastest Oriole, said that he was waiting for the Blue Jays to take their eyes off him before he came home.

"Everything happened so fast and you have to really rely on your instincts and your reactions and go from there," said Patterson. "The first few throws, they were checking me pretty hard at third base and making throws to try to get Brian out of the rundown. I said, `Hey let's make a break for it.'

"He's very quick and obviously a great base stealer. I think anybody else [on the team], it probably would have been over with in two throws, but Brian was able to get caught into it long enough."

Said Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo: "If it's going to work, those are the two guys who are going to have a chance [for it] to work with."

Trachsel allowed a run in the top of the sixth as Clayton plated Frank Thomas, who reached when he got hit in the arm by a pitch, on a sacrifice fly. But Chad Bradford held the lead with a scoreless seventh and left-hander Jamie Walker, and not Danys Baez, pitched a perfect eighth, retiring three tough right-handed hitters in Troy Glaus, Thomas and Aaron Hill.

Perlozzo, who is considering a different role than the eighth inning for the struggling Baez, said that his usual setup man has a tired arm and he wanted to give him a break, so he went with Walker.

"[We] rolled the dice and he did the job," Perlozzo said.

Chris Ray pitched a flawless ninth for his 11th save. Trachsel is now 5-0 with a 2.95 ERA in six career starts against Toronto (20-25).

"It was frustrating," he said. "I felt really good going into the game, I felt strong. But my location, especially from the windup, was terrible. I even debated at one point starting the inning from the stretch. At least I had an idea where it was going. I was very lucky to battle out of it."


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