Wobbling off cycle

Orioles teeter late after Huff's milestone four-hit game

O's erase 5-0 deficit but lose on 2-run HR off Ray in 9th

Angels 9 Orioles 7

June 30, 2007|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,Sun reporter

Aubrey Huff's three-run homer last night put the Orioles in the lead. His single in his final at-bat put him in select company.

The bullpen's latest meltdown put a damper on his achievement.

Huff became only the third Oriole to hit for the cycle, joining Brooks Robinson and Cal Ripken Jr., when he lined a pitch from reliever Chris Bootcheck into center field in the seventh inning.

But the Los Angeles Angels tied the game in the eighth, and Howie Kendrick drilled a two-run homer off Chris Ray in the ninth to hand the Orioles a 9-7 loss before an announced 36,689 at Camden Yards.

Ray hit Vladimir Guerrero to start the inning, and Kendrick deposited a fastball into the Orioles' bullpen with two outs. Ray has allowed five homers this season, two to the Angels.

"I think it's more a location of his pitches," Orioles interim manager Dave Trembley said. "I don't think it's stuff, I don't think it's confidence. He's leaving too many pitches in the middle of the plate."

The Orioles (34-44) have lost 10 times when leading after the seventh. Ray, who allowed a run Thursday night before the game was suspended because of rain, fell to 4-6.

"I just missed my spot on that one pitch and they took advantage of it," he said. "I need to be more consistent. My confidence is still there. I feel like I'm throwing the ball well. I just made one mistake tonight."

Huff collected his 12th career triple in the second inning, doubled in the fourth and gave the Orioles a 7-5 lead in the fifth with his three-run shot off Angels starter Kelvim Escobar. The hardest components were out of the way, leaving him with a chance to become the first Oriole to hit for the cycle since Ripken did it May 6, 1984.

"I was thinking, `Gosh, this last at-bat is going to be stressful,'" he said. "Bootcheck gave me a good pitch to hit the first pitch and I missed it. And then he came in real hard and I just got lucky to get it down.

"Obviously, for me, that's probably one of the most special days of my baseball career. The triple was my 1,000th hit, the double was my 200th double. The homer, we were lucky enough to get that [ball] back from the fan, and the single, I got it back. So I got all four of the balls with me. That'll be a pretty good memento."

The dugout remained mostly silent about Huff's pursuit of history except for Kevin Millar.

"He said, `You've got to go get that single for all the fat guys out there,'" Huff said. "It was really a sigh of relief to see it drop. I know Gary Matthews is a great center fielder and I saw him closing on it."

Huff received a loud ovation when he stepped to the plate in the seventh, and he soon became the first Oriole to hit for the cycle in Baltimore. Ripken did it in Texas. Robinson did it in Chicago on July 15, 1960.

"This is a great tradition of baseball," he said. "A lot of fans here are diehard. This is one of the biggest franchises history-wise, so to be able to do that here, I didn't really know that. That means a little bit more."

Huff came out for a pinch runner and received a curtain call, leaving the dugout and waving to fans.

"Before I even went up to the plate, the crowd was going pretty crazy," he said. "I didn't even think anybody really noticed."

Huff said he anticipated being replaced by a pinch runner. "I've been getting pulled out for defense, and at the time we had the lead. I was already looking in the dugout for a pinch runner," he said.

Huff would have batted again in the ninth. Brandon Fahey, hitting in Huff's spot, flied out to end the game.

Melvin Mora also homered, his two-run shot in the fourth reducing the Angels' lead to 5-3, and came a triple short of the cycle. Following Huff in the order, he popped up in the seventh.

Rob Bell tossed 4 1/3 scoreless innings in relief after the Angels (50-30) knocked out starter Steve Trachsel in the second but was denied his first win in more than two years when the Angels rallied.

Chad Bradford got the first two outs in the eighth before walking Mike Napoli and hitting rookie Erick Aybar, who fell behind 0-2. Chone Figgins collected his fourth hit, grounding a single into right field that scored Napoli and tied the game at 7.

Trachsel allowed hits to nine of the 12 batters he faced, but he also was bailed out twice when the Angels got caught in rundowns. He threw 19 pitches in the first inning and 23 in the second, leaving with two outs and Los Angeles up 5-0. He has surrendered 15 runs in his past three games covering 10 1/3 innings, and his ERA has increased from 3.39 to 4.95 this month.

"Everything he threw, they hit," Trembley said. "He made some adjustments, but they jumped on him early and often."

Figgins had a double and single in the first two innings, and the only hit off Bell, an infield single in the fourth. His 51 hits in June are a club record for one month.

"Rob Bell was above and beyond," Trembley said.

roch.kubatko@baltsun.com

O's who have hit for cycle

Aubrey Huff

Last night

Los Angeles (AL) 9, Orioles 7

At Camden Yards

Player AB R H RBI BB SO

Huff 4 3 4 3 0 0

ORIOLES SECOND: Tripled to right.

ORIOLES FOURTH: Doubled to center.

ORIOLES FIFTH: Homered to right on a 1-2 count, Gomez scored, Hernandez scored.

ORIOLES SEVENTH: Singled.

Cal Ripken Jr.

May 6, 1984

Orioles 6, Texas 1

At Arlington Stadium

Player AB R H RBI BB SO

Ripken 5 2 4 2 0 0

ORIOLES FIRST: Flied out to left.

ORIOLES THIRD: Tripled (Dauer scored).

ORIOLES FIFTH: Singled.

ORIOLES SEVENTH: Doubled.

ORIOLES NINTH: Homered.

Brooks Robinson

July 15, 1960

Orioles 5, Chicago (AL) 2

At Comiskey Park

Player AB R H RBI BB SO

Robinson 5 1 5 3 0 0

ORIOLES FIRST: Singled to left.

ORIOLES THIRD: Homered.

ORIOLES FIFTH: Singled to center.

ORIOLES SEVENTH: Doubled to left.

ORIOLES NINTH: Tripled to center.

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