The Orioles wandered into the danger zone again last night, clutching a slim lead like an over-stuffed purse, the late innings their dark ally.
Teams usually try to win games at this juncture. The Orioles wanted to avoid another mugging.
The Tampa Bay Devil Rays snatched away their three-run lead in the eighth, sending 15 batters to the plate against relievers Jim Hoey, Brian Burres and Chad Bradford, scoring 11 times and extending the Orioles' losing streak to seven games with a 15-8 victory before an announced 17,781 at Camden Yards.
Jamie Walker tossed a scoreless seventh inning with the Orioles ahead 6-3, but Hoey allowed five of six batters to reach base -- including a bases-loaded walk to Dioner Navarro and a game-tying, two-run single by pinch hitter Greg Norton.
Brian Burres walked Akinori Iwamura and surrendered an RBI single to Carl Crawford and a two-run single to Carlos Pena. Five more runs scored with Chad Bradford on the mound. And a game spiraled out of control again.
Nine straight Tampa Bay batters reached base, and the Orioles allowed 11 runs in an inning for only the second time in club history. The Washington Senators scored 11 against them in the sixth inning May 11, 1962.
The Orioles (58-72) tied a club record by hitting six homers at home, including two by Miguel Tejada, who followed Nick Markakis' two-run shot in the first. The Orioles hadn't hit back-to-back homers this season before last night, when they did it twice. Tejada and Kevin Millar homered in succession in the eighth, after Tampa Bay had gone ahead 14-6.
It wasn't enough to influence the outcome, but it made the eighth inning last one hour, one minute and 46 seconds.
Aubrey Huff and Ramon Hernandez also connected for the Orioles, who have allowed 53 runs after the sixth inning on this homestand.
The Orioles haven't won since confirming that Dave Trembley would remain as manager for the 2008 season and arranging a news conference for him at the B&O warehouse that included his wife, Patti, and sentimental tales of his long journey to the majors.
The only escape from the losing came from Monday's open date in the schedule.
"I feel OK," Trembley said before the game. "I'm not feeling sorry for myself. I didn't like what happened last week. I don't think anybody did. The day off doesn't make everything better. It doesn't take away what happened. Just forget about it and move forward. Let's move forward."
That's the basic message Trembley sent to his players during a pre-game clubhouse meeting that included more than the usual scouting report information when a new opponent comes to town.
"They all have a tremendous amount of pride. I think they'll be fine," he said. "It's baseball. It's not the end of the world. It's baseball. Play better. How you go about it is probably a major scene, but it's not the end of the world.
"It starts with pitching. Pitch better. Play better. Tighten it up. That's all."
The Orioles need Daniel Cabrera to improve his performance on the mound. He has won two straight decisions only once this season, and has allowed five earned runs or more in nine starts.
After his last start ended with the Orioles on the wrong end of a 30-3 score, Cabrera took a 4-1 lead into the fifth inning last night and allowed two runs with two outs -- the first coming on Pena's 31st homer. He made it through the sixth before Walker entered with the Orioles ahead 5-3. Cabrera allowed five hits, walked four and struck out eight.
Cabrera needed 28 pitches to get through the first inning, and the Devil Rays took a 1-0 lead on Iwamura's leadoff triple and Crawford's single. Cabrera also walked a batter, but he made a key defensive play -- not usually his strength -- when he fielded B.J. Upton's sharp bouncer to the mound and got Crawford in a rundown.
Center fielder Corey Patterson had some difficulty fielding Iwamura's triple, failing to pick it up cleanly on multiple attempts, but he turned the tables in the bottom of the first with a shot that cleared Upton's head in center for a triple. Upton also whiffed on his first attempt to grab it, and Patterson cruised home on Markakis' liner onto the flag court in right.
Markakis and Tejada were tied for the team lead with 14 homers, but only for a minute or so. Tejada pulled an 0-2 curveball into the left-field seats.
They added another run off Tampa Bay starter Jason Hammel in the third inning on Markakis' single that scored Brian Roberts.
Markakis continues to lead the team in RBIs with 83. He was 2-for-15 in the just-concluded series with the Minnesota Twins, but reached base in his first two at-bats last night.
Hammel was the perfect remedy for whatever ailed Markakis. He hasn't won in 17 major league starts and had allowed 20 runs and 30 hits in his past four games spanning 16 innings heading into last night.
Hammel retired 10 of 11 batters before Huff hit his 13th homer, and the fifth against his former team. He watched the ball's flight as it arced over the out-of-town scoreboard.
The Orioles hit four homers for the first time this season, but Hammel was responsible for only three. Hernandez, mired in an 0-for-26 slump, connected off reliever Scott Dohmann for his first homer since July 16.