5-run 10th, Roberts' HR lift rallying O's to win

Starters sub in, tie game in 9th

Zambrano pitches strong 5

Orioles 6 Rangers 3

September 21, 2007|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,Sun reporter

ARLINGTON, Texas -- For most of the night, Miguel Tejada, Brian Roberts and Ramon Hernandez watched another disappointing Orioles offensive effort from the bench, as all were kept out of the starting lineup by manager Dave Trembley.

With just a week and a half left in a season that became a lost cause long ago, Trembley has vowed that it's time to give others opportunities to play, but he said the goal of winning remains unchanged. So with the Orioles being shut out and down by a run in the ninth inning, Trembley called on Roberts and Tejada, who helped tie the game in the ninth.

Roberts then hit a three-run home run in his team's five-run 10th that sent the Orioles to a 6-3 victory before an announced 20,136 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, and broke a three-game losing streak.

Fernando Cabrera gave up two runs in a shaky 10th but held on for the Orioles' seventh win in the past 29 games.

"One of our better team baseball games of the season," Trembley said. "[Victor] Zambrano gave us a chance, and our situational pitching was great. And then we got some big hits from guys that didn't start the game."

On a night where they got a strong start from Zambrano, who allowed just one run in five innings, the Orioles (65-87) appeared destined to be shut out for the fourth time in 19 September games. But trailing 1-0 in the ninth and held to one run in their past 27 innings, the Orioles got their rally started on Melvin Mora's leadoff double against Rangers closer Joaquin Benoit.

Trembley sent up Roberts, who grounded out to second base, but most importantly, moved Mora to third. Trembley then called on Tejada for his first pinch-hit appearance of the season. Tejada, who was just 2-for-23 on the road trip, roped a single to center against Benoit to tie the game.

"It's a long season and it's hard to be hot all year," Tejada said. "It's great to get a hit like that. I didn't expect to be in there."

Orioles reliever Jamie Walker preserved the 1-1 tie by pitching a scoreless bottom of the ninth. In the top of the 10th, Nick Markakis led off with an infield single and Kevin Millar walked.

Aubrey Huff followed with a hard grounder that first baseman Brad Wilkerson couldn't handle. The error scored Markakis and gave the Orioles a 2-1 lead. Mora then laced an RBI single to right for a two-run Orioles' advantage, and it expanded to five runs when Roberts pounded Wes Littleton's 3-1 pitch over the right-center-field wall. The three-run shot was his 12th homer of the year.

"I knew the situation was probably going to arise," Roberts said when asked about entering the game as a late-inning substitute. "When you have 700 at-bats, you just do what you normally do."

The late-inning outburst salvaged what was a poor offensive performance by the Orioles for eight innings. The Orioles had two runners on in three of the first four innings against Texas starter Brandon McCarthy but couldn't manage a run. They then allowed long reliever Jamey Wright to pitch 3 2/3 scoreless innings while giving up only one hit.

C.J. Wilson came on to retire Huff with Markakis on second base for the final out of the eighth, making the Orioles 0-for-10 on the night with runners in scoring position.

But that stretch ended with Tejada's clutch single in the ninth that took Zambrano off the hook of a loss that he didn't deserve. Zambrano, whose contract was purchased from the Pittsburgh Pirates earlier this month simply because the Orioles needed arms to throw out there, became the 13th pitcher to start a game for the Orioles this season.

He pitched four scoreless innings of relief in his first outing against Toronto, but he hadn't made a major league start since May 8. After hitting Ian Kinsler, the first batter he faced, and allowing him to score in the first inning, Zambrano pitched four straight scoreless innings, allowing only three hits and two walks.

But he got little support from a lineup that was shaken up again by Trembley, who also didn't have the services of Corey Patterson (injured) and Jay Payton (suspended). The Orioles' lineup included catcher J.R. House, second baseman Brandon Fahey, shortstop Luis Hernandez, left fielder Freddie Bynum and center fielder Tike Redman. All but Bynum spent a good chunk of the season in the minor leagues.

Trembley said before the game that Hernandez will probably start two games at shortstop and Fahey two at second in this four-game series.

"It's time to give those guys an opportunity to play," Trembley said. "It's not that I need to evaluate them. They deserve an opportunity to play. We know what the other guys can do."

Trembley was reminded of just that in the ninth and 10th innings last night.

"I wish we would have had a whole lot of runs and gave them the full night off," Trembley said. "But I talked to all of them and told them to be ready and they were."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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