Payton, O's slam door

Outfielder is latest hero as grand slam helps secure sweep

Orioles 6 Red Sox 3

May 15, 2008|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN REPORTER

They stood and cheered for several moments, waiting for outfielder Jay Payton to emerge from the dugout and acknowledge the crowd. When Payton didn't, starting pitcher Daniel Cabrera ducked his head out of the dugout instead and accepted the adulation.

These, indeed, are fun times for the Orioles, who are finding new heroes seemingly on a daily basis. Yesterday, it was Payton's turn as his seventh-inning grand slam capped another gritty comeback, and a 6-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox before an announced 28,939 at Camden Yards.

Down by three runs for the second straight day against the Red Sox, the Orioles scored twice in the sixth inning and then loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh. Payton lined Hideki Okajima's 0-1 fastball into the left-field seats, his fourth career grand slam, though his first since July 2005.

The homer, Payton's third of the season, secured a two-game sweep of the struggling Red Sox and the fifth win in the past six games for the Orioles (21-19). It was Boston's fourth straight loss and marked the first time since July 7-10, 2005, they had dropped consecutive games at Camden Yards.

"Nobody was really egging me on in the dugout," Payton said on not taking the curtain call. "I really wasn't even sure [they were calling for it]. I thought that maybe they were just still celebrating the home run. Daniel took [the curtain call] for me. He deserves it. He's been pitching great this year."

In his first matchup with the Red Sox since nearly inciting a bench-clearing brawl in September, Cabrera didn't have his best stuff over seven innings, allowing three runs on 10 hits, two of them solo home runs. But he walked none and kept the Orioles in the game long enough to earn a win - his second versus Boston in 11 starts - and for them to stage a late-inning rally. They've won six games after trailing in the sixth inning.

"Back-to-back days - a different guy today, same kind of scene, though," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "There was a lot of excitement in our dugout. It was great for our team and great for people that root for the Orioles."

It was Payton who put the Orioles on the board with an RBI groundout in the sixth that cut Boston's lead to 3-1 and ended Jon Lester's shutout bid. Nick Markakis, who had been hitless in his previous 11 at-bats, followed Payton with an RBI single to center.

The Orioles still trailed by a run and had two outs with nobody on in the seventh when they started their decisive rally, highlighted by four clutch at-bats, three of them delivered by players who either started the season on the bench or the disabled list. Shortstop Freddie Bynum, who rejoined the team last week after having knee surgery during spring training, hit an infield single to get things started. Catcher Guillermo Quiroz, a late addition to the lineup after Ramon Hernandez was scratched with a sore left wrist, then singled to right off Craig Hansen. That brought up Brian Roberts, who worked a 3-2 walk against Hansen to load the bases.

"I think people are seeing this team is pretty resilient and we certainly don't quit," Roberts said. "That's for sure. As I said early on, we're going to play all 27 outs. If you can beat us for all 27, we'll tip our hats. But we're going to grind out every at-bat and we're going to grind out every pitch."

With the bases loaded, Boston bench coach Brad Mills, the acting manager in the series because there was a death in Terry Francona's family, brought on left-hander Okajima rather than sticking with the right-handed Hansen. Okajima entered the game with a 0.50 ERA, but he left a pitch up that Payton was waiting for.

"It is probably the first time I've had a lefty brought in to face me, but a lefty [Lester] got me out the first three at-bats, so maybe they were just playing the numbers," Payton said. "He's been throwing the ball great. He just left a pitch over the middle fortunately. ... I feel like I've been swinging the bat decent and I haven't had a lot to show for it. It was nice to get a big win with one today."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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