This Is How Baseball Can Break Your Heart

July 02, 2009|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

The Orioles can't wait for the future to get here.

But maybe that's because the present has more emotional highs and lows than Real Housewives of New Jersey.

Look what happened to this team in less than 24 hours.

Tuesday night, at about the time most people were going to bed or watching Conan O'Brien, the Orioles came back from a nine-run deficit to beat the Red Sox, 11-10, at Camden Yards for the greatest comeback win in club history.

The players were giddy - well, about as giddy as you can imagine guys like Nick Markakis and Melvin Mora getting.

Manager Dave Trembley was so happy, I thought his face would freeze into a permanent smile.

Then Wednesday afternoon, leading 5-3 in the ninth with George Sherrill on the mound and two outs, they watched their previously lights-out closer surrender a bloop single to left, two walks and a bouncer up the middle to tie the score on the way to a heartbreaking 6-5 loss to the Sox, the team that has owned them lately.

You talk about being emotionally whipsawed. Baseball can do that to you.

This time, after the loss, Trembley looked like someone ran over his dog.

And when Brad Bergesen, who pitched brilliantly (four hits and six strikeouts in eight innings), was asked how tough it was to come so close and lose after the comeback of the night before, he was actually speechless for a moment.

"Oh, it's very tough," he finally managed. "You'd love to get the win here and win the series and get on the plane and go to Anaheim."

Anaheim is where the Orioles begin a seven-game road trip with the Los Angeles Angels tonight.

And if the weather's nice - and when isn't it in Southern California? - it's probably a great place for them to be right now.

But you can bet they won't soon forget these two games against the Red Sox, two of the most inspiring and maddening back-to-back games most have ever played in.

What a gritty comeback that was Tuesday night for the Orioles.

Trailing 9-1 after a 71-minute rain delay, with the stadium at least half-filled with the usual jeering Red Sox fans, they could have mailed it in for the rest of the game.

Instead, they suddenly looked like a completely different team.

Out of nowhere, the bats came alive. They scored five runs in the seventh inning, led by Oscar Salazar's three-run homer crushed into the left-field bleachers.

In the dugout, Trembley could feel the momentum begin to swing.

"Calm" is how he described the mood. "But every time we scored, it got a little more wild. It got a little more believable."

In the eighth inning, after Nolan Reimold led off with a single to left, Luke Scott doubled to right and Salazar reached on a squibber in front of the plate, the noise in the Orioles dugout had become a din.

And when Markakis hit the game-winning double to left off Red Sox all-world closer Jonathan Papelbon and Sherrill closed out things by getting Jason Bay to strike out with two men on in the ninth, the Orioles knew they had played a baseball game for the ages.

"That was probably the best game I've ever been involved in," Trembley said when it was over. "That was tremendous."

By Wednesday morning, two hours before the series finale against the Red Sox, he seemed to appreciate the incredible comeback even more.

"You know one of the best things, too, was the way everyone handled themselves when it was over," he said. "It was like, 'You've done it before, you've been there before.'

"You shake hands, you get off the field. There was no fist-pumping and pulling the gun out of the holster. ... There was a little etiquette involved. There wasn't anybody trying to show anyone up. They did it the right way."

As suddenly as they turned things around Tuesday night, that's how quickly things went south for them Wednesday.

Sherrill had allowed only one run in his past 21 innings Wednesday - his high-wire act seemed a thing of the past.

But after coming on in relief of Jim Johnson in the ninth and striking out Jason Bay and David Ortiz - Ortiz on a nasty breaking ball that froze the big guy - it all fell apart.

Bloop single to Jacoby Ellsbury. Walk to Jeff Bailey. Walk to Jason Varitek. Bouncer to Rocco Baldelli up the middle to tie the score at 5-5.

In the 11th, Julio Lugo singles off Danys Baez. Ballgame. O's lose, 6-5.

"No reason to dwell on it," Sherrill said when it was over, lapsing into full closer mentality. "You try to make the bad ones few and far between."

Two ballgames in 24 hours. Incredible highs and frustrating lows.

Baseball can do that to you.

Coming back

A look at historic rallies by Baltimore pro teams PG 6

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