Pie's Walk Sends Orioles On Way

His Patience Sets Table For Grand Slam By Roberts

August 21, 2009|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,dan.connolly@baltsun.com

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- On a night when the Orioles' young phenom pitcher was at his most effective, their veteran second baseman hit a grand slam and their sleep-deprived closer had to hold on for four outs, it was perhaps baseball's most understated offensive weapon that halted the Orioles' five-game losing streak in an 8-7 win against the Tampa Bay Rays.

A two-out walk.

A two-out walk by the free-swinging Felix Pie, who had two strikes against him before shifting into patient zone, watching four consecutive pitches go by and trotting to first to load the bases in a 1-1 game in the sixth.

It chased Tampa Bay's starter, Orioles killer James Shields (7-10), from the game, and led to Brian Roberts' fourth career grand slam, which gave the Orioles a lead they never lost.

"I look at the ball and I said, 'Go, go, go,' " Pie said about Roberts' homer. "When Brian got to home plate, I tell him, 'You owe me dinner because I got four RBIs for you.' "

After the game, Orioles manager Dave Trembley praised Pie.

"That was the key at-bat that inning," Trembley said. "I know Roberts hit the ball out of the ballpark, but Pie worked the walk after 0-2 in a situation where a lot of times you'll see guys give that at-bat away. He didn't give it away. That's a lot of progress in his favor. ... That's a team at-bat."

Rookie Nolan Reimold added a three-run homer in the seventh, and the bullpen held the lead to hand a win to lefty Brian Matusz, who was making his fourth big league start.

Had the Orioles lost, they would have dropped below a .400 winning percentage this late in the season for the first time since September 2001.

Instead, the Orioles (49-72) ended their losing streak, avoided a sweep and won on the road against an American League East opponent for just the fourth time in 24 tries this season.

"It's always great to break through," Trembley said. The Rays "have been making one more quality at-bat and one more play in the field. Tonight, we did that."

Matusz (2-2) had a shaky first, but yielded just one run. He then retired 13 of 14, including 10 straight, before giving up a single, double and three-run homer to Ben Zobrist to bring the score to 5-4.

The rookie was charged with four runs on seven hits, but he walked none and struck out seven.

"I thought this was my best outing so far," Matusz said. "I had just one pitch I'd like to have back; otherwise I thought it was a very good outing."

After the homer, Trembley removed Matusz after he had thrown only 91 pitches. The lefty said he would have loved to have stayed in, but fellow rookie Kam Mickolio entered and pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings. Mickolio hasn't allowed a run in 8 1/3 innings this year.

Reimold's 11th homer of the year - a three-run shot - gave the Orioles a four-run lead, and the Rays came back with three more in the eighth.

But closer Jim Johnson, who hadn't pitched since Sunday and had been away from the team because of the birth of his daughter, got a four-out save.

He allowed the Rays to get the tying run on third with two outs, but struck out Evan Longoria on a 95 mph fastball for his fifth save.

"I had a couple extra cups of coffee," Johnson joked. "It was pretty good to get out there right away instead of having to sit on it for a couple days. It's good to get right back in the action."

It was the kind of win the Orioles cherish in this season of rebuilding: contributions from veterans and rookies. And a learning experience for all.

"It may sound bad; we are not too, too focused on wins and losses. They are what they are right now," Roberts said. "You certainly don't want to lose. That's not what I am saying. But we have been playing good baseball, we have played good games. Our young guys are getting good experience. All of that is impor- tant.

"But you want to win the ones you should win, and today was one that we definitely should win."

Box score

Thursday's game PG 4

ORIOLES @WHITE SOX

Tonight, 8:11

TV: MASN HD

Radio: 105.7 FM

INSIDE

Zaun

productive with Rays

PG 5

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