When the top of the fourth inning finally ended on Monday and the Orioles' offense had flexed its muscles one more time in this young season, Koji Uehara jogged out to the mound and offered congratulatory fist bumps to Ty Wigginton and Aubrey Huff.
There was no need for a translator. The appreciation and admiration shown by the Japanese pitcher was obvious. On a night when Uehara had all sorts of problems with the Texas Rangers' lineup, the offense the pitcher previously described as reliable and the back end of the bullpen bailed him out.
The Orioles, wearing "Baltimore" across their road jerseys for the first time since the 1972 season, saw their six-run, sixth-inning lead whittled to just a run by the end of the seventh. However, they survived as closer George Sherrill got through a tense ninth inning to save a wild, 10-9 victory over Texas in the Orioles' road opener before an announced 12,184 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Ian Kinsler led off the ninth with a double, but he was stranded at third base when Sherrill struck out Marlon Byrd to end the game. Sherrill had help as Nick Markakis made a running catch at the right-field wall on Michael Young's drive that would have tied the score.
Markakis said: "Any time he comes up to the plate, I am always aware. He goes the opposite way a lot. I was just able to get a good jump and catch it."
The top five hitters in the Orioles' order, so instrumental in the team's 5-2 start, combined to go 12-for-26 with nine RBIs, seven runs and two walks. Huff broke from a slow start to go 4-for-5 with 3 RBIs. Markakis and Wigginton, starting in place of the injured Melvin Mora, also drove in two runs.
Brian Roberts and No. 8 hitter Felix Pie had three hits each, with Pie belting his first home run as an Oriole. By the sixth inning, the Orioles already had 15 hits, a season high, and hitters of the top of the order had batted five times.
Uehara was the beneficiary, as he improved to 2-0, though he would likely be the first to acknowledge he didn't do well in protecting a six-run lead.
"For me, in today's outing, I was not able to obtain anything," Uehara said through translator Jiwon Bang, indicating he is still having problems gripping the ball.
Manager Dave Trembley said of his starter: "I thought he was out of sync early with his delivery and location and he had to work very hard to get it back. I think he ran out of gas. I tried to get him through six innings."
The right-hander, making his second career start, looked comfortable in only about two of his five-plus innings. Presented an early 2-0 lead, Uehara gave it all back and then some by the third inning.
Young's two-run homer in the third, which came just an inning after a tape-measure solo shot by Texas first baseman Chris Davis, gave the Rangers a 4-2 lead. But as much as Uehara struggled, Rangers starter Vicente Padilla was even worse.
He allowed seven earned runs and 11 hits in just 3 1/3 innings. His evening came to a merciful end with one out in the fourth after the Orioles had scored five times in the inning on five straight RBI hits.
Already leading 7-4, the Orioles tacked on a three-run fifth inning that featured Pie's home run and RBI hits from Huff and Wigginton. The six-run cushion finally seemed to settle down Uehara, as he turned in scoreless fourth and fifth innings.
However, in the sixth, he appeared to tire, sandwiching walks to Andruw Jones and Nelson Cruz around a double to Byrd. With no outs and the bases loaded, Trembley took the ball from his No. 2 starter and gave it to Danys Baez. Three runs scored, cutting the Orioles' lead to 10-7 and leaving Uehara with a line of seven earned runs, seven hits and four walks in five-plus innings.
The Rangers pulled within a run on Jones' two-run shot off Baez in the seventh. Jamie Walker started the eighth and got his man, striking out the left-handed-hitting Davis, who was 3-for-3 at that point. Jim Johnson then got the last two outs of the eighth, the final one on a nifty diving play by Roberts at second base on Elvis Andrus' hard-hit grounder.
Orioles catcher Gregg Zaun said: "It's a typical game here in Texas. It seems like no lead is safe in this ballpark. We didn't pitch very well, but thank goodness for the top of our order."
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