Much of Baltimore City was underwater yesterday because of Hurricane Isabel, a storm so ornery that it knocked down trees and power lines, cut off electricity and left streets unsuitable for any mode of transportation other than kayaks.
It just wasn't strong enough to keep the Orioles from playing.
Their game against the Toronto Blue Jays went off as scheduled last night after the team consulted with city officials and the commissioner's office. The only postponement involved a fireworks show.
If the Orioles had been on the Titanic, would they have taken infield 20 minutes after hitting the iceberg? Committed to moving forward, they were stopped in the eighth when the Toronto Blue Jays scored three runs during a tiebreaking inning and defeated the Orioles, 5-2, before an announced crowd of 25,857 at Camden Yards.
Carlos Delgado gave Toronto the lead with a one-out single off B.J. Ryan, who inherited two runners from Hector Carrasco (2-5). A single by Josh Phelps and sacrifice fly by Eric Hinske extended the margin.
Given the chance to start for the first time in three months, left-hander Omar Daal ran into trouble again in the middle innings and left in the fifth with Toronto ahead, 2-0. Damian Moss made his first relief appearance with the Orioles and tossed three scoreless innings.
Kelvim Escobar (12-9) allowed only two hits before Brian Roberts led off the sixth with a walk and Larry Bigbie went the opposite way for his ninth homer.
In keeping with the wet theme of the past few days, the Orioles wanted a tidal wave of runs but only got a few drips.
The Orioles issued a news release about 4 1/2 hours before the game confirming that it would be played. After staying overnight in Detroit, the Blue Jays flew into Baltimore-Washington International Airport at 11:30 a.m., the only hitch coming when they had to change hotels because of a power outage at the Marriott Waterfront.
Not that anyone was complaining about delayed travel or high water levels.
"My shoes were dry when I got here," said former Oriole Howie Clark.
After being limited to five innings Thursday because of rain, which put the New York Yankees in a mood more foul than the weather, the Orioles were ready to go the full nine last night. They didn't make any assumptions based on the flooding and road closures.
"That's the first hurricane I ever had to sit through, but it didn't surprise me that we decided to play," manager Mike Hargrove said. "The Blue Jays got into town and the conditions are safe for people to come here to the game."
"I watched the news," said pitcher Matt Riley, "and I saw where the mayor was saying not to let anyone go downtown. But if we can play it, let's play it."
The crowd was decidedly smaller than the paid attendance, though the Orioles reopened the upper deck after closing it Thursday. Daal would have pitched in front of empty seats. He was just glad to finally get the ball again.
The Orioles demoted him to the bullpen after a June 23 start in Toronto, and he spent two months on the disabled list with tendinitis in his left rotator cuff. Daal made one relief appearance after being activated, allowing a run in two innings during Sunday's game against the Blue Jays.
In his last start, Daal gave up eight earned runs and 10 hits in 2 1/3 innings, the latest disappointment for a pitcher handed a two-year, $7.5 contract with assurances that he'd be in the rotation.
Last night proved that he still can mow down hitters early in a game. The Orioles were more curious about what he'd do once it progressed into the fourth inning.
In Daal's 15 previous starts, opponents batted .268 the first time through the lineup. After that, their average jumped to .373.
The Blue Jays were shut out through three innings last night, but Vernon Wells tripled with one out in the fourth and scored when Delgado flicked a 2-2 curveball into right field.
Daal couldn't record an out in the fifth, allowing a leadoff walk and consecutive singles to Hinske and Dave Berg that gave Toronto a 2-0 lead. Berg lined an 82-mph fastball into center field.
An earlier fastball from Daal registered 80 mph on the stadium's radar gun.
He usually stays in the mid-80s.
"Right now I don't care about my velocity," he said. "I'm just trying to locate my pitches. If I throw them where I want to, velocity for me doesn't matter."
Before last night, opponents were batting .484 against Daal from his 46th to 60th pitch. Hargrove removed him last night after 61.
"After he walked the first guy, all of a sudden everything started getting up and we got him out of there," Hargrove said. "It's very unfair to evaluate a guy like that. It's like being blindfolded and trying to figure out if you have an orange from Florida or California. It's just not fair to evaluate anyone who's been on the DL for two months."
Daal's ERA increased to 7.34 from the fourth to the sixth innings. It didn't go any higher because Moss stranded Hinske at third base with none out.
"I need to see what I have to do the second time around the lineup," Daal said. "If I get my fastball in and out real good, all my pitches are going to be great. But I don't throw hard enough to get hitters out with fastballs up."
Opponent:Toronto Blue Jays
TV/Radio:Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Blue Jays' Cory Lidle (12-13, 6.04) vs. Orioles' Matt Riley (1-0, 3.60)