ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Credited with playing a major role in a one-run victory fewer than 24 hours earlier, the Orioles' bullpen returned to the dark side yesterday beneath the harsh glare of dome lighting.
Squinting was recommended, if only to partially shield their eyes from the mess.
Kept off the bases for four innings by left-hander Mark Hendrickson, the Orioles tied the score twice before the Devil Rays scored five runs in the sixth to take a 7-2 victory at Tropicana Field.
The Orioles (39-50) settled for a split of their four-game series before flying to Kansas City last night. They fell to 9-21 against lefties this season, with Hendrickson accounting for two of the defeats this month.
Hendrickson allowed four hits, including two to David Newhan, and recorded the first nine-inning complete game of his career.
Returning to the lineup after being benched Saturday, Luis Matos went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts to lower his average to .231. That's 11 points below the Orioles' mark against left-handers.
"We've been hitting extra [in batting practice]," manager Lee Mazzilli said, "but we've got to do it in a game."
The Devil Rays chased starter Dave Borkowski in the sixth with the score tied 2-2, after Aubrey Huff walked and Julio Lugo singled with none out.
John Parrish struck out Tino Martinez for the first out, but Eddy Rodriguez gave up consecutive run-scoring singles to rookie Jorge Cantu, Toby Hall and Joey Gathright. Carl Crawford drove in two more with a triple off Mike DeJean, as Tampa Bay sent nine batters to the plate.
"We got Tino out and we had a chance to get out of the inning with a double play," Mazzilli said. "It didn't happen."
Cantu's single, his second major league hit on the day, glanced off Miguel Tejada's glove as the Orioles' shortstop tried to make a backhanded stop. Tejada scolded himself while chasing the ball in shallow left field, knowing he could have held Cantu to an infield hit that would have loaded the bases.
"We had a ground ball in the hole and we had a chance," Mazzilli said, "but it was just out of Miguel's reach."
Activated from the disabled list before the game, Melvin Mora wiped out a 2-1 deficit in the sixth with his 13th home run. But the Devil Rays responded again in the bottom half, which they failed to do Saturday, when the Orioles held on for a 3-2 win by covering the last four innings with their bullpen.
Rodriguez had posted a 2.52 ERA in 15 games since his recall from Triple-A on May 27, but he couldn't keep the ball down yesterday.
"When you do that, hitters have a better chance to make contact. That happens," he said. "Today was my worst outing, but that's baseball."
Borkowski accepted blame for the inning because he walked Huff after getting ahead 1-2. He missed with a slider away on his last pitch after throwing Huff fastballs in and a curveball away.
"That was the turning point in the game," Borkowski said. "I can't just groove a fastball there at 3-2 because he'll hit it out of the park. But it was just a crappy pitch at a crucial point."
Borkowski couldn't duplicate his Orioles debut of July 5, when he shut out Tampa Bay for eight innings in Game 2 of a doubleheader and won for the first time since September 1999.
"When you walk a guy 1-2, I think as a pitcher you're going to get a little frustrated and mad," Mazzilli said. "The next guy got a hit and it kind of steamrolled."
The Orioles tied the game for the first time in the fifth inning after catcher Javy Lopez came within inches of a home run. A male fan leaned over the railing to grab the ball as right fielder Jose Cruz camped under it, and Lopez returned to second base.
Three umpires signaled for interference, but Mazzilli and first base coach Rick Dempsey still put up a mild protest. The call proved to be meaningless because Lopez advanced on a grounder and scored on a sacrifice fly into left-center field by Jerry Hairston.
If Hairston is trying to regain his starting job at second base, he's going about it all wrong.
He made another acrobatic catch in right field yesterday, racing back to the warning track and leaping to rob Cruz in the third inning. He also denied Robert Fick with a lunging grab near the line Saturday night after Lugo singled.
On that play, Hairston came down hard on the same finger he broke in spring training, landing with a thud on the artificial surface. "That was the first real test," he said after reporting no soreness.
Mazzilli used Newhan as the designated hitter yesterday rather than putting him in right field, a position Hairston still is learning.
"Jerry's played well in right," Mazzilli said. "He's been out there a lot more than Newhan has and he covers a lot of ground."
The Orioles kept trying to cover for Borkowski, but each time they tied the game, the Devil Rays would respond in a flash.
"Any momentum we had going," Borkowski said, "I'd kill it."
The result left the Orioles stuck in mediocrity, unable to get a firm grasp on fourth place or begin a serious climb up the standings.
"We've still got a lot of the second half left. It's just one series," Hairston said. "The D. Rays have been playing well. They have a lot of different ways they can beat you."
Yesterday, they dipped into the Orioles' bullpen and pulled out a victory. That was different.
Opponent: Kansas City Royals
Site: Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.
TV: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Sidney Ponson (3-12, 6.29) vs. Royals' Brian Anderson (1-8, 7.23)