Forced to play another doubleheader yesterday, a tradition that's beginning to rival the ceremonial first pitch, the Orioles used the extra game to guarantee a rare home series win and give Miguel Tejada a chance at redemption.
The Orioles needed almost 6 1/2 hours, not counting the break in between. It took Tejada only a few minutes.
After allowing an unearned run to score in the eighth, Tejada led off the bottom half with a double and scored on Jerry Hairston's one-out single, as the Orioles completed a sweep with a 5-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners in the nightcap at Camden Yards. They won Game 1, 9-7.
Protecting a 4-3 lead in Game 2, the Orioles lost it when Tejada committed multiple errors on the same play, allowing Willie Bloomquist to score the tying run with two outs. Bloomquist stopped at third after Tejada booted Raul Ibanez's sharp grounder off B.J. Ryan, then raced home when the Orioles shortstop inadvertently kicked the ball into shallow left field.
Tejada responded by lining a pitch from reliever George Sherrill off the scoreboard in right and hustling to third on a wild pitch, diving under a high throw from catcher Dan Wilson. Hairston bounced a single past a drawn-in infield, and the Orioles won their first home series since May 7-9 against the Cleveland Indians.
"He's just that type of player," manager Lee Mazzilli said. "I don't think he carries it with him."
Jorge Julio saved the first game and won the second as the Orioles (48-57) moved a little closer to third place. They trail Tampa Bay by 1 1/2 games. They also improved to 24-29 at Camden Yards and 14-21 vs. left-handed starters.
"I didn't hit a double just because I made an error," Tejada said. "I'm not worried about the error. I know I'll make some, but I can't let my defense affect my offense."
The Orioles could point to the three-run homer from Javy Lopez and three RBIs from Rafael Palmeiro as reasons for their Game 1 victory, not to mention three shutout innings from their bullpen, but one at-bat in the seventh stood out.
Hairston scored the tie-breaking run from first base on a two-out double by Larry Bigbie, a sequence that held special significance on two accounts.
For openers, Hairston fouled a ball off the top of his left knee in an earlier plate appearance, and it bothered him enough that Mazzilli inserted Karim Garcia into center field in the eighth. Ignoring the pain, Hairston reached on an infield hit with one out and circled the bases on Bigbie's hit.
"Obviously I didn't feel too good," said Hairston, who started at second base in Game 2. "As soon as [Bigbie] hit it, I thought, 'Just keep running. I don't want to play extra innings.' Especially when we had another game tonight."
Bigbie had his own issues. He was hitting .176 in 102 at-bats against left-handers this season before facing Mariners reliever Mike Myers, a side-arm specialist.
"To get a hit like that, especially in a situation against a left-hander, hopefully was a step in the right direction," Bigbie said. "Being a left-handed hitter, that's really not the guy you want to see come in. The only approach to him is trying to take him the other way."
Bigbie took another lefty, Jaime Moyer, to dead center in the third inning of Game 2, his two-run shot equaling the one hit by Mora in the first and giving the Orioles a 4-2 lead against a long-time nemesis. Moyer was 15-2 with a 2.95 ERA against his former team before last night.
Sidney Ponson had won three consecutive starts, leaving him 6-12, before escaping with a no-decision yesterday. He allowed 13 hits, tying a career high, and left in the seventh with the score tied, 7-7, after Edgar Martinez launched a two-run homer into the Mariners' bullpen.
"I didn't have my best stuff today. I pitched like [crap]," Ponson said. "It's one of those things. We scored runs, I came out and gave them back up. We won. That's the good thing. But I'm not happy with my performance."
It almost seemed predetermined that Ponson would be denied the victory.
Ichiro Suzuki collected the first of his five hits with a leadoff triple in the first inning. The ball cleared Hairston's head after he got a late jump, and Suzuki scored on a double play after Randy Winn walked.
The Mariners opened the third with three straight infield hits, including a bunt single from Bret Boone on an attempted sacrifice. Mora broke for third base instead of charging the ball, which came to a stop in the infield grass with nobody near it.
Having endured a nine-game losing streak this season, Ponson saw Boone reach and thought to himself, "Here we go again."
"You make good pitches and they get base hits like that," he said. "You make bad pitches and they hit it hard. It's a bad combo. I didn't do my job today."
Again, the Mariners scored on a double play ball, and a single by Ibanez gave Seattle a 4-3 lead before Lopez hit a three-run homer in the bottom half. Lopez connected on a 3-2 changeup from Ron Villone, who threw 104 pitches in 3 2/3 innings.
Mazzilli stuck with Ponson after Martinez tied the game with a 430-foot blast, but Ibanez singled to force a change.
"You're one pitch away from coming out feeling pretty good about yourself," Mazzilli said.
Jason Grimsley struck out all three batters he faced in the seventh, and Ryan left the bases loaded in the eighth.
Opponent: Seattle Mariners
Site: Camden Yards
TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Mariners' Gil Meche (1-5, 6.93) vs. Orioles' Daniel Cabrera (8-5, 3.60)