ARLINGTON, Texas - Melvin Mora kept hacking away at a 12-game losing streak yesterday as if trying to fell a mighty oak.
They probably weighed about the same.
Mora dug in twice with the bases loaded in the first five innings. Either the Orioles trailed or the score was tied. Whatever the situation, whatever the reason, the game was coming to him, almost daring him to influence it.
Somebody had to stop the madness that colored August for the Orioles, so it figured that Mora would do his part with a pair of two-run singles in a 7-6 victory over the Texas Rangers at sweltering Ameriquest Field.
No matter how challenging the at-bats, the waiting might have been the hardest part.
A 5-2 lead became 5-4. A 6-4 lead became 6-5. A 7-5 lead became 7-6. All in a span of three innings, until closer Jorge Julio secured his 19th save after catcher Javy Lopez threw out Eric Young trying to advance from first to third base on a wild pitch.
"We obviously knew we weren't going to lose every game the rest of the year," said Brian Roberts, "but it still gets frustrating and you have to break out at some point."
The Orioles (58-71) were two defeats short of matching the second-longest streak in club history, behind the infamous 0-21 start of 1988. They lost 14 in a row in August 1954.
But why bring up the past?
"Going into an off day, it's good to break the ice," said manager Lee Mazzilli, whose club hadn't won since Aug. 15 in Toronto.
"If we had lost this one today," said winning pitcher Sidney Ponson, "we may as well just call it a season."
The Rangers scored twice in the sixth inning with four straight singles off Ponson to cut the Orioles' lead to 5-4. As if it was necessary to turn up the heat on such a hot day.
A two-out double by Rafael Palmeiro, benched the previous night, gave the Orioles an insurance run in the seventh. He also tied Charlie Gehringer for 15th place on the all-time doubles list with 564.
Former Oriole David Dellucci hit his second homer of the series in the bottom half, again bringing Texas within a run. But Roberts' two-out single in the eighth scored B.J. Surhoff, who slid under catcher Gerald Laird's tag.
The ball beat Surhoff to the plate. At least nobody was beating the Orioles.
Julio inherited a mess in the eighth after B.J. Ryan, charged with losses Wednesday and Saturday, allowed two singles. Pinch hitter Brian Jordan grounded out as Hank Blalock scored, and Kevin Mench popped up.
With the bases clean and two outs in the ninth, Dellucci swung through a fastball to bury a streak that had threatened to rise up again. Mora, Roberts and Miguel Tejada performed their handshake-and-hug ritual at second base, but otherwise, the celebration was subdued.
"That's what you want to see, very businesslike," Mazzilli said. "They handled [the streak] well, as far as being mad, fighting back, not giving up."
Mazzilli joked about having a rare chance to walk to the mound without removing a pitcher. This time, it was to offer congratulations. And the clubhouse filled with music rather than the sound of forks scraping against plates.
"It's nice to see everybody with a smile on their face," Ponson said.
For once, the Orioles caught most of the breaks.
Roberts reached on catcher's interference in the fifth inning and scored on Mora's single. Alfonso Soriano committed a two-out error in the sixth that enabled Palmeiro to score.
And in the ninth, Young tried to advance two bases on a wild pitch after his one-out single, and Lopez nailed him at third, the third Ranger cut down on the bases.
"I saw the ball go away and how [Lopez] was going after it," said Young, who slowed at second. "I felt like I could make it."
"He would have," Lopez said, "if I made a bad throw."
The Orioles grounded into three double plays in the first five innings, but they weren't going to be denied. Not on this day. Not with Mora, who had three hits, roping singles up the middle to account for four runs.
"I knew the club needed me," said Mora, 14-for-28 with 12 RBIs vs. the Rangers this season. "I didn't want to kill a rally."
The victory had other imprints on it, including those belonging to center fielder Tim Raines Jr. Batting ninth, he singled twice, stole a base and scored two runs. He also threw out Mark Teixeira trying to score the go-ahead run in the fourth on a Laynce Nix single.
"Timmy made everything easy for us," Mora said. "This kid can play. He needs to play."
Raines' throw home arrived on the fly. "One of my problems this year has been throwing the ball too high," he said. "I guess I got away with it today."
In the season's first half, Ponson (9-13) would have lost any game when he allowed five runs and 12 hits, but his luck has changed. His seven innings were good enough to produce his sixth win in seven decisions since the All-Star break.
"He did what an ace is supposed to do, get deep in a game and let the other guys take over," Mazzilli said. "He did it at the right time."