DETROIT - Their bench was down to two healthy players, worn almost as thin as their patience. A tie game moved into the late innings. The Orioles were due for a break last night, one that didn't involve any bones.
They settled for breaking out. In a big way.
Jay Gibbons' bloop double in the seventh inning provided a lead, Rafael Palmeiro and Melvin Mora hit grand slams, and Miguel Tejada added a bases-empty homer to power a 14-7 victory over the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park that didn't seem possible a few hours earlier.
The Orioles hadn't hit two grand slams in one game since former catcher Chris Hoiles did it by himself on Aug. 14, 1998 at Cleveland.
They trailed by three and four runs last night before Palmeiro's slam tied the game in the fifth. Two innings later, Gibbons lifted a fly ball to right field that fell in front of a diving Craig Monroe, scoring Chris Gomez from first base.
Loading the bases again in the ninth on three singles, the Orioles (33-22) punished reliever Doug Creek and the fans who stuck around. Mora hit his second career slam, Tejada followed with his 15th homer, and the Orioles had their most runs this season.
"We really needed this win at this time," Orioles starting pitcher Rodrigo Lopez said. Lopez lasted only three innings, but the bullpen turned in six scoreless, including 2 2/3 by left-hander John Parrish, making only his sixth appearance since April 20.
"Parrish just did a phenomenal job," Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said. "He kept us in the game."
Unable to make it through a night without injury, they lost catcher Geronimo Gil in the sixth inning after he took a foul ball off his left thumb earlier in the game. X-rays were negative, and he's listed as day-to-day.
"We'll have to get by and see how he is tomorrow," Mazzilli said, adding that B.J. Surhoff would be his emergency catcher.
Lopez took a more severe beating than Gil, turning in his shortest outing of the season. He allowed seven runs but was spared a loss when Palmeiro's slam in the fifth erased a 7-3 deficit.
Palmeiro was batting .136 with one homer against left-handers before connecting off Tigers starter Wilfredo Ledezma. Palmeiro has 12 career grand slams, his most recent before last night coming July 28, 2003 in Seattle when he played for the Texas Rangers.
"I told you guys before that Raffy's the type of guy who can hit four, five, six home runs in a week when he gets on that streak," Mazzilli said.
Mora had barely reached the dugout in the ninth inning before Tejada went deep, the latest reminder of a battered team's resilience.
"We don't worry about people being hurt. We have to take care of business," Mora said. "We worry after the game, when the guys are going to come back. When we start to play, we don't worry about nobody."
Unable to get comfortable, Lopez was gone after 53 pitches. He called for time while facing his first hitter and requested that a Tigers employee move from his line of vision behind home plate. The white jersey, it seemed, was causing a distraction.
So were all the runners circling the bases.
The seven earned runs were one short of his season high, and the most allowed by an Orioles starter since Daniel Cabrera on May 20, a span of 14 games.
"I just felt lazy. I didn't feel like I have enough energy," Lopez said. "I was trying to battle through that. I never could get that stamina back. But in the end, the bottom line is trying to get a win."
The Tigers scored three more off Lopez in the second, all with two outs, and the first two batters reached in the third before Monroe's sacrifice fly increased Detroit's lead to 7-3.
Lopez had allowed one earned run over his past 16 innings before the Tigers roughed him up. His inconsistencies are glaring. He has surrendered one earned run or fewer in six starts, and six or more in four starts.
In his six no-decisions, Lopez has posted a 9.20 ERA. The Orioles also bailed him out after he surrendered eight runs to the Red Sox in 3 1/3 innings back on April 26.
"I have to figure out what's going on," he said.
A man short last night with Roberts unavailable to hit or field, the Orioles fell behind in the first inning. Rondell White hit a three-run homer after Ramon Martinez struck out and reached base when the ball got past Gil. Carlos Guillen walked, and White extended his hitting streak to 20 games.
The Orioles got all three runs back in the second, with Surhoff's single delivering Sammy Sosa and an error letting in two more. Surhoff is batting .432 during a nine-game hitting streak.
Opponent: Detroit Tigers
Site, time: Comerica Park, Detroit, 1:05 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Daniel Cabrera (4-4, 5.40) vs. Tigers'Mike Maroth (4-5,5.04)