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Orioles finally put down Pirates


PITTSBURGH - Champagne corks didn't pop and no parades were scheduled for downtown. The Orioles won a game last night against the Pittsburgh Pirates, rallying late as the bat was removed again from their cleanup hitter's hands, but a championship didn't hang in the balance. Not this time.

True redemption would have to wait.

Facing the Pirates for the first time in the regular season, the Orioles moved ahead in the eighth inning on a lucky break and Rafael Palmeiro's sacrifice fly, and B.J. Ryan struck out the side in the ninth in a 4-3 interleague victory at PNC Park.

Down to four regulars from Opening Day with no designated hitter allowed under National League rules, the Orioles (35-22) won their third consecutive game and improved to 5-3 on the road trip. They moved four games ahead of the Boston Red Sox.

"That's how you win. Everybody is picking everybody else up," Sammy Sosa said.

Miguel Tejada hit a long two-run homer in the first inning, his 16th this season, and B.J. Surhoff reached the last row of seats in right field in the fourth to provide a 3-0 lead. But the Pirates scored twice off Sidney Ponson in the fifth, and Matt Lawton homered off left-hander Steve Kline in the seventh to tie the score.

"I [stink] right now. I can't get anybody out," Kline said.

The Orioles almost ran themselves out of the eighth inning when a Mike Gonzalez pitch bounced away from catcher Humberto Cota with one out. Melvin Mora, who had a leadoff double, started to head toward third but put on the brakes, leaving Tejada hung up between first and second. Cota made a poor throw to first, allowing Tejada to return safely as Mora took third, and Palmeiro drove in his 1,803rd career run.

"You get that break," manager Lee Mazzilli said, "but you also need to capitalize on it."

Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon twice ordered an intentional walk to Tejada with Mora at second and none out, the on-deck hitter seeming like a safer bet. Sosa struck out looking in the sixth with the Orioles ahead, 3-2, and flied to center in the eighth with the score tied.

"Right now, I'm not the best that I can be, and that's why he did that," Sosa said. "Tomorrow will be better. Sometimes, when you're not swinging the bat very well and you're not the best you can be, anything can happen."

Sosa is 8-for-49 with one homer since coming off the disabled list May 24. He's hitting .195 with runners in scoring position this season.

"They're pitching me great. What do you want me to do?" he said. "Good pitching is going to stop good hitters, and right now they're making all good pitches to me. I've got to keep fighting and I'll be OK."

Asked if he expects the strategy to continue, Mazzilli said: "I hope so because I like our chances. He doesn't have [579] home runs for nothing. And sometimes, a situation like that can really get a player going."

Jorge Julio (2-1) put the Pirates in reverse, retiring all four batters after replacing Kline in the seventh.

"You've got to stop the bleeding right there," Mazzilli said.

The teams hadn't met since the 1979 World Series, when the Pirates rallied from a 3-1 deficit in games, winning the last two in Baltimore. They also defeated the Orioles in the 1971 Series, again winning the decisive seventh game on the road.

The Orioles hadn't won in Pittsburgh since Game 4 in '79.

"It wasn't bad except for the outcome," said first base coach Rick Dempsey, the Orioles' starting catcher that year.

"Once they got some momentum after that fourth game ... everything went against us. It was a great time for us, but we were very disappointed."

At least they were healthy.

Last night Brian Roberts wasn't in the lineup for the sixth consecutive game because of a strained right rotator cuff. Mazzilli isn't sure whether Roberts will return tonight or tomorrow.

"He convinced me that he's healthy and he's getting better," Mazzilli said. "He had some swings today in the tunnel and felt very good. And he threw a little bit with no problem. It was very encouraging."

Ponson left after six innings with a 3-2 lead. Kline got the first two outs before Lawton homered to right, making him 8-for-9 with four walks in his past three games.

Left-handers are batting .326 against Kline, who crouched on the mound, his head lowered, as Lawton circled the bases.

"I didn't want to run over and tackle Lawton," he said. "I haven't shown my temper all year. But at that point, I really wanted to go nuts."

NOTES: Outfielder Larry Bigbie, on the disabled list since May 28 with a strained left hamstring, could go on an injury rehabilitation assignment this weekend. Bigbie did some running in the outfield before batting practice. ... Center fielder Luis Matos, on the disabled list with a broken right ring finger, swung a bat with both hands yesterday and could be a week away from a rehab assignment.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Pittsburgh Pirates

Site, time: PNC Park, Pittsburgh, 7:05

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Hayden Penn (0-0, 3.60) vs. Pirates' Dave Williams (5-5, 3.75)

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