Hayden Penn had 10 outs to sit through, ample time for the 20-year-old to reflect on a nightmarish scene that arose just six days earlier. He sat in the visiting dugout at PNC Park last week with his first major league victory in the grasp of the Orioles" bullpen.
Both quickly and painfully, the lead disappeared as two long Pittsburgh Pirates home runs off setup man Jorge Julio denied both Penn and the Orioles. The Astros threatened last night and the anxious moments were plenty, but the Orioles hung on for a much- needed 8-5 victory that was a fitting reward for another solid start by Penn.
Given ample margin of error after the Orioles posted six runs in the second inning, Penn went 5M-. innings for his first major league win, and in the process, allowed the Orioles to avoid their second three-game losing streak of the season.
"I thought the kid pitched one hell of a game,' Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said.
Julio got some redemption by pitching a scoreless eighth after drilling Astros third baseman Morgan Ensberg with a fastball in the ribs. B.J. Ryan came on in the ninth to record his 17th save before 23,297 who braved a steamy and, at times, rainy evening at Camden Yards.
In his return yesterday from the disabled list, Larry Bigbie had three hits, including his first home run, the latest boost for the Orioles (37-26), who were coming off two of their poorer efforts of the season and a 6-7 road trip that kept them away for two weeks and tested an injury-hampered lineup.
The Orioles, who remain three games ahead of Boston in the American League East, pounded out 14 hits last night against Houston (26-36), battering starter Brandon Backe (6-4).
Jay Gibbons also homered, and Brian Roberts, David Newhan and Sammy Sosa had two hits each for the home team, which stranded 12 runners.
Making his fourth career start, Penn tried to blow a 93-mph fastball by Houston's Jason Lane in the second inning, but the right fielder turned on it and sent it 365 feet into the left-field seats for a 2-0 Astros lead.
The Orioles nearly had taken the lead in the first, but Sosa bounced into a double play with men on first and third and one out. Backe, one of the heroes from the Astros" run to the National League Championship Series last season, sawed off Sosa's bat on the pitch but would see many of his successive offerings find the fat part of Orioles" bats.
Rafael Palmeiro started the Orioles" seven-hit, six-run second inning with a double to right field. Two pitches later, Gibbons, who was making his first start since June 8 because of a stomach virus, tied the game with his 10th homer of the season, a two-run shot.
On the next pitch, Bigbie lined an opposite-field home run to left-center field. For Bigbie, who had been the disabled list since May 28 because of a strained left hamstring, it was his first home run since Sept. 30 of last year.
Also in the inning, Newhan singled, Melvin Mora hit an RBI double and Miguel Tejada singled. The latter two hits came with two outs. Sosa, who was coming off a two-home run game on Sunday in Cincinnati, then plated both with a double down the left-field line, giving the Orioles a 6-2 lead.
The Orioles tacked another run on to their lead in the third as Newhan doubled to deep center to score Bigbie, who had singled and stole second.
"The kid's got talent." Mazzilli said of Bigbie. "That's what we count on. ... We gave him a little extra time by putting him on the DL and not letting him come back too quick.'
Backe was pulled in the following inning. After giving up only five earned runs in winning his past three starts coming in, Backe gave up 10 hits, seven earned runs, two walks and two home runs last night.
Meanwhile, Penn struck out Lane and then got Adam Everett to fly out to Bigbie to end the fourth. He then got out of the fifth by catching a Chris Burke pop-up and firing to first to double up Willy Taveras, who was stealing on the play.
However, as has been his problem since entering the major leagues, Penn appeared to tire in the sixth. After Penn walked Lance Berkman, Ensberg cracked a 92-mph fast ball for his 15th home run, pulling Houston within 7-4.
Mike Lamb then singled and, after getting Lane on a flyout to center, Penn was lifted, but not before getting a spirited talk by Mazzilli and a standing ovation from the crowd. He gave up seven hits, five earned runs, two walks and two home runs in 5M-. innings. The California native has pitched into the sixth in three of his four starts, but never has been able to get into the seventh.
In a flashback to Pittsburgh, Penn watched Todd Williams give up an RBI double to Everett to cut the Orioles" lead to 7-5 on his first pitch after relieving the rookie.
Penn anxiously watched the rest of the game without incident.
Opponent: Houston Astros
Site, time: Camden Yards, 7:05
TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)