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Perlozzo's home debut is win


Sam Perlozzo has waited for years to be at the end of that line at Camden Yards, to be the one that gives the final congratulatory high-five before victorious players head off into the clubhouse.

Now, he's just hoping to get used to that feeling as a team that was getting so accustomed to winning earlier this year tries to relocate its way.

In his first home game as manager of the team he grew up rooting for, Perlozzo watched the Orioles score three times to break a seventh-inning tie and beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 5-2, last night before 34,870 at Camden Yards.

The Orioles broke the tie on RBI singles by Melvin Mora, Miguel Tejada and Javy Lopez, and B.J. Ryan came on in the ninth to strike out three of the four hitters he faced and record his 24th save. For the Orioles (54-58), it was just their fifth win in 23 games.

Chris Gomez led off the seventh with a single and advanced to second on Brian Roberts' sacrifice bunt. Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella removed starter Scott Kazmir and brought in right-hander Chad Orvella to face Eric Byrnes. Orvella walked him, putting men on first and second and bringing Mora to the plate.

Mora, who was playing his first game since spraining his ankle last Thursday against the Los Angeles Angels, fell behind 0-2, but then lifted a single over the head of Devil Rays second baseman Nick Green, scoring Gomez with the go-ahead run. After reaching first, Mora, who has struggled like most Orioles recently in bringing in key runs, pumped his fist and then hugged new first base coach Dave Cash.

Tejada and then Lopez followed with singles up the middle and an Orioles offense, in a slumber for so long, had finally broken out.

Orioles starter Erik Bedard was the beneficiary, as he improved to 6-4 and got his first win since May 21. Bedard allowed five hits and two earned runs, striking out four and walking four.

Trailing 2-0 after Bedard allowed a two-run single to Toby Hall in the second inning, the Orioles tied the game in the fifth inning as Byrnes slammed Kazmir's 2-1 changeup 382 feet into the left-field seats for his ninth home run and second since being acquired by the Orioles.

With one swing, Byrnes did more damage on the scoreboard than the Orioles managed the last time they saw Kazmir. In a completing a three-game sweep of the Orioles at Tropicana Field last month, Kazmir held the Orioles to four hits and one earned run through seven innings.

Last night, Kazmir (6-8) was saddled with the loss after being credited for eight hits and three earned runs through 6 1/3 innings.

The Orioles returned home last night for the start of a six-game homestand after dropping four of six games on the road. They entered last night just 6-18 since the All-Star break, the worst record in the major leagues, and they had also lost 18 of their past 22.

Their deficit in the American League East and in the AL wild-card picture stood at 11 games, and the Orioles continue to do anything - and everything - to keep their sagging playoff hopes alive.

Having already made a managerial change, the team made four different transactions yesterday and is expected to make another when Rafael Palmeiro is eligible to return tomorrow after serving his 10-day suspension for testing positive for steroids.

They put pitcher Sidney Ponson and outfielder B.J. Surhoff on the disabled list, and optioned reliever Chris Ray to Double-A Bowie. To fill their spots, they purchased the contract of first baseman Alejandro Freire from Triple-A Ottawa and recalled pitcher Aaron Rakers from Ottawa and Eric DuBose from Bowie.

But none of those moves attracted as much attention yesterday as Perlozzo's first day in his new office. Perlozzo has made the trip from his Cumberland home to Camden Yards maybe a thousand times in his tenure as an Orioles coach, but admitted he was ill-prepared for what awaited him yesterday.

"It's pretty strange." Perlozzo said. "This is just something you dream about and you don't get the chance. When I walked in and saw my name [above the door], it's overwhelming to realize that you worked all your life and you worked hard and you finally got a chance. It's some thing I don't take lightly one bit and I am looking forward to it. It's going to be fun."

That's, at least, what his expectations were. As his first home game as manager unfolded yesterday, Perlozzo took the field three different times to argue a call, something his predecessor, Lee Mazzilli, was criticized for not doing enough of.

"If I need to argue a call, I will argue a call." said Perlozzo, when asked before the game if he"d characterize himself as a fiery manager.

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