Amid a pack of victorious Orioles outside the home dugout last night, Kevin Millar, whose comments this week about the team's focus had annoyed some of his teammates, found Melvin Mora and gave him a hug.
Mora had just delivered the game-winning hit, a two-out, 11th-inning single to left field past the outstretched glove of Carl Crawford. His third hit of the night scored Luis Matos and gave the Orioles a 6-5 win over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, long after many of the 16,134 that entered Camden Yards had gone home.
"I was just talking to the ball, 'Get down ball, get down ball,'" said Mora, who thought that he hit a 3-2 slider from Devil Rays closer Tyler Walker. "[Crawford] is awesome. He catches everything. He's got the speed to do it."
Suddenly, everything is good again for the Orioles (25-28), who tied their season high with a third straight win and will try today for a three-game sweep over the Devil Rays, a team that has lost six straight and the Orioles have beaten seven times in nine games.
Mora was one Oriole who admittedly was annoyed by the comments of Millar, who said Sunday that the Orioles have "too many sideshows. We're not here to collect paychecks and have rims and tires on our cars and dress [fancy]," Millar said in Anaheim.
Mora said before Tuesday's game that he didn't know what Millar was talking about. Millar, who hit an RBI double last night in the Orioles' four-run fifth that erased a 5-1 deficit and a poor effort by starter Bruce Chen, spoke to Mora and shortstop Miguel Tejada before last night's game to explain his side of the story.
"People misunderstood what he was saying," Mora said. "He said if anybody gets offended, 'I apologize.' He was frustrated."
Tejada, who is viewed as the team leader, said before the game that he was surprised that Millar made the comments and "whatever happens in [the clubhouse] needs to stay there."
After the game, Millar was talking to a reporter about how the whole controversy was a misunderstanding, created when members of the media took his comments out of context, when Tejada walked past.
"Uh oh," Tejada deadpanned, glancing toward Millar as everyone within earshot laughed. Tejada walked back toward Millar and said, "Tell him we still love you." Tejada beat his fist against his chest twice and said again, "We still love you."
And Millar joked back, "Yeah, just don't wear your suit."
"There was a misunderstanding," Millar said. "It looked like Millar was the clubhouse guy, one against 24. That's not what it is about. We are 25 guys here. So if you want to set it up, it's not me versus the 24 guys like I am the only guy wanting to win.
"I said as a group we need to start talking baseball and having fun, but there is no [controversy]. But I am the bad guy and I like it. We are winning. We are 3-0 [since the comments]."
Mora's heroics aside, Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo credited his team's much-maligned bullpen, which was summoned to start the fifth inning after Chen had already given up six hits and five runs, all scored on three home runs. Still winless on the season, Chen's ERA grew to 7.71.
The combination of Chris Britton, Kurt Birkins, Todd Williams and LaTroy Hawkins gave up two hits over five innings. Sendy Rleal, who pitched two scoreless innings, got his first major league win. The Orioles' bullpen has posted a 3.28 ERA over its past 25 games.
"I don't think you could even think about scripting something like that coming from your bullpen," Perlozzo said. "I'm really proud of those guys coming in the way they did."
Perlozzo said that he felt Hawkins, who gave up three hits and a run in five pitches in his last outing in Anaheim, Calif., pitched the best that he has all season.
"Outstanding. Outstanding. Outstanding," said Hawkins when asked about some of the younger relievers' impact on the bullpen. "We talked about it a lot, and I think it's just guys getting more comfortable in their roles and their situations. We're just doing our job."
Chen hung a curveball to Crawford, who ripped it onto the flag court in right field for a three-run homer in the third inning. Bases-empty shots by Toby Hall and Damon Hollins extended the Devil Rays' lead to 5-1.
Chen has now gone past four innings just twice in his past eight starts and the three home runs he surrendered give him 17 for the season, most in the majors.
"I thought I had good command early in the game, but as the game went on, I left some pitches up," he said.
Asked about Chen's future in the rotation, Perlozzo said, "We'll evaluate that tomorrow. Right now, we just used our entire bullpen."
The Orioles scored four in the fifth to tie the game at 5 off James Shields, who was making his major league debut. Millar, Tejada, rookie Nick Markakis and catcher Ramon Hernandez had RBI hits.
Then the Orioles were held off the board again until the 11th, an inning that was started by a clutch single by Luis Matos.
"To do what I did, it was good for me and good for the team," Matos said. "I helped the team win. That's what we are trying to do."
Sun staff writer Dan Connolly contributed to this article.