Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo has maintained that Kevin Millar's recent "sideshow" comments are much ado about nothing, that his players simply want to win.
Last night, long after many in the crowd of 16,134 had gone home from Camden Yards, the Orioles poured out of the dugout last night to mob Melvin Mora, whose 11th-inning single scored Luis Matos and gave the Orioles a 6-5 win over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
It was the third straight win for the Orioles (25-28) and their seventh in nine games over the Devil Rays this season. Tampa Bay (21-32) has dropped a season-high six straight games.
The Orioles' bullpen, maligned for much of the season, pitched seven scoreless innings, giving up just three hits in the process. Sendy Rleal, who pitched two scoreless innings, got his first major league win.
Mora roped Tampa Bay closer Tyler Walker's 3-2 pitch into left field, past the outstretched glove of a diving Carl Crawford. Matos, who got on with a leadoff single, trotted home.
The Orioles got some clutch relief work after another troubling effort from Bruce Chen, who lasted only four innings and gave up three home runs to put the Orioles in a four-run hole.
Chris Britton pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings, followed by a scoreless outing from Kurt Birkins and Todd Williams. Williams got out of a jam in the seventh by striking out slugger Jonny Gomes and Ty Wigginton after Julio Lugo had gotten to third on a wild pitch with just one out.
LaTroy Hawkins came in for the eighth. The last time Hawkins pitched, he didn't get an out, giving up three hits on a total of five pitches. But he retired six of the seven batters he faced last night, keeping the game tied heading into the bottom of the ninth.
The Orioles had hoped to present closer Chris Ray with a lead by then. They started the bottom of the eighth with a single by Tuesday night's hero Corey Patterson. The Orioles center fielder swiped second base, his 19th steal in 20 attempts. Jeff Conine sacrificed Patterson over to third, but after Millar walked, rookie Nick Markakis hit into a double play.
Chad Harville struck out Javy Lopez in the ninth after Miguel Tejada has stolen second, sending the game into extra innings.
Before last night's game, Millar's comments on Sunday that the Orioles have "too many sideshows' and not enough players focused on baseball remained a hot topic of conversation.
Mora was clearly bothered by the comments, saying on Tuesday, "I don't know what he is talking about." Tejada was aware of what Millar said, but said yesterday that such topics need to stay in the clubhouse.
"I don't pay attention to that." said Tejada, admitting that he was surprised that the first-year Oriole made the comment. "That's not baseball. Whatever happens here, it's got to [stay] in here."
Mora and Millar spoke yesterday after batting practice. While expressing surprise of how much is being made about the story, Perlozzo said that he would not be against the team having a players only meeting, but he isn't sure it is necessary at this point, either.
"Everyone is looking for a story and there's no story here." Perlozzo said. "We are talking about a team that is trying to win and we're all trying to pull together. You expect those kinds of things to go on amongst your teammates. We are all in this thing to win."
That quest would get a little easier if the Orioles got more consistent pitching. Though Rodrigo Lopez has showed signs of turning things around with two straight wins, Chen hasn't. The club was optimistic that Chen had turned the corner last week in Anaheim when he limited the Los Angeles Angels to two runs and five hits over six innings. But the Devil Rays destroyed that notion with a power display that seemed more suited for batting practice.
Chen retired the first six Devil Rays in order and was one pitch away from getting out of a jam in the third inning. But he hung a curveball to Crawford, who ripped it onto the flag court in right field for a three-run homer.
Bases-empty shots by Toby Hall and Damon Hollins, his second in as many nights, extended the Devil Rays' lead to 5-1 and Chen didn't return after the fourth inning. He allowed six hits and five runs, his ERA expanding to 7.71. He has now gone past four innings just twice in his past eight starts. The three home runs he surrendered give him 17 for the season, the major league lead.
Devil Rays 24-year-old right-hander James Shields, who was making his major league debut, was able to work his way out of trouble early, mostly because of his ability to get out Tejada, the Orioles' top hitter.
Tejada grounded into an inning-ending double play in the first and again in the third after the Orioles had loaded the bases with one out. He now has hit into an American League-leading 12 double plays. The Orioles did score a run in the inning when rookie Nick Markakis singled in Conine, who hit a leadoff double off the glove of Crawford.
Tejada redeemed himself by hitting an RBI single as part of the Orioles' four-run fifth that tie the game at 5. The inning started with Conine blooping a double into right field that the Devil Rays' outfield didn't get a good break on and ended with Conine flying out to center with the bases loaded.
In between, Millar had an RBI double and Tejada, Markakis and catcher Ramon Hernandez had RBI singles.