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O's bullpen folds in ninth, 10th


The Orioles thought that they had the game won in the top of the ninth until closer Chris Ray gave up two long home runs and the bullpen coughed up a four-run lead. They thought that they had it won again in the bottom of the ninth but second baseman Alfredo Amezaga made a diving catch on Brian Roberts' liner, which would have scored Luis Matos from second.

Then they watched Miguel Cabrera reach out in the top of the 10th and line Todd Williams" first pitch of an attempted intentional walk into center field for an RBI single. The Marlins dealt the Orioles easily their most painful loss of the season, an 8-5 setback that stunned what remained of a crowd of 20,081 at Camden Yards.

With Hanley Ramirez on second and one out in the 10th, Williams was trying to intentionally walk Cabrera. But with catcher Ramon Hernandez standing with his right arm out, Williams lobbed his first pitch too close to the plate and Cabrera hammered it into center field. The Marlins (31-38) added two more runs in the 10th on Miguel Tejada's throwing error and won a series that the Orioles thought that they had in hand.

With a 5-1 lead, LaTroy Hawkins started the ninth and gave up singles to Cabrera and Jeremy Hermida, while getting just one out. Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo took no chances, going to closer Chris Ray. But Ray blew his first save in 19 opportunities, surrendering a sacrifice fly to Josh Willingham, followed by a two-run homer to pinch hitter Joe Borchard. Wes Helms, an other pinch hitter, then tied the game by depositing a bases-empty home run in the left-field bleachers.

It ruined what minutes earlier had appeared to be Hernandez's night. The Orioles catcher was on the field several hours before the game yesterday afternoon, taking extra batting practice un der the bright and unforgiving sun. His black cutoff T-shirt was drenched and sweat dripped off both his head and arms, forcing Hernandez to pause every so often to clear the moisture from his forehead.

An 0-for-23 slump is what sent Hernandez into the oppressive 95-degree heat and onto the field at Camden Yards far earlier than his pre-game routine usually allocates. Hernandez hit two bases-empty home runs off Florida starter Scott Olsen, including one that broke an eighth-inning tie, and appeared to be the game-winner before the Orioles' bullpen meltdown.

The Orioles managed only three hits off Olsen, but two of them left the field of play, courtesy of Hernandez, who drilled the Florida left-hander's 3-1 pitch over the center-field wall to lead off the eighth and give the home team a 2-1 lead. The Orioles added three more runs in a bottom of the eighth inning that lasted nearly 30 minutes as Melvin Mora, Tejada and Javy Lopez collected RBIs.

A night after Erik Bedard threw eight innings of shutout, two-hit ball to break the Marlins' nine-game winning streak, Kris Benson followed with a strong performance, but was denied his third straight win. He went eight innings, allowing six hits and just the one first-inning run.

The Orioles tied the game at 1 in the fifth on Hernandez's bases-empty homer just over the scoreboard and onto the flag court in right field. The homer broke Hernandez's skid and was just the Orioles' second hit off Olsen.

Olsen came in having won four straight starts and five of his last six. He had gone at least 6 2/3 innings in four consecutive out ings. On a staff with Dontrelle Willis, Olsen became the first Marlins pitcher to reach the six-win plateau this season.

Plus, most troublesome to the Orioles, he is left-handed. The Orioles were defeated by Willis on Tuesday, falling to 5-18 in games started by opposing left-handed pitchers. Entering last night, the Orioles' average against southpaws was .228, the worst in the American League. The Orioles were third in the league with a .287 average against right-handers.

"There shouldn't be a reason." Perlozzo said on his team's struggles versus lefties. "I don't know why that is. Every game is different, we'll just see what happens."

In the early going, the Orioles couldn't do much of anything. Through three innings, the Orioles managed only a two-out walk to Hernandez in the second.

Mora got the first Orioles hit, lining a single to center to lead off the fourth. But he was erased on Tejada's double-play ball. Ol sen then got out of the inning by striking out Lopez for the second time.

Benson clearly wasn't as sharp as he was in his last start in New York, when he held the Mets, his former team, to six hits and one earned run in eight innings. In that game, Benson retired the last 15 batters he faced.

He entered last night 4-1 with a 2.97 ERA in 10 career starts against the Marlins, but gave up a run in the first. Amezaga led off the game with a double down the right-field line. He moved to third on Hanley Ramirez's deep fly to center and then came home on Mike Jacobs' sacrifice fly. Right fielder Luis Matos' throw to try to get Amezaga was offline.

The Orioles' defense helped Benson avoid - or get out of several jams. Tejada made a great play in the hole and then threw out Ramirez to end the third. First baseman Kevin Millar made a diving stop and then flipped to Benson at first to retire Jacobs for the first out in the fourth. That inning ended with center fielder Corey Patterson coming forward and making a diving catch with men on first and third.

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