O's storm back, top Rays

The Baltimore Sun

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. -- There was the starting pitcher who couldn't throw strikes, a defense that made three errors on one play and a first baseman whose return home was playing out more like a nightmare.

By the end of the fourth inning at Tropicana Field, the Orioles trailed by six runs and all the momentum they had built up in an abbreviated series sweep of the Kansas City Royals over the weekend appeared to be gone.

But with big swings by Freddie Bynum and Melvin Mora, contributions from several others and another lockdown performance by the bullpen, the Orioles overcame it all, rallying for five runs in the seventh last night to beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 9-7, for their fourth straight victory.

"No matter what now, we know what our team is made of," said starter Adam Loewen, who lasted just 3 2/3 innings last night and watched the comeback from the clubhouse. "It's good to have a game like this early. I think everybody is pulling for each other now, and it's going to make us a closer group of guys."

The win was Perlozzo's 100th of his managing career and also the first in the career of pitcher Jeremy Guthrie, who relieved Loewen with 2 1/3 solid innings, keeping the Orioles' comeback hopes alive.

The Orioles improved to 7-6 and are now over .500 for the first time since last April 29. All it took was the club's largest comeback - they trailed 6-0 after four innings and 7-1 after five - since they erased an 8-2 deficit and beat the Royals, 12-8, on May 17, 2005.

"I knew if we could get to the bullpen we might have a chance," said Orioles first baseman Aubrey Huff, who rebounded from an awful start against his old team to get a key double and hit his first home run as an Oriole in the ninth inning. "A lot of character this team showed tonight doing that.

Perlozzo credited Bynum, who made his first Orioles start with center fielder Corey Patterson on the bereavement list, for igniting the comeback. It was his sixth-inning, two-run homer, his first hit as an Oriole, that energized what had been a frustrated dugout.

"Something has to happen for you good in a ballgame to get renewed hope. I thought that's what it was myself," Perlozzo said.

Bynum, who entered the game 0-for-3 for the season, turned around James Shields' pitch and deposited it into the right-field seats. He also put the Orioles ahead 8-7 with an RBI groundout in the seventh.

Melvin Mora hit a two-run homer off a tiring Shields in the decisive seventh to cut the Orioles' deficit to 7-5, and then Jay Gibbons tied the game with a two-run double against Jae-Kuk Ryu, who also had allowed doubles to Miguel Tejada and Huff.

"It could have been better," Bynum said of his career-high three-RBI evening. "I could have been 4-for-4, but I am just glad I could help the team whenever I can. I am just glad we got a win."

With the Orioles leading by a run, John Parrish helped get Chad Bradford out of a jam by striking out Ben Zobrist looking with two men on to end the seventh. Danys Baez and Chris Ray then pitched perfect eighth and ninth innings, with Ray notching his fourth save.

The Orioles' offensive surge bailed out Loewen, who allowed three hits but walked five. Loewen, who was charged with four earned runs after Guthrie inherited his bases-loaded mess and gave up a three-run double to Ty Wigginton on his first pitch, threw 97 pitches and went to three-ball counts against nine of the 21 hitters he faced.

Perlozzo acknowledged that his young pitcher, who has now walked 12 in three starts, has been "out of sync," and he didn't rule out a blister on Loewen's pitching hand causing some of the problems.

Loewen disagreed.

"No excuses today," Loewen said. "It's not the end of the world for me. I'll bounce back. I've already forgotten about it."

Huff also was taken off the hook. Booed steadily in his return to Tampa Bay, an organization he was a part of for more than eight seasons, he stranded four base runners in his first two at-bats and then compounded matters with shoddy defense at first base in the third inning.

After Brendan Harris' leadoff single in the third, B.J. Upton hit a grounder toward Huff, who bobbled the ball. His throw to first then went over Loewen's head. Catcher Paul Bako, who was backing up first base, retrieved the ball, but that left nobody covering home.

Harris made the turn before stopping when he noticed Tejada sprinting toward home plate. Bako threw the ball anyway, and it went behind Tejada to the visiting dugout, allowing Harris to score and giving the Orioles three errors on the play. The last time a team made three errors on one play was when the Houston Astros did it May 23, 1998.

Huff made another mistake later in that inning, throwing home too late to get Upton instead of taking the sure out at first base. But that was all forgotten later.

"It was a tale of two games, really," Huff said. "We started off really bad. It couldn't get any worse, really."


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