O's, Ray bounce back

The Baltimore Sun

CHICAGO -- Interim manager Dave Trembley sent the message even before Corey Patterson led off the ninth inning with his fourth hit, a double off All-Star closer Bobby Jenks that made a once seemingly insurmountable lead look vulnerable.

As the Orioles prepared for the ninth inning, Trembley paced around the dugout and told his team several times, "We're going to play the win." He asked his players to take chances on the bases and to be patient at the plate. He didn't want his best hitters to bunt. He wanted them to wait on their pitch and get a timely hit.

In a frantic ninth last night, the Orioles did exactly as he asked, completing a comeback from four runs down with only four outs left to beat the White Sox, 7-6, before a stunned announced crowd of 35,161 at U.S. Cellular Field.

If it wasn't the most uplifting victory of the season for the Orioles, it was certainly the most improbable. The Orioles (36-45) entered the game 0-38 this season when trailing after eight innings. They were behind 6-2 with two on and two out in the eighth when Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen removed starter Mark Buehrle and watched his bullpen cough up the game

"We had some big wins in [2005], but obviously, it's been a while since we had one like this that everyone has felt pretty good about," said second baseman Brian Roberts, who tied the game with a clutch single off Jenks that scored Patterson from second.

Trembley said it was one of the biggest wins that he's ever been a part of, especially considering the circumstances. The Orioles got an ineffective start from Erik Bedard, who gave up a career-high three home runs and a season-high-tying six earned runs in 5 2/3 innings. But the unheralded trio of Paul Shuey, Kurt Birkins and Rob Bell combined for 2 1/3 scoreless innings with Bell getting his first victory since April 14, 2005.

Much-maligned closer Chris Ray, who had given up runs in four of his previous five outings to loosen his grip on the full-time closer's role, then struck out the side in the ninth to record his 14th save.

"I just forgot about everything," said Ray, who violently pumped his fist after striking out Tadahito Iguchi to end the game. "I forgot about the media. I forgot about all the bad outings and just went out there and pitched. I just did what I'm supposed to do."

Trembley, who had said a day earlier that Ray's struggles could prevent him from being the everyday closer, approached his struggling reliever before the game and told him that he would get the ball in a save situation. It didn't look like it would come to that, but it did.

"Yesterday, I got him up [in the bullpen] in the eighth inning," Trembley said. "I wanted to show him I have confidence in him and I wanted to show the other team I have confidence in him. I saw him today and said, "You know you can do it. I know you can do it, so get the job done."

The Orioles' rally started in the eighth inning after Buehrle left the game with two out and two men on. They cut a 6-2 deficit to one run on an RBI double to Ramon Hernandez and a two-run triple by Jay Payton. Jay Gibbons struck out to end the eighth, leaving the tying run at third base.

But Patterson started the Orioles' ninth-inning rally off Jenks with a leadoff double, his fourth hit of the night. Roberts fell behind Jenks but fouled off several tough pitches and then found a hole with a single to the right side to tie the game.

Chris Gomez then got down a sacrifice bunt and Jenks issued an intentional walk to Nick Markakis. The Orioles engineered a double steal with Roberts taking third and Markakis taking second. That allowed Roberts to score when Millar dumped in the go-ahead single to left.

"That's the confidence [Trembley] instills in us," Millar said. "He called us all over to the dugout before the inning started and said, 'Guys, we're going to play the win. If Corey gets on base, we're going to steal bases and we're not going to bunt. If we get first and second, Gomez is going to bunt.' He's got the confidence in us and he's given confidence to everybody in this clubhouse. That's a big thing."

Bedard was coming off one of his best starts of the season as he out-dueled Roger Clemens last week, holding the New York Yankees to two hits and a walk in seven shutout innings. He also struck out eight in that game.

The signs foreshadowing one of the toughest nights of Bedard's season were evident from the beginning. He walked Andy Gonzalez, the first batter he faced and one batter later, surrendered a long two-run home run to Jim Thome.

Bedard needed 23 pitches to get out of the first and 20 to get out of the second.

The 5 2/3 -inning outing was Bedard's worst start since giving up six earned runs to the Minnesota Twins on Opening Day. It was also the first time in 101 career starts that he gave up three home runs. He also walked four batters, tying his total number in his five June starts, while striking out five, his lowest total in six starts

But Bedard's teammates bailed him out.

"It was kind of hard to throw strikes," Bedard said. "It was one of the games you force yourself to throw strikes, but nothing happens consistently. But it was really fun to watch at the end. To come back like that says a lot."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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