Trachsel's stay short, but O's long on runs

The Baltimore Sun

Players on a fourth-place team are careful not to puff out their chests after sweeping the club below them. They don't check the wild-card standings until reaching the .500 mark. But the Orioles will bask in every achievement, no matter how modest, and they'll imagine the possibilities that exist down the road.

It beats counting the days until their vacation begins.

With starting pitcher Steve Trachsel unable to continue the recent run of quality starts from the rotation, the Orioles relied on an invigorated offense and a bullpen that's no longer underachieving to run their winning streak to four games with a 10-7 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays before an announced 22,393 at Camden Yards.

The Orioles improved to 47-53, the closest they've been to .500 since June 12, and are 9-4 since the All-Star break. They've won nine of their past 12 games and are 18-13 under interim manager Dave Trembley.

So what does it mean?

"We play a lot in our division these next 60 games," said first baseman Kevin Millar, who doubled twice and had two RBIs in a five-run third inning that enabled the Orioles to overcome a 2-1 deficit.

"We don't know if we're going to go 50-10, but nobody's out of it right now, and you just want to go out there and continue to win series. And this team is playing as good as we have all year long. We've got some consistency. Guys know their roles. And even short-handed, we're doing a great job of finding a way to win, whether it's pitching, defense or out-slugging the other team."

Quality pitching was needed from the bullpen after Trembley removed Trachsel with two outs in the fifth and the Orioles ahead 6-5. Rob Bell (3-1) got the next four outs, and the Devil Rays were blanked until scoring twice in the ninth off rookie Cory Doyne.

"I've been ready every day for whatever it might be," Bell said. "I think everyone down there feels the same way. From the fifth or sixth on, when the phone rings, it could be anybody."

Nick Markakis' bases-loaded, two-run single in the third inning allowed the Orioles to take their first lead, and Brian Roberts' three-run homer in the eighth rendered Tampa Bay's late rally insignificant. But the bottom of the order also contributed, with No. 9 hitter Brandon Fahey - a candidate to be optioned to the minors today when Miguel Tejada joins the active roster - going 3-for-3 with a triple, a walk and two runs.

Chris Gomez singled twice, executing a hit-and-run to perfection in the eighth, and drove in two runs. Roberts walked three times and stole a base before homering off former Oriole Al Reyes. Jay Payton contributed a sacrifice fly in the eighth after replacing Jay Gibbons in left field.

"Everybody's picked it up, everybody's stepped up, and it's been fun," Roberts said. "Winning cures everything. Everybody has fun when you win."

Said Millar: "We're all clicking right now. It's not one guy; it's a 25-man roster. It's a full-team effort right now."

Trachsel would like to join in the fun, but he's winless in his past six starts. He has allowed four runs or more in seven of his past eight games, increasing his ERA from 3.39 to 5.26.

Trembley removed Trachsel yesterday with the starter one out away from qualifying for the win. The right-hander, a trade candidate at the non-waiver deadline, allowed five runs and seven hits, walked three and threw a wild pitch.

"I wasn't executing very high-quality, percentage pitches," he said. "It wasn't a problem with throwing strikes. But the strikes were up in the zone and in a good location to hit. I just wasn't very consistent."

Trachsel said he's fully recovered from the strained gluteus that forced him to the disabled list.

"That's what makes it so frustrating. I feel great," he said. "I'm just trying to get back to the guy who was pitching in April and May and forget about the last month-and-a-half. I should be executing a lot better."

After Bell preserved the one-run lead, Jamie Walker and Paul Shuey each threw a scoreless inning, as the bullpen continued to pick up the slack created by Chris Ray's elbow injury.

"That's part of baseball," Walker said. "When guys go down, the wolf pack keeps going."

It will run into the New York Yankees tonight - winners of six in a row before last night's 7-0 loss to the Kansas City Royals. The teams must complete a suspended game from June 28 before starting the scheduled three-game series.

"It's as big as there is all year," Millar said of the series.

Bigger than sweeping the Devil Rays for the second time this season - an achievement that allows the Orioles to imagine the possibilities with two full months remaining.

"I always thought there was a very good makeup on this team," Trembley said. "When I went to spring training with them, I thought that was one of the strong points of the club. It was a real good mix of younger and older guys. And when you don't win and you're not successful, your confidence has a way of getting away from you a little bit.

"The guys have regrouped. It's certainly a whole lot more fun in the clubhouse, and it's certainly a whole lot more fun in that dugout."

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