Crazy eighth: O's rally again

The Baltimore Sun

TORONTO -- The feeling started to build in the Orioles' dugout the moment Toronto Blue Jays starter Shaun Marcum handed the ball to manager John Gibbons and walked off the field to a standing ovation.

Trailing by four runs and down to their final six outs, the Orioles had given no signs over seven innings that they were prepared to do anything but go quietly back to the clubhouse, a loss in hand. But with Marcum out of the game, there was at least hope.

When Melvin Mora hit a two-run homer to pull the Orioles within one, another stirring comeback seemed almost like a formality. Kevin Millar tied the game with a homer off comeback igniter Armando Benitez, and then Adam Jones connected off Benitez for his second game-winning homer in as many games. The Orioles' three-homer, six-run eighth inning pushed them to a 6-5 win before a stunned 23,649 at the Rogers Centre.

"We knew something was going to happen," said Jones, whose towering two-run shot over the left-field wall broke a 4-4 tie. "It was good we got Marcum out of the game. We have big-time resilience. We never give up until the last out is made. I was in the right spot at the right time."

Chad Bradford allowed a run in a rocky bottom of the eighth but stranded a man on third to hold the Orioles' lead. In the ninth, George Sherrill struck out Lyle Overbay with the tying run on first base, to secure his 21st save and give the Orioles their fourth win in five games. At 30-30, they're back at .500 for the first time since May 28.

They are 14-8 in one-run games after going 13-31 in one-run games last season. They have come from behind to win 16 times this season.

"It's real simple: We don't quit, and tonight was another example of that," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "You've got guys believing they're going to get it done. Give us a little bit of an opening and we're going to take advantage of it."

The Orioles felt that opening came when Marcum left the game after allowing a leadoff double to Brian Roberts in the eighth. Nick Markakis, who continued his torrid stretch by going 4-for-4 with a walk, broke up Toronto's shutout attempt with an RBI single off Brian Tallet. Mora then blasted Tallet's pitch over the center-field wall for his 10th home run. He nearly tripped before crossing home plate, but comic relief aside, what mattered was the Orioles trailed by only a run and Mora "woke up" the team, according to Trembley.

Tallet retired Aubrey Huff for the first out and Gibbons brought on Benitez, who got behind Millar 3-1 and served up a meaty fastball. Millar pounded it just inside the foul pole and into the second deck in left field, his 11th home run tying the game at 4. Luke Scott then reached on an error by David Eckstein, setting the stage for Jones to smack Benitez's 0-1 pitch over the wall.

"It was an amazing game," Mora said. " ... [Marcum] threw pretty good all game. I was just happy that they took him out. ... I'm glad we concentrated a bit more with their bullpen. After Kevin Millar hit the home run to tie the game, I was jumping. I was more excited than when I hit the homer because I know we can come back."

The night started with another discouraging outing from Brian Burres, who allowed three earned runs over 4 1/3 innings. He hasn't pitched five innings in three straight outings. But when the eighth inning ended, Burres' performance was little more than an afterthought.

"I keep saying it and I know it probably seems like a broken record, but there's a tremendous sense of purpose when we play," Trembley said. "When we're behind, we're not going to give it away. We're going to keep fighting. It's been a remarkable story what I'm watching."

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