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THE BEST AND WORST

The Baltimore Sun

Team MVP: : Aubrey Huff, DH-1B. Booed in every at-bat on the Orioles' first homestand after his comments about the city in a radio interview, Huff rediscovered his stroke and established himself as the power-hitting cleanup hitter the Orioles have lacked. He finished with 32 homers and 108 RBIs and was near the top of most AL offensive rankings.

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Best victory: : The Orioles had their share of comebacks early in the season, but one of them stood out, perhaps because it came against the New York Yankees. On May 27, the Orioles trailed the Yankees 4-0 and 8-4 at Camden Yards but roared back behind five home runs and then won the game, 10-9, in the 11th inning on Alex Cintron's hit.

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Worst loss: : Just one strike away from ending a frustrating Sunday losing streak, closer George Sherrill hung an 0-2 slider to the Washington Nationals' Ronnie Belliard, who muscled it out of the park, dealing the Orioles a 3-2, 12-inning loss June 29.

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Defining moment: : When Brian Burres came down with a stomach ailment and was unable to make the June 25 start against the Chicago Cubs, Matt Albers got only one out before leaving with a shoulder injury. It turned out to be a devastating blow for Albers, who suffered a torn labrum, and for the Orioles, who lost one of the most reliable and versatile members of the bullpen.

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Best front-office decision: : Orioles president Andy MacPhail's offseason trades of Miguel Tejada and Erik Bedard netted 10 players, six of whom were in the big leagues this season. The Bedard deal, which brought in Adam Jones, Sherrill and top pitching prospect Chris Tillman, along with two other minor leaguers, was not a trade, but a heist. Luke Scott came over from Houston and helped offset the loss of Tejada's offense.

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Worst front-office decision: : After jettisoning Tejada, the Orioles didn't sign a veteran shortstop, instead entrusting the position to career minor leaguer Luis Hernandez. He struggled before earning a demotion and setting off a revolving door at shortstop. The Orioles started six shortstops.

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Best feel-good story: : Sherrill, a 31-year-old reliever who went undrafted and pitched in independent ball for four seasons, was the Orioles' lone All-Star at Yankee Stadium. He pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings in the game and could have been the game's Most Valuable Player.

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Biggest downer: : Considered a future top-of-the-rotation starter, left-hander Adam Loewen, who was trying to make the comeback from a stress fracture in his pitching elbow, exited an April 24 start against the Seattle Mariners with elbow pain. The 24-year-old will never pitch again because of his elbow.

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Best individual performance: : Orioles manager Dave Trembley said he felt as if he were watching the movie The Natural after Melvin Mora tore up the Detroit Tigers on Aug. 17. Mora went 5-for-6 with two doubles, two homers, six RBIs and four runs in a 16-8 victory.

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Worst individual performance: : Several Orioles starters were worthy of consideration, but the winner is Steve Trachsel, who allowed nine earned runs, seven hits and two walks in just 1 2/3 innings in a loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on May 24. That was the veteran's last start before he was designated for assignment.

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Best defensive play: : Nick Markakis shined with his glove and arm May 22 at Yankee Stadium. Markakis made a leaping catch of Hideki Matsui's drive to the wall despite center fielder Adam Jones jumping in front of him, then unleashed a one-hop throw to first base from deep right-center field that doubled up Johnny Damon.

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Worst defensive play: : Getting victimized by a walkoff homer is bad enough. How about losing because of a walkoff error? On July 8 in Toronto, shortstop Freddie Bynum, who entered the game in the ninth inning as a defensive replacement, allowed Scott Rolen's grounder to go under his glove and right through his legs to score the game-winning run.

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Top newcomer: : Jones, the centerpiece in the Mariners' package for Bedard, lived up to his billing with a solid offensive season - he hit .270 with nine homers and 57 RBIs - and a standout defensive one. The 23-year-old looks like he could be roaming center field for the Orioles for a long time.

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Best debuts: : Making his major league debut Aug. 5, Chris Waters allowed one hit over eight shutout innings against the Los Angeles Angels, baseball's best team at the time. The next day, outfielder Lou Montanez homered in his first major league at-bat, becoming just the second player in team history to accomplish the feat.

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