When most of the Boston Red Sox's defense mistakenly ran off the field after the second out of the sixth inning, it was hard to blame them. They had already sat through a rain delay of more than an hour, and with a nine-run lead over the Orioles at the time, the game appeared to be all but over.
The last thing anybody expected late Tuesday night at Camden Yards was the largest comeback in Orioles history to unfold. Trailing by nine runs in the seventh inning, the Orioles scored five times in that inning and five more in the eighth to deal the Red Sox a stunning 11-10 loss before what remained of an announced 31,969 at Camden Yards.
Nick Markakis hit a two-out, two-run double to the left-center field off Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon in the eighth inning to complete the Orioles' comeback. It was Papelbon's first blown save in 21 opportunities against the Orioles.
"That was probably the best game I've been involved in," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "That was absolutely tremendous. When you talk about playing all 27 outs, that's tonight. Play all 27."
Said Sherrill: "It shows you what kind of guys we've got in here. I definitely did not want to lose that one."
It was the first victory for the Orioles (35-42) over the Red Sox in six tries this season, and it couldn't have arose from a more improbable situation. The Orioles, trailing 10-1 when the bottom of the seventh began, had 13 total hits in the seventh and eighth innings after having only three in the first six innings.
The big blow in the seventh was delivered by pinch hitter Oscar Salazar, who slammed a three-run homer off Red Sox reliever Justin Masterson to cut the Orioles' deficit to 10-5. Felix Pie, who replaced a banged-up Adam Jones earlier in the game, added an RBI single off Manny Delcarmen to trim the Boston lead to four runs after the seventh.
"I was on the bench for six hours, five hours ... with a one-hour rain delay," Salazar said. "I'm getting ready for anything. I know the game is open, so I am more ready in that situation. When they send me to hit, I dont do anything different, I just do my job."
In the eighth, the Orioles loaded the bases with no outs against Red Sox reliever Hideki Okajima. Matt Wieters greeted Takashi Saito with an RBI single. Ty Wigginton hit a sacrifice fly to the warning track in right field before Brian Roberts cut the Red Sox's lead to 10-9 with an RBI single that ended his 0-for-18 skid.
"He's 1-for-1 now, and a hell of a 1-for-1," Trembley said of Roberts.
The furious comeback made an afterthought of another disturbing outing from starter Rich Hill, who allowed nine runs (seven earned) in 3 1/3 innings. He has failed to make it through five innings in five of his past seven starts, leaving his ERA at 7.08, and lingering questions about his rotation status. In his past five starts spanning 19 innings, Hill has a 10.42 ERA and has allowed 27 hits and 15 walks.
Jones, who is one of the leading candidates to be the Orioles' representative in the All-Star Game, is considered day-to-day after he was removed from the game before the third inning, two innings after his collision with the center-field wall while trying to rob Kevin Youkilis of a two-run homer. Adding insult to injury, Jones had momentarily caught the ball, which would have marked the second day in a row that he took away a home run from Youkilis, before he slammed into the wall and saw his glove fly off his hand.
Jones' side and face hit the wall hard before he tumbled to the ground. Orioles head athletic trainer Richie Bancells and Trembley ran out to center field to check on him, but Jones opted to stay in the game. He was removed before the third inning for what the team called precautionary reasons.
The Orioles managed one run in four innings off likely future Hall of Famer John Smoltz, who was making his second start for the Red Sox after he was knocked around by the Washington Nationals in his first.
Smoltz allowed three hits, a walk and one run on Pie's RBI triple in the third inning. However, the weather cost him a shot at his first American League victory and the 211th of his career. With the Red Sox leading 9-1 and Smoltz warming up for the bottom of the fifth, the skies opened up, leading to a one-hour, 11-minute rain delay.
That was far too long of a delay for Red Sox manager Terry Francona to bring back the 42-year-old right-hander even if he was only three outs short of qualifying for the potential victory.
The last thing he expected was for the Orioles to come back off his bullpen.
Sherrill, Jones favorites for O's All-Star PG 5
for Tuesday's game PG 4
RED SOX @ORIOLES
Today, 1:35 p.m.
TV: MASN HD
Radio: 105.7 FM