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O's, Millwood escape with victory

Kevin Millwood figured as much. His first 2 1/2 months in an Orioles uniform have been dominated by defensive gaffes, poor run support, some recent bad pitching and, of course, a lot of regrettable losses.

So as he sat in the visiting clubhouse at Petco Park on Saturday night to watch the ninth inning and resisted the urge to join his teammates in the dugout, Millwood had one prevailing thought.

"I definitely didn't think it was going to be easy, by any means," he said.

Boy, was he right. A night after David Hernandez coughed up a one-run lead in the ninth inning, Alfredo Simon allowed a run but then struck out Chase Headley with the tying run on third to secure the Orioles' 5-4 victory and Millwood's first win in front of an announced 28,138.

"A little nerve-wracking, no doubt about it," Millwood said in his typically understated fashion.

The Padres had runners on second and third with no outs in the inning, but after former Oriole Oscar Salazar's RBI groundout, Simon got David Eckstein to hit a ball into the drawn-in infield, and then got Headley to flail at a 2-2 pitch.

Three pitches earlier, Headley nearly tied the game with a hard grounder down the first base line that hit off the mitt of Ty Wigginton, but it was called foul by first base umpire Phil Cuzzi.

It was Simon's seventh save in eight chances, and it came on the same day that interim manager Juan Samuel announced that Simon would be back in the closer's role. Simon rewarded his manager's faith by walking the leadoff batter, the same thing Hernandez did a night earlier, and then giving up a double to Tony Gwynn. But that was the last hit or base runner San Diego would get.

"We walked that guy and so I was like, 'Oh, I hope we don't have the same outcome as we did last night,' " Samuel said. "But he made some good pitches there when he needed to [and got] himself out of that mess."

It was just the Orioles' fourth win in their past 22 games, and it gives them an opportunity today to win their first road series all year and collect a respectable 3-3 West Coast trip behind rookie right-hander Jake Arrieta.

Playing in his hometown, Orioles center fielder Adam Jones got the game's biggest hit, driving Padres left-handed starter Clayton Richard's 1-1 pitch into the second deck in left field for a two-run homer in the sixth inning.

Jones' ninth homer gave the Orioles' a 5-3 lead and put Millwood in position for the victory. Millwood pitched a scoreless sixth, and Will Ohman, Jason Berken and Simon combined to get the final three outs.

"I finally swung at a pitch that I should have swung at," Jones said. "I've been swinging and missing the whole series. I've been trying to do too much every at-bat and not really swinging at good pitches and getting frustrated with myself. I finally got a good pitch to hit, and I didn't miss it."

While he acknowledged that it felt good to hit the homer in front of a large contingent of family and friends, Jones said that the most important thing was that it put Millwood in position to get a win.

"I think that's more satisfying than anything," Jones said. "The man has battled his [butt] off all year. It took 2 1/2 months for him to get a win, but he got it."

Before Jones' homer, it had been shaping up to be another typical Millwood start, marred by an embarrassing defensive gaffe, and more first-inning struggles.

Millwood, who was 0-4 with a 9.53 ERA in his previous four starts, appeared on his way to an easy first inning, but then he allowed a two-out walk to the dangerous Adrian Gonzalez and singles to Scott Hairston and Yorvit Torrealba.

Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis fielded Torrealba's single and came up throwing and Gonzalez held up at third.

However, Hairston kept running toward third. Catcher Matt Wieters fielded Markakis' throw and after noticing Hairston was hung up, he threw to shortstop Cesar Izturis at second base. All Izturis had to do was run the Padre toward third base and tag either him or Gonzalez. However, he quickly threw to third baseman Miguel Tejada, whose tag of Gonzalez was too late. Tejada then threw to Wigginton, who was at second, but his swipe tag missed Hairston.

"You work so much and so hard on these plays in spring training, and then you see that we aren't executing these plays," Samuel said. "In a rundown, you try to get it to one throw, two at the most, and we just think Cesar ran hard enough, he just gave up the ball too soon. And he knows that, he's so professional. … We always seem to do something, but we overcame that tonight."

Said Izturis: "I should have run the guy to third base. There were two guys over there. I was trying to get the guy out, but it happened. I'm going to forget about it. We got a 'W,' and that's the important thing."

Millwood (1-8) proceeded to issue a bases-loaded walk to Will Venable and a two-run single to former Oriole Jerry Hairston Jr. to put the Orioles in a 3-1 hole. Millwood has now allowed 18 first-inning runs in his past six starts.

"It all happened with two outs," said Millwood, who didn't allow another run over the next five innings. "I have to be able to get somebody out there and not let it get to where it did, but I was able to settle down after that and get some outs, and the guys battled back and got me a win."

It was Millwood's first win since Oct. 1 as a member of the Texas Rangers.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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