A season in which very little has gone right for the Orioles got a new and painful chapter Wednesday, when one of their key players got hurt while circling the bases after hitting what would turn out to be the game-winning home run.
Luke Scott, whose solo shot followed a two-run blast by Ty Wigginton and gave the home team the lead, strained his left hamstring while rounding first base in the seventh inning of the Orioles' often hard-to-watch 9-6 comeback victory over the Oakland Athletics before an announced 21,392 at Camden Yards.
Scott limped the last 270 feet around the bases, stopping once to grab the back of his left leg, and then clapped his hands and pointed up to the sky after crossing home plate. After entering the clubhouse with the help of crutches, Scott acknowledged that he'll likely end up on the disabled list. Outfielder Felix Pie was contacted by the Orioles and told to be ready if Scott had to go on the disabled list. Pie arrived at Camden Yards within two hours of the end of the game.
"Right now, it doesn't look good," said Scott, who walked in his three plate appearances before the home run and is hitting .326 with nine homers over his past 42 games. "Anytime you deal with a pulled hamstring, it's going to be at least two weeks.
"I was just kind of frustrated. I was happy that ball went out. We took the lead. But at the same time, it is like it is frustrating that this happened. It was painful, and I kind of knew what it was."
Scott's 12th homer, which came off lefty Cedrick Bowers and made the score 7-6, marred a mostly uplifting night for the Orioles, who have won five of their past six games and have erased a deficit of at least three runs in each of those victories.
The home team trailed by three runs after the A's scored six times in the top of the fourth inning off Kevin Millwood in perhaps the worst of many awful innings the Orioles (24-53) have played this season.
Wigginton's two-run homer off Oakland reliever Brad Ziegler with one out in the seventh was his first since May 22, but more important, was the first by an Orioles first baseman this season. The 76games were the longest drought without a home run from a first baseman to start a season in franchise history, and the fourth longest overall since 1961.
Orioles interim manager Juan Samuel said Wigginton entered the dugout and said, "The curse is gone."
"I think there definitely was a little curse there," said Wigginton, who has 14home runs this season. "I thought maybe it would be a foul ball or something. At that point, who knows? I think the first baseman thing was bigger than the personal slump."
The back-to-back homers from Wigginton and Scott were two of five the Orioles hit, tying a season high they set May 1 against the Boston Red Sox. Surging center fielder Adam Jones hit a two-run shot in the second inning off A's veteran starter Ben Sheets as part of his 3-for-5 and three-RBI night. He has 13 homers this season and four in seven games on this homestand.
Corey Patterson hit a solo shot in the fourth that cut the Orioles' deficit to 6-4 and was among three hits for the leadoff man. Third baseman Miguel Tejada, whose defensive struggles figured prominently in Oakland's six-run fourth inning, connected for a two-run shot in the eighth to give the Orioles a 9-6 advantage.
Alfredo Simon pitched a perfect ninth to pick up his 10th save and back four scoreless innings from the Orioles' suddenly reliable bullpen. The relief corps has allowed two earned runs in 23 1/3 innings (0.77 ERA) over the past six games, which has meshed nicely with the team's offensive resurgence.
"There's been nothing but doubters against us all year," Jones said. "We haven't had the greatest season so far, that's evident. But the only thing about it is we played our tails off."
It certainly hasn't always been pretty. There is so much competition for the dubious distinction, but it's hard to imagine the Orioles have played a more awful inning than the fourth Wednesday night, when the A's sent nine men to the plate and turned a 3-0 deficit into a 6-3 lead.
Case in point: Tejada mishandled Kurt Suzuki's ground ball at third base to let the leadoff batter reach base. Patterson watched Ryan Sweeney's bloop single bounce away from him in left field, allowing Suzuki to score from first and Sweeney to take second.
Millwood issued a one-out walk to No. 9 hitter Cliff Pennington, and on ball four, catcher Matt Wieters, who thought the Athletics batter had swung at the pitch, threw to second base, permitting Mark Ellis to score the tying run from third without a throw.
Millwood then allowed a three-run homer to leadoff man Coco Crisp en route to a 42-pitch inning.
The veteran did break his streak of allowing at least two first-inning runs in seven straight starts, which no pitcher since 1900 had done. But the six-run fourth left a huge stain on his outing.
"That one inning kind of killed us. It killed me," Millwood said.
It also stood as the defining sequence of the game before Scott's blast gave the Orioles the lead and perhaps cost the team one of its better hitters for a couple of weeks.
"We are going to enjoy the win," Samuel said.
"It's a win for us, so we just move forward."