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After Bad Start, O's Big Rally Fades to Black

Down 9-0, Team Comes Back, Only to Lose in 10: Angels 10, Orioles 9

By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 15, 2004; Page D01

BALTIMORE, May 14 -- For two innings, the soundtrack of this game was a cascade of boos, raining down upon the visitors' villainous right fielder, and the home team's indifferent defense and woebegone starting pitcher. In the late innings, side 2 of this album, it was rapturous cheers, as the Baltimore Orioles staged an improbable, dramatic comeback from a nine-run deficit against the Anaheim Angels to tie the game in the ninth inning.

But the needle eventually made its way to the end of the record, and there was only quiet static. The crowd was silenced. After going from numbingly certain loss, to potentially stunning win, the Orioles finally fell, 10-9, in 10 innings in a game few will forget anytime soon.

Anaheim's Bartolo Colon allows five runs in five innings against Orioles, lost chance for fifth win when closer Troy Percival blew second save in four days. (Gail Burton -- AP)

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And then, after all that, there were fireworks at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, both above the playing surface and below.

As fans sat in the dark and cheered the rockets' red glare, Lee Mazzilli, the Orioles' rookie manager, was airing out his players for the first time all year. The object of his ire: the careless play and careless pitches that put the Orioles in the position where a nine-run comeback, sadly, was not enough.

"I looked in there," Mazzilli said of his clubhouse. "They're spent. Their tongues are hanging out because they battled. But you can't let it slip away early."

Among the things that can happen in this game are a light-hitting utility man coming within a double of hitting for the cycle, collecting five hits and driving in six runs, including the game-winner. That would be Chone Figgins, who singled to center against Orioles closer Jorge Julio to bring home the winning run in the top of the 10th.

A half-inning earlier, the Orioles had completed their miraculous nine-run comeback by scoring three runs against Angels closer Troy Percival.

It was a comeback built upon home runs -- Javy Lopez in the fourth, Rafael Palmeiro in the fifth, Melvin Mora in the seventh and Luis Matos greeting Percival with a homer to left to lead off the ninth to make it 9-7.

With two outs Brian Roberts and Mora stroked back-to-back singles. The tying runs were on the corners, with Miguel Tejada at the plate.

Mora was allowed to steal second without a throw, putting the tying run now in scoring position. Sure enough, Tejada followed by fisting a blooper to shallow center, which Figgins could not catch. His throw home was too late to get Mora, and the game, unbelievably, was tied.

The Orioles were in this precarious spot in the first place because of another acutely ineffective start by right-hander Kurt Ainsworth, who failed to make it out of the second inning for the second time. The Angels battered Ainsworth for nine runs despite being without four key members of their starting lineup (Garret Anderson, Darin Erstad, Troy Glaus and Tim Salmon).

"He has to get to a role where he can get going," Mazzilli said about Ainsworth, whose ERA ballooned to 9.68. "He's fighting himself."

The second inning, in which the Angels sent 12 batters to the plate and scored seven runs, was Ainsworth's undoing. Among the acts of pitching malfeasance he committed in that frame: hitting a pair of batters (including one with the bases loaded), walking the No. 9 batter to load the bases, and serving up a grand slam to Figgins. It was Figgins's first career homer in 339 big league at-bats.

What now for Ainsworth? With rookie Daniel Cabrera's stock on the rise -- following his dazzling major league debut Thursday, and with another start scheduled for Tuesday night in Seattle -- the Orioles may now have more than one reason to send Ainsworth down to the minors .

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