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Orioles on the Comeback Trail

Club Ends Road Trip With Rally From Six-Run Deficit: Orioles 11, Blue Jays 7

By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 16, 2004; Page D08

TORONTO, Aug. 15 -- Among the relentlessly upbeat chatter emanating from the mouth of Miguel Tejada on Sunday afternoon, as his Baltimore Orioles contemplated a six-run deficit to the Toronto Blue Jays at the end of a six-game double-cross-country road trip, was one verbal gem that made everybody near him take notice. By this point in the season, most of Tejada's words fade into the noisy background of a game. But not this one.

"C'mon," Tejada chirped. "We're the best team in baseball right now!"

"We just enjoy playing baseball right now," Miguel Tejada says of Orioles, 20-11 since all-star break. (Frank Gunn -- AP)

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Where: Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

When: Tonight, tomorrow and Wednesday at 7:05 p.m.

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Pitchers: Tonight, Orioles LHP Erik Bedard (5-6, 4.32 ERA) vs. Athletics LHP Mark Redman (8-9, 4.56). Tomorrow, Orioles RHP Rodrigo Lopez (10-7, 3.75) vs. Athletics RHP Tim Hudson (7-4, 3.17). Wednesday, Orioles RHP Sidney Ponson (8-12, 5.47) vs. Athletics LHP Mark Mulder (15-4, 3.71).

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Hours later, after the Orioles had finished off a remarkable 11-7 come-from-behind victory, featuring an eight-run eighth inning, there was time to contemplate Tejada's boast. If it is not exactly true, it is also not so far off.

Sunday's improbable victory, which some in the clubhouse were calling the team's biggest of the season, closed out a 4-2 road trip that began in Anaheim, and left the Orioles with a 20-11record since the all-star break. By taking two out of three against the last-place Blue Jays, the Orioles won their fourth straight series and pulled back within seven games of the wild-card lead.

"We were asking [the Orioles' public-relations staff] about that," said second baseman Brian Roberts, in reference to the wild-card chase. "If we keep playing like this, we can give ourselves a shot [to make a playoff run] in September. It's fun to be able to at least ask about it."

The Orioles (57-59) trailed 7-1 at one point Sunday, making this the team's biggest comeback victory in nearly two years. As the eighth inning began, they trailed by four runs and were down to their last six outs.

"We were frustrated," left fielder David Newhan said. "But Miggy kept us up. He kept talking."

The decisive sequence in the eight-run eighth inning -- the Orioles' biggest inning of the season -- began when veteran B.J. Surhoff hustled down the first base line on a routine grounder to shortstop, causing Chris Gomez to rush his throw, which went bouncing past first baseman Carlos Delgado. It ended with Newhan ripping a double into the right field corner, scoring Roberts with the go-ahead run. One batter earlier, Roberts had driven in two with a single.

Newhan, a gift that was dropped into the Orioles' laps two months ago, also singled twice and tripled, making this his fifth four-hit game since joining the team on June 18.

Once the Orioles seized the lead, they kept piling on runs, with Tejada and Surhoff contributing RBI singles.

"Right now, we think we can come back at any moment," Tejada said. "We just enjoy playing baseball right now. It's not only one guy. It's everybody."

It was Dog Day at SkyDome -- with 275 dogs in attendance, along with 26,132 humans -- and there were plenty of dog jokes to be made about the Blue Jays' bullpen.

It is a bad idea to face the heavily left-handed Orioles lineup with no lefties in your bullpen, but that is what the Blue Jays (like the Angels before them) tried to do. The Orioles were relentless in their pounding of right-handers Kevin Frederick, Vinny Chulk (0-3) and Jason Frasor, who combined to give up eight runs in the inning.

The Orioles were in the position of needing a huge comeback because of an ineffective outing from starter Daniel Cabrera. Cabrera, the electrifying 6-foot-7 rookie, delivered his shortest start, failing to make it out of the fourth inning while getting rocked for seven runs, three of which came on Delgado's massive home run in the first. Cabrera was pulled after giving up four singles and two walks in the fourth inning.

Once a consistent seven-inning pitcher, Cabrera has failed to go that deep in seven straight starts, a trend that almost certainly has something to do with his career-high innings total of 142 2/3 -- or 17 1/3 more than he has thrown in any other professional season.

On Sunday, Orioles relievers Eddy Rodriguez, Buddy Groom, B.J. Ryan and Jorge Julio combined to produce 5 1/3 scoreless innings, which made the comeback possible.

Orioles Notes: Roberts hit a double in the seventh inning and has doubled in seven consecutive games, the longest such streak since Toronto's Delgado in July 2000. Roberts's 39 doubles this season trail only Cleveland's Ronnie Belliard among AL leaders. . . .

Veteran designated hitter David Segui (knee inflammation), on a rehabilitation assignment with Class A Frederick, could be activated from the disabled list within the next few days. . . .

When the Orioles swept three games from the Blue Jays here April 16-18, they did so with three starting pitchers who are no longer on the team -- left-handers Matt Riley and Eric DuBose, and right-hander Kurt Ainsworth.

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