Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 14, 2005; Page D01
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., April 13 -- He had come in and apologized to his teammates for comments in a newspaper article that cast him as a malcontent, but the only true way to get back their confidence was to start pitching well. When Baltimore Orioles reliever Steve Kline took the mound in the sixth inning of Wednesday's 5-1 win against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, he was not only pitching to keep the game in hand, but also to win back his teammates. Kline's off-speed pitch that landed in the catcher Geronimo Gil's mitt as Aubrey Huff swung and missed for the third strike, was a huge step in restoring his credibility in the clubhouse.
"That's what he's paid to do," Baltimore Manager Lee Mazzilli said. "To do the job and do what he did in a tough situation. It just shows you all the distractions out there and he still has to go out and perform. I don't expect any less of him."
Miguel Tejada heads for first base after hitting a two-run double in the seventh, when the Orioles scored four runs. They had five hits in the inning.
(Chris O'meara -- AP)
• It will be tough for the Orioles- Nationals matchup to join the ranks of great baseball rivalries. • A closer look at the Nationals' rivals in the NL East. • Thomas Boswell: The old rivalry between Washington and Baltimore should not take long to heat up. • The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is the best in sports and only figures to get more intense this season. • A timeline of the Red Sox and Yankees' shared history. • Many teams have laid claim to being the top rival of the Yankees. • Started in New York City and continued in California, the Giants- Dodgers rivalry is one for the ages. • Baseball Preview Section
Kline ran into the dugout after stopping the two-out, two-runner rally in a tie game. His teammates put out their hands and congratulated Kline. He had lost two games last week, each by allowing a three-run home run. On Wednesday, he pitched to just one batter and was credited with his first win.
"I figure if I screw it up now, they might as well shoot me," Kline said. "That's what this is supposed to be about: team. You see how good we can be. I feel guilty for screwing up the two games. They know I'm out there trying for them."
Orioles starter Erik Bedard did not pitch as well as he had in his season debut, but salvaged the outing by getting out of trouble. He had runners on in all five of the innings he pitched, but only one scored.
"I just didn't have the control I usually have," he said. "I couldn't stay back for whatever reason."
In Bedard's first start (seven innings, one run), the Orioles managed one run against the Oakland Athletics. This game, Baltimore had not scored by the time Bedard threw his last pitch in the fifth inning.
"In a way I wish we could score some runs for him," Mazzilli said. "He's pitched a couple of good games."
In facing Tampa Bay starter Mark Hendrickson, the Orioles put out the same lineup used against New York Yankees ace Randy Johnson. The two pitchers are similar in appearance -- both are taller than 6 feet 9 -- and throw from the left side but are vastly different in abilities.
Hendrickson has had more career appearances (13), pitched more innings (73 1/3) and won more games (four) against the Orioles than against any other team. Baltimore had a runner on third base twice in the first five innings, but couldn't score. The leadoff man reached base in four of the first six innings, but did not score. Three times the Orioles hit into double plays against Hendrickson. They finally struck with a solo home run in the sixth inning by Javy Lopez, his first of the year. Baltimore scored four runs in the seventh -- three of them charged to Hendrickson -- to take the lead.
In 2004 the Orioles hit just .253 against left-handed pitching. Entering Wednesday's game, they were hitting .306 against lefties. The Orioles have pounded left-handed starters. They scored four runs in six innings against Oakland ace Barry Zito and Johnson and tagged Devil Rays young lefty Scott Kazmir for four runs in five innings. Against Hendrickson they didn't seem to have a clue for the first six innings. Eventually Hendrickson's line read like all the rest: 6 1/3 innings, four runs. "Toward the end I started breaking down," Hendrickson said. "I got a little tired and my mechanics got away from me."
The game was tied heading into the bottom of the sixth. Reliever Steve Reed had retired the first two batters but allowed a triple to Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford. Reed walked Julio Lugo, bringing up the lefty Huff. Naturally, Mazzilli called on Kline, the southpaw specialist who was signed to a two-year, $5.5 million deal this offseason for exactly that type of situation. Huff worked the count full against Kline.
The lefty finished the at-bat with a 83 mph slider. This time, Kline helped save the game.