DENVER, June 20 -- This is what the Baltimore Orioles were staring at as Brian Roberts batted against Colorado Rockies closer Shawn Chacon with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the ninth inning Sunday at Coors Field:
An eight-game losing streak, a winless three-time-zone road trip, a growing list of injuries, a 3 1/2-hour flight home during which to contemplate their awful fate, a visit by the best team in baseball on Tuesday night and the encroaching realization that their once-promising season was teetering on the brink of disaster.
Brian Roberts and the Orioles watch seven-game losing streak come to an end on grand slam. "One swing brought us back from the dead," Rafael Palmeiro said.
(David Zalubowski -- AP)
Then Roberts connected on the third pitch from Chacon, and the ball sailed deep into the mile-high air, coming to rest in the third row of the right field stands. And instead of despair, humiliation and potential mutiny, the Orioles had an improbable 4-2 win that had otherwise sane players comparing the feeling to winning the World Series.
"One swing," said veteran first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, "brought us back from the dead."
The Orioles' losing streak, which seemed to feed off itself as one player after another came up lame, is over at seven.
Roberts's grand slam -- which recalled a similar game-winner he hit 13 months ago in Anaheim to beat Angels closer Troy Percival -- sent the Orioles' bench into spasms of euphoria, with half of Roberts's teammates spilling out to meet him on the top step of the dugout.
"They went nuts," said Manager Lee Mazzilli, who thought the team's situation dire enough to have called a team meeting before the game.
And what about Mazzilli's reaction?
"I went nuts, too," he said.
So, a road trip that began with a 14-0 drubbing in Cleveland in a makeup game seven days before -- and that continued with a trio of losses at Dodger Stadium and two more here at Coors Field -- ended with Orioles closer Jorge Julio striking out Preston Wilson to close out the bottom of the ninth and strand the potential tying runs at second and third.
(The alternative ending -- Julio giving the lead back immediately after Roberts's heroics -- would have been almost too painful to fathom.) Chacon, whose ERA of 8.38 condemns the Rockies' decision to try to convert him from a starter to a closer this season, loaded the bases with walks, the third of which, to pinch hitter Luis Lopez, came with two outs. On the Orioles' bench, the tension was almost too much to take.
"We needed a big hit," said lefty B.J. Ryan, who earned the win with 1 2/3 perfect innings, "and everybody knew it."
In the on-deck circle watching Lopez's at-bat, Roberts hoped he would have a chance to redeem himself for making the final out in Saturday night's loss. And he recalled his at-bat against Chacon on Friday night, when he hit a soft liner to shortstop for the second out of the ninth. The pitch was a fastball that cut in on his hands.
Despite Chacon's acute command problems, Roberts went to the plate looking for the cut fastball again, and vowing to swing when he saw it. It came on the first pitch of the at-bat, and Roberts took a vicious cut, whiffing.