BALTIMORE, May 7 -- Larry Bigbie wore a big smile as he circled the bases Friday night in the bottom of the 10th inning. One quick look to the Baltimore Orioles' dugout, where his teammates were flowing joyously onto the field to greet him was all the reason he needed.
Bigbie's home run to right-center leading off the inning gave the Orioles a 3-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians and gave the 26-year-old -- in his first season as a lineup regular -- something to treasure.
Rafael Palmeiro makes his way back to the dugout after being called out on strikes in the third inning. Game was delayed 48 minutes because of rain.
(Nick Wass -- AP)
"I couldn't help" but smile, Bigbie said. "It was one of those balls you always wonder what it's like to hit."
The victory prevented the Orioles (14-12) from dropping to .500 for the first time since April 15. With 22 consecutive days with a winning record, they have matched their total of the past three seasons combined.
Before his game-winning home run, Bigbie had just three hits in his previous 19 at-bats. As a whole Friday, the Orioles had done little offensively, getting one run in the first inning on a walk by Melvin Mora and a double by Miguel Tejada, then tying the game at 2 on Rafael Palmeiro's homer to lead off the sixth inning. Otherwise, the Orioles had just two runners reach third base.
Though the offense struggled, the Orioles stayed in the game because of defense and relief pitching, two staples of the team through the season's first five weeks. The Orioles threw out four runners on the base paths, and five relievers combined for five scoreless innings.
"I have a feeling the guys know exactly the makeup of the bullpen," Orioles Manager Lee Mazzilli said. "That's an important ingredient."
Starter Erik Bedard went five innings -- despite a 48-minute rain delay after the third inning -- and got out of a serious jam in the fifth inning when, with the bases loaded and two outs, Omar Vizquel tried to steal home. Catcher Javy Lopez used his legs to block the plate, and Bedard's throw home was just to the third base side of home, allowing Lopez to tag out Vizquel and keep the Orioles' deficit at 2-1.
In the eighth, reliever Buddy Groom picked Matt Lawton off second base with one out. In the ninth, Cleveland (12-16) again threatened, but B.J. Ryan struck out Victor Martinez to end the inning with the bases loaded. In the 10th, Jorge Julio (1-0) allowed a leadoff walk but negated a sacrifice bunt attempt by throwing to get the lead runner at second.
Bigbie had grounded out twice and struck out looking in his previous at-bats Friday. As he watched reliever Chad Durbin (2-3) warm up to start the 10th inning, Bigbie thought to himself about what to expect. Durbin's best pitch is a change-up, Bigbie said, but he figured Durbin -- who already had allowed two game-ending home runs -- might try to use his fastball to get ahead in the count, not wanting to allow the leadoff batter to reach base.
With the count 1-0, Durbin left a fastball high, and Bigbie was waiting on it, hitting his fifth home run of the season. As soon as Bigbie made contact, many fans and Orioles players stood in anticipation, but Bigbie was not certain the game was over.
"I haven't hit enough home runs to know it was gone," he said.
Orioles Notes: Mazzilli said that second baseman Jerry Hairston, who is on a rehabilitation assignment with Class AA Bowie, is expected to return Tuesday when the team begins a three-game series at the Chicago White Sox. With Brian Roberts batting .333 and tied for first in the American League with 14 stolen bases, however, Mazzilli said he is unsure how to use Hairston.
Hairston "has to get in and play," Mazzilli said. "but that kid over there at second base has done a heck of a job."
Mazzilli ruled out a position change for either player, leaving open the option of using one at designated hitter. . . .
Mazzilli said he agreed with Major League Baseball's decision not to follow through with plans to place logos for a movie on bases and pitching mounds next month. "I think this game is above that," Mazzilli said, calling himself a traditionalist. "Baseball should hold itself to a certain standard."
Although there will not be logos on the bases, the Orioles still will participate in promotional activities that include a promotional giveaway, showing a movie trailer on the scoreboard video screen and placing movie logos in the on-deck circles, a team spokesman said. . . .
Last Sunday's rainout in Cleveland will be made up on June 14 at 1:05 p.m.