By Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 28, 2007
BALTIMORE, July 27 -- Miguel Tejada left the Baltimore Orioles on June 22 -- 28 games ago -- shortly after Sam Perlozzo had been fired and the team hit its nadir. He returned Friday night, to a packed house at Camden Yards and a team riding a four-game win streak.
Make it five. After the New York Yankees barely held off the Orioles to complete a rain-suspended game from one month ago, Baltimore humbled the streaking Yankees, 4-2, with a performance as complete as the Orioles have delivered this season. They banged out 10 hits, starter Jeremy Guthrie gutted through six innings and the bullpen retired nine of the 10 batters it faced, including three in a row by Chad Bradford in the ninth for his first save this season.
"That's the way we've been playing," Manager Dave Trembley said. "Contributions from everybody. No one giving in."
Said Kevin Millar: "The Orioles are the player of the game."
The change from five weeks ago was not lost on Tejada, who handled his duties at shortstop with aplomb and hit the ball hard twice, but went hitless in five at-bats in his first night back.
"It's a lot different," Tejada said. "Everybody is relaxed. Everybody looks ready to win. Trembley put a lot of confidence in everybody."
Ramon Hernandez set the pace, lacing a two-out, bases-loaded single in the second off Andy Pettitte, the kind of clutch hit the Orioles have depended on during their run. The runs would hold up with little resistance until the fifth, when Guthrie faced men on second and third with one out and Derek Jeter at the plate.
Jeter struck out looking on an 87-mph slider on the outside corner. Guthrie then induced a ground ball to first base to quash the rally. After scampering to cover first, he pumped his first and sprinted to the dugout, "probably the most emotion I've seen out of Guthrie," Trembley said.
"They had me on the ropes," Guthrie said. "It kind of hit me real quickly how big of an out that was."
Guthrie recorded three more outs and yielded to the bullpen, which dominated even without Danys Baez, who was sick and not at the park. John Parrish, Paul Shuey, Jamie Walker and Bradford combined to shut down the Yankees from there.
"They're the MVPs of this game," Guthrie said.
The night began with novelty, a game to be finished one month after it began and all the quirky hypotheticals that came with finishing June 28's rain-delayed contest. Could Alex Rodriguez push his career home run total to 500 by hitting No. 493? Might Luis Hernandez record an official major league hit before his first major league call-up? Would Doc Brown drive his DeLorean to Camden Yards?
The game resumed in the eighth, with Jeter already on second base. "I thought I was in instructional league," Trembley said. "I didn't know what the hell was going on."
Though the Orioles could not overcome the month-old, 8-6 deficit against the Yankees, they at least made the two innings worth the wait, taking Yankees closer Mariano Rivera to the brink in an 8-7 loss. The Orioles brought the winning run to the plate three times in the ninth before Brandon Fahey bounced to second base, leaving Jay Payton at third base.
"A lot of people figured the game was over," Trembley said. "Not gonna happen with this group."
The stifled rally spoiled, for a moment, the return of Tejada from the disabled list. He spent 28 games on the disabled list -- the first missed games of his Orioles career -- with a broken left wrist, snapping his consecutive games streak at 1,152.
Tejada went on the disabled list June 22 and was not expected to return until August at the earliest. But after playing in two rehab games this week, the latest Thursday with Class A Frederick, Tejada came back earlier than expected.
"I don't care if it was the first day of the season or Sept. 30, the guy loves to play baseball," Trembley said. "That's probably the biggest attribute about Miggy. He couldn't wait to get back out there."
Perhaps he didn't contribute as much as he would have liked, but that was okay. The night was still satisfying and, at times, strange. Flashbulbs flickered each pitch to Rodriguez, the shutterbugs hoping capture No. 500. The Orioles put a loss in the books, but continued a winning streak.
"I feel happy," Tejada said. "Whether I get a hit doesn't matter. We won."