Correction to This Article
This article incorrectly attributed an RBI single to Chicago Cubs outfielder Kosuke Fukudome in a 7-5 loss to the Baltimore Orioles. Aramis Ramirez had the single. The article also said the Orioles took a 7-1 lead against Cubs starter Sean Marshall; the score was 4-1 when Marshall left the game.

Roberts Rewards O's For Hanging On

Cubs Get a Look at What Might Have Been: Orioles 7, Cubs 5

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 25, 2008; Page E06

CHICAGO, June 24 -- At one point in the offseason, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Brian Roberts would start this season by taking second base at Wrigley Field, arriving as the final piece needed for the Chicago Cubs to break a championship drought that has lasted a full century.

And while Baltimore Orioles President Andy MacPhail reiterated that the trade of his second baseman was never close to being consummated, contrary to rampant media speculation, even Roberts himself wasn't immune from the wave.

One morning, he received a text from his agent that read simply: "I think it's done."

Of course, the deal was never done and Roberts remained an Oriole. And while the Orioles have been thankful for this throughout the season, the point was emphasized on Tuesday, when Roberts lifted them to a tension-filled, 7-5 victory over the Cubs.

Roberts went 3 for 5, scored two runs and drove home another on a sixth-inning triple -- the 1,000th hit of his career.

"I've answered the question again over and over again, what's Roberts mean to our club. I think he showed everybody today what he means for our team," Orioles Manager Dave Trembley said. "The guy is one of the premiere leadoff guys not only in this league but in baseball. I think it was apropos that he comes here to Chicago tonight and he plays the way he did."

All of it was needed as the Orioles fended off a persistent Chicago rally, escaping with the victory after closer George Sherrill loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth only to retire the next three via strikeout.

"He's unbelievable," said Roberts. "I've never seen anything like it. Our saying is, 'Never in doubt, Georgie, never in doubt.' But gosh, I'm starting to doubt. He's killing me out there, he's killing all of us. But shoot, it's fun. I don't think he ever doubts himself and that's all that matters."

Chicago has emerged as the class of the National League by making the "friendly confines" harsher toward visiting teams than ever before, compiling a big league best 32-8 home record entering Tuesday. Chicago came in trying for its 15th straight home win, which would have been the longest streak by the Cubs in 118 years.

But the Orioles ended the streak, improbably holding on to a six-run lead as the Cubs narrowed the gap on a three-run homer by Jim Edmonds and an RBI single by Kosuke Fukodome, before Sherrill slammed the door and preserved the win for starter Jeremy Guthrie.

"We had a tough series in Milwaukee, we had an off day, we come in here and we're very aware of the kind of team the Cubs have and what they've been doing here," Trembley said. "I think it shows something about the Orioles, the way they came in here and played."

But for all the gritty qualities the Orioles displayed, it was Roberts who channeled them on this night. All season he has been the Orioles' offensive catalyst -- or, as MacPhail said, "Sometimes, as he goes, we go." And it seemed that the Orioles took the cue of their leader, who raised his game as a crowd of 41,537 scrutinized the player they might have had.

"When you're out there, what we dealt with for four months, you think about it a little bit," Roberts said.

The Orioles jumped on young left-hander Sean Marshall behind a pair of RBI from both Nick Markakis and Luke Scott to push Baltimore's lead to 7-1. By then, Roberts already had three hits, including his American League-leading sixth triple.

"You can't replace people like Brian," said Scott, whose RBI came on a triple of his own. "Guys like him, they're few and far between. There's not too many like them in the game. What he does defensively and offensively is just very special. We're glad to have him."

© 2008 The Washington Post Company