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Scott Backs Up His Claim for Baltimore

Orioles 7, Tigers 4

Luke Scott, right, and Melvin Mora celebrate Scott's second home run of the night.
Luke Scott, right, and Melvin Mora celebrate Scott's second home run of the night. (Gail Burton - AP)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 19, 2008; Page E06

BALTIMORE, July 18 -- On Thursday, Luke Scott told Dave Trembley not to worry. Forget about the beginning of July, when Scott's average slipped from .281 to .254. Disregard the struggles the left-handed hitter encounters when he faces left-handed pitchers. Scott insisted he was about to enter a second-half hot streak.

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So Trembley trusted him. The Orioles manager relied on Scott, and the confidence paid off in Friday's 7-4 win over the Detroit Tigers in front of 29,111 at Camden Yards.

Scott smashed two home runs, including a decisive two-run shot in the eighth inning off Tigers left-handed reliever Bobby Seay.

Facing the prospect of entering the ninth inning with just a one-run lead against the potent top of the Tigers' lineup, Trembley needed to make a decision. He could have batted right-handed Jay Payton for Scott, increasing the Orioles' odds against the left-hander.

Or he could stick with Scott, whose second-inning home run seemed to validate his Thursday declaration.

Scott did not even bother looking over his shoulder.

"How can I hit lefties if I don't get opportunities to face them?" Scott said. "Opportunities like that are good, especially when games are on the line. Those are the situations I need to experience."

"If you pinch-hit for him right there," Trembley said, "you send the wrong message."

Trembley planned to pinch-run for Scott with Payton if he were to reach base.

"It's a fine line," Trembley said. "I know what his numbers were his past 10 games. It's just the way he is. Seay made a mistake. He threw the right pitch. He made a mistake. He hung it."

Seay threw a breaking ball. Even though Scott was thinking fastball in that situation, the pitch did not break when it needed to break. By the time the ball finally dropped, it was beyond the right field fence.

"He threw some good breaking balls to me," Scott said, "and I got one I could handle."

Scott's home runs, his 15th and 16th of the season, were half of the Orioles' four in the game. Aubrey Huff hit his team-leading 19th home run in the third inning and Melvin Mora's sixth-inning shot was his second in two nights.

The Tigers had 14 hits but just one home run. Trembley said before the game the Orioles needed to force opponents to keep the ball in the park, a task that starter Jeremy Guthrie responded to on Friday.

"I didn't do it great tonight," Guthrie said, "but when you look back at the way they hit the ball, I feel a little bit pleased that only one was a home run."

Guthrie, whose impressive first half was not apparent in his record, improved to 6-7 after allowing four runs in six innings with five strikeouts.

The key for Guthrie was exiting the third inning unscathed. With the bases loaded and just one out, Tigers cleanup hitter Magglio Ordóñez approached the plate. Ordóñez, a career .311 hitter, grounded a slider back to Guthrie for a needed 1-2-3 double play.

"I tried to keep it in the infield and turn two because he's not one of their fastest runners, so we really had an opportunity if we could get one of those," Guthrie said. "I got it off the dish just enough for him to lunge at it and hit it back to me."

It was a night when seemingly all of Trembley's decisions worked. He called on reliever Chad Bradford to replace Guthrie in the seventh inning with two runners on base and no outs. Bradford forced Ordóñez to ground into another double play and Miguel Cabrera grounded out to end the inning.

When Trembley spoke to Tigers Manager Jim Leyland before the game, Leyland told Trembley about the uncertainty of managerial decisions.

"Dave," Trembley recalled Leyland saying, "you make the moves and if it works out, you look like a genius. When it doesn't work out, you gotta eat it."

As it worked out, Trembley put in Bradford in the seventh inning and stuck with Scott in the eighth inning. Leyland countered Scott with his weakness: left-handed pitching.

"As the season goes along, pitchers get tired. They're not as crisp," Scott said. "As a hitter, you get more comfortable with the bat. And when you get a mistake, you just don't miss it."

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