It would take two hands to count the number of times the Baltimore Orioles appeared beaten tonight. In addition to enduring a shaky outing by their starting pitcher and an injury to their starting second baseman, they blew three late leads, each one more ghastly than the last. Not too long ago, it would have been inconceivable that the Orioles would win a game like this.
But the Orioles of June are not the Orioles of April, and tonight they stole an improbable 11-9 victory from the Chicago White Sox in front of 30,232 at Comiskey Park when Mike Bordick hit a two-run homer off Keith Foulke in the top of the 11th and the Orioles finally held on.
The victory was the Orioles' ninth in their last 10 games and pulled them within seven games of .500 (30-37) for the first time since May 10.
"Our offense was awesome tonight," Manager Ray Miller said. "They just wouldn't let us give it away. I'm really impressed. . . . I feel like the team's coming together and everyone's pulling for each other."
Orioles closer Arthur Rhodes blew a save in the ninth, then after Will Clark's two-run homer gave Baltimore a 9-7 lead, blew his own victory in the bottom of the 10th. Pinch hitter Jeff Liefer, the White Sox' last position player, hit a two-out, two-run double on a 3-2 pitch. The Orioles now have blown 11 saves in 21 chances.
When Bordick's homer gave the Orioles one more chance to hold a lead, Miller turned to former starter Scott Kamieniecki, who got his first save since 1993 with a perfect 11th.
"It was an unbelievable game," said Bordick, who also saved two runs with a diving catch in the fourth. "At one point we were saying, `What do we have to do to win this thing?' "
The Orioles lost second baseman Delino DeShields with a strained right hamstring in the fourth inning. Although the injury appeared serious -- after beating out an infield single, DeShields crumpled as soon as he hit the first-base bag and had to be helped off the field -- the club called it a "mild" strain.
DeShields, who was hitting .362 with three homers and 14 RBI in his last 34 games, will be evaluated again Sunday morning. He will miss at least four or five days. If he goes on the disabled list, the club probably would call up Jerry Hairston Jr. from Class AAA Rochester. Jesse Garcia, who was the on the Orioles' Opening Day roster (because of DeShields's thumb injury), is on Rochester's disabled list.
Tonight, the Orioles' offense jumped on White Sox starter John Snyder, taking a 6-1 lead on Cal Ripken's two-run homer in the second, and a four-run third inning, keyed by B.J. Surhoff's double. Surhoff extended his hitting streak to 20 games.
Scott Erickson had a relapse of his mystifying early-season problems, giving up 11 hits and failing to make it out of the sixth inning. He went to a three-ball count on seven of the first 12 batters he faced and walked four.
"Scotty's the toughest read for me," Miller said. "When he's down [in the strike zone] he's nasty. But he's up and down. . . . It was just a bad day for him, I guess."
Erickson and Ricky Bones combined to allow three runs in the sixth, as the Orioles lost a 6-3 lead -- a precursor of things to come.
Mike Timlin, who began the year as the Orioles' closer but who apparently has slipped all the way to middle reliever, entered in the seventh (his first appearance before the eighth inning this season) and pitched two scoreless innings.
Harold Baines's leadoff homer in the eighth inning off left-hander Bryan Ward gave the Orioles back the lead, 7-6. The homer, a 427-foot blast to right, was Baines's 12th of the season but only his second off a lefty.
Rhodes gave the run back in the ninth, on a line-drive sacrifice fly by Ray Durham. Then came Clark's homer, then Liefer's double off Rhodes. Finally, Bordick's homer and a perfect 11th by Kamieniecki.
"There was absolutely no dejection" after the blown leads, Miller said. "Everyone was saying, `Let's do it again.' "
"There were a lot of different emotions going on," Bordick said. "But we didn't give up. That says a lot about the way we've been playing lately."
CAPTION: Cal Ripken slugs two-run homer in second inning. Orioles blew three late leads before Mike Bordick's two-run homer for ninth victory in 10 games.(Photo ran in an earlier edition)
CAPTION: Mike Bordick delivers game-winner, a two-run homer that gave Orioles their ninth victory in 10 games. Delino DeShields strained his right hamstring.