Orioles 8, Diamondbacks 2
As Miguel Tejada stood in the on-deck circle Wednesday night, waiting to hit in the seventh inning of a tie game, some young fans behind the protective netting, oblivious to the tense situation, pleaded for the Baltimore Orioles' superstar to turn around and say hello. Which, of course, Tejada did, his wide grin sending giggles of delight through the youngsters.
Tejada thrives on adulation and juicy fastballs. Full of the former, he strode to the batter's box and unloaded on one of the latter, launching a three-run homer over the scoreboard in right field to break the tie and send the Orioles to an 8-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
"That's," Tejada said, "what we needed."
For a change, the Orioles saw somebody else's bullpen implode in the late innings of a tight game. Tejada's homer off lefty Stephen Randolph was preceded by a pair of no-out walks, and before the Diamondbacks could get out of the inning, Luis Matos had connected on Brandon Villafuerte's first pitch for a two-run homer to center.
"We've been playing kind of flat," Matos said. "That's why we have Tejada here -- because [the front office] knew he could do all the things he did tonight."
A crowd of only 25,776 -- the smallest for an interleague game in Camden Yards history -- saw the Orioles win for just the sixth time in 18 games. After lefty Eric DuBose departed with two outs in the seventh, the Orioles' beleaguered bullpen procured the final seven outs without incident.
By the time he took the mound Wednesday night, DuBose had lost all the momentum from an April in which he was the team's most consistent starter. His last six starts had seen him pitch to a 7.58 ERA, making him just another struggling member of this rotation who couldn't get past the fifth inning.
But DuBose pitched exceptionally on this night. Of the first 12 batters he faced, only one reached base. He allowed a fluky run in the fourth -- when Luis Gonzalez doubled with two outs, then scored when DuBose fielded Shea Hillenbrand's swinging bunt down the third-base line and threw wildly past first base -- and a second run in the sixth, when he paid dearly for a leadoff walk to Steve Finley.
"I talked to him before the game about throwing his curveball," Manager Lee Mazzilli said. ". . . You have to trust your stuff."
With the bullpen warming up in double-barreled formation, Mazzilli let DuBose finish the inning, despite his issuing a second walk with two outs. But two outs into the seventh, after Scott Hairston doubled to left, Mazzilli finally came for the ball, holding firm even when DuBose tried to talk him out of the hook.
The Orioles scored twice in five innings against right-hander Brandon Webb, who has gone from being one of the most promising young pitchers in the game -- he went 10-9 with a 2.84 ERA last year as a rookie -- to a command-challenged enigma. His ledger Wednesday night included three walks, a hit batter and two wild pitches.
Melvin Mora took full advantage of Webb's wildness in the fifth inning, reaching base when Webb drilled him in the side, then eventually scoring the tying run on a wild pitch.
But it was what Mora did in between that had his teammates exploding off their bench in excitement.
With Mora on first, Tejada singled through the hole between shortstop and third base. Mora was aware that Gonzalez, Arizona's left fielder, has had trouble throwing this season because of a torn ligament in his elbow, and he paused briefly as he rounded second to lull Gonzalez into thinking he would stay there. But suddenly he sprinted for third, and Gonzalez's weak throw did not come close to nailing him.
Give an assist for that run to advance scout Deacon Jones, who prepared the Orioles' reports on the Diamondbacks.
"That," Mazzilli said of Mora's sprint, "was a great play."