Orioles 4-8, Devil Rays 2-2
-- The Baltimore Orioles feared playing 18 innings Monday might devastate them. With a wounded roster and a weary pitching staff, they hoped to survive -- not thrive -- during a split doubleheader.
"Bad timing," Manager Lee Mazzilli mused Monday morning. "This day could give us some long-term problems."
Instead, it gave Baltimore a rare reason for optimism.
The Orioles beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 4-2 in the afternoon and 8-2 at night at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Monday, turning a potentially disastrous day into one of this season's high points. Solid relief pitching, reliable defense and rare clutch hitting complemented strong outings from starters Daniel Cabrera and Dave Borkowski.
Afterward, the Orioles' clubhouse buzzed with a positivism rarely seen in teams eight games under .500. Instead of bemoaning playing 16 games in the last 15 days, Baltimore players talked excitedly about recent wins.
"We've won six of our last nine now," said outfielder Tim Raines Jr. "That's something special."
"These were full-team wins," said Jerry Hairston, who had four hits and scored four runs in the second game. "We did everything right. Things are coming together."
For a day at least, the Orioles' problems melted away. They came through with clutch hits in the late innings of Game 1 and made sure they wouldn't need to do that again by blowing out the Devil Rays early in Game 2.
They laid claim to the two-game sweep in the first inning of the night game.
The first four Orioles to bat against Tampa Bay's Jeremi Gonzalez, a Class AAA call-up, got hits. Baltimore scored three runs in the first inning, establishing a game-long habit of battering Gonzalez.
They scored five more runs on a total of 14 hits -- the most ever allowed by a Tampa Bay starter -- before chasing Gonzalez from the game after the sixth inning.
Fellow recent call-up Borkowski, making his first start as an Oriole, performed considerably better. Borkowski gave up six hits and two runs -- back-to-back homers in the ninth -- in eight-plus innings. He threw 106 pitches and gave the bullpen a much-needed rest before exiting to a standing ovation.
"I just felt perfect," said Borkowski, who the Orioles planned to send back down to Class AAA after the game but will now keep for at least one more start. "I had everything working for me. This is about as good as I can feel."
It was every bit a worthy encore to Cabrera's outing in Game 1. The rookie's dominance has become so routine his teammates now expect it. He allowed two runs on four hits in six-plus innings Monday, but nobody blinked. Never mind that he's 23 and had never pitched above Class A before this season, Cabrera is relied upon like an ace.
"Nothing he does surprises me anymore," said reliever B.J. Ryan, who earned the win by pitching a scoreless inning-plus in relief. "He always pitches like this. He's just this good."
In his last three starts -- including a shutout June 25 -- Cabrera has given up just four earned runs in 23 innings. He also pitched a flawless inning-plus in relief during Baltimore's epic, 16-inning win against Philadelphia on Friday.
Still, after the first game Cabrera talked about wanting to become stronger.
His arm felt tight and slightly tired early Monday, something he said he'll work to avoid in the future. He plans on lifting more weights during his days off. Twenty minutes after Monday's first game, he went into Baltimore's weight room and lifted and stretched for 10 minutes.
"He'll do anything to get the job done," Mazzilli said. "He pitched outstanding again. He's just never intimidated. He's done a great, great job."
His only mistake Monday came with two outs in the sixth inning, when Tino Martinez turned a low fastball into a two-run homer and tied the game at 2.
Cabrera's teammates picked up the slack, though, coming through in ways they rarely had so far this year. The Orioles' offense put together a string of the clutch, late-inning hits it has seldom produced. Luis Matos and Raines smacked back-to-back RBI doubles with two outs in the seventh inning to give Baltimore the decisive, 4-2 lead.
Then Baltimore's bullpen -- battered, tired and often unreliable -- closed out the game without giving up so much as one run.
"We played well in every phase of the game," Miguel Tejada said. "Everything was really working -- good hitting, fielding and pitching. That feels good, because we haven't done it too many times this year."
Orioles Notes: Before the first game, the Orioles placed Melvin Mora on the 15-day disabled list with an injured right hamstring to make room for Borkowski. They also moved first baseman David Segui, who has an inflamed left knee, from the 15-day to the 60-day disabled list.
Hampered by the hamstring injury and a strained left foot, Mora played in just four of Baltimore's last 20 games.
"He'll be back shortly after the all-star break," Mazzilli said. "You don't want to risk putting him out there and having him totally blow it out." . . .
Tejada's 19-game hitting streak ended in the first game, when he went 0 for 4. . . .
Rafael Palmeiro raised his career hit total to 2,849 to pass Brooks Robinson for 39th place on the all-time list.