Orioles 9-5, Mariners 7-4
Miguel Tejada and the Baltimore Orioles were well into their sixth hour of baseball Tuesday evening, in the second game of the day and the 105th of the season, of which Tejada had played in all, when a routine ground ball came his way at shortstop with the tying run on third base in the top of the eighth inning. Field it cleanly, and the Orioles would be three outs from a redemptive doubleheader sweep of the Seattle Mariners.
But Tejada booted it, sprinted after it, then booted it again. The runner on third, Willie Bloomquist, held at first, then went, then retreated, then held, then went. He crossed the plate, tying the game. Tejada kicked at the dirt and muttered to himself.
There was one more chance for Tejada to affect the outcome, however, and of course he did exactly that. Leading off the bottom of the eighth, he doubled into the right field corner. He made a daring dash to third on a (mildly) wild pitch. And he scored the winning run on Jerry Hairston's single, giving the Orioles a 5-4 win.
"You never know what he's going to do," Manager Lee Mazzilli said admiringly of his shortstop. "To come back [after the errors] and hit a double -- that's the sign of a great player."
So, on a sweltering afternoon at Oriole Park at Camden Yards that gave way to a sticky night, the Orioles emerged with a pair of wins, both of them more difficult than they needed to be. In the afternoon affair, they overcame a middling effort by starter Sidney Ponson to take a 9-7 victory. The wins ensure the Orioles of their first series win at home since early May.
The Orioles held a 12-21 record this season in games started by lefties, and they faced two more on Tuesday. But the Mariners' absolute ineptness -- their record of 39-67 is the second-worst in the league -- trumped the Orioles' partial ineptness, as the home team crushed Ron Villone in the opener, then outlasted veteran Jamie Moyer in the nightcap.
Orioles left-handed hitter Larry Bigbie, who was hitting just .180 against lefties at the start of the day, won game one with an RBI double off submarining southpaw Mike Myers in the bottom of the seventh, then put the Orioles ahead in game two by smashing a two-run homer to straightaway center field off Moyer in the third inning.
But the Orioles' lead lasted only as long as the eighth, which is when Tejada's ragged defense made his heroic offense necessary.
With the Mariners trailing 4-3 entering the eighth, Bloomquist lined a one-out single against B.J. Ryan, then caught the Orioles' defense sleeping and stole second. It proved to be an important base, as Raul Ibanez followed by hitting the grounder to Tejada.
The ball got through Tejada and trickled into shallow left field, as Bloomquist motored into third base. He was prepared to stop there until he saw Tejada, in his haste to recover the ball, make a sliding play and kick the ball even deeper into left field, allowing Bloomquist to sprint home. Tejada was charged with two errors.
Tejada was in the on-deck circle almost as soon as the Mariners took the field for the bottom of the eighth. Facing lefty George Sherrill, Tejada lined a 1-0 pitch into the right field corner for a double. Then, when a pitch got away from catcher Dan Wilson, Tejada sprinted to third, just ahead of Wilson's throw.
That set the stage for Hairston, who ripped a line drive up the middle that Sherrill could only deflect, as Tejada jogged home with the go-ahead run.
"I don't think I hit the double just because I made the errors," Tejada said.
In the afternoon contest, all Ponson had to do to earn his fourth consecutive win was protect a 7-5 lead after six innings, which the Orioles had built behind Javy Lopez's three-run homer, a two-run single from Rafael Palmeiro and lots of errant pitches from Villone, who issued five walks in 32/3 brutal innings.
But Ponson could not hold the lead. Allowed to start the seventh in sweltering conditions despite having already allowed 10 hits, Ponson gave up a leadoff single and a mammoth, game-tying two-run homer to designated hitter Edgar Martinez, who was hitting .391 career vs. Ponson entering the game. The blast landed in Seattle's bullpen and one-hopped the picnic area above.
"They give you seven runs, you should win," Ponson said. "I didn't do my job today."
The Orioles were bailed out by Bigbie's opposite-field RBI double off Myers. "That was a big hit for us," Mazzilli said, "but it was also a big hit for him. I'm happy for him."
Orioles Notes: Ponson was one of several Orioles who engaged in some trash-talk with Villone, who stood in the Mariners' dugout after being taken out of the game and began yelling at Orioles third baseman Melvin Mora, then shortstop Tejada. Ponson said he told Villone to "shut the [heck] up."
"I don't know what happened," Mora said. ". . . Maybe he was mad because he threw, like, 100 pitches in three innings." . . .
Palmeiro collected three hits on the day, allowing him to move past Babe Ruth into 36th place on the all-time hits list, with 2,847. . . . Mariners leadoff man Ichiro Suzuki collected five hits in the first game. . . . .
Orioles right-hander Todd Williams made his first appearance since being struck near the base of his skull by a line drive on July 26, giving up a single in the sixth inning of game two to the only batter he faced, Bret Boone.