Orioles 5, Devil Rays 2
It had not sunk in for Sam Perlozzo that he had been given control of a major league team -- if that's what you can call the Baltimore Orioles these days -- until he stepped into the manager's office at Oriole Park at Camden Yards for the first time since his promotion and could not comfortably sit in his new leather chair.
The room had been emptied of Lee Mazzilli's belongings and it was Perlozzo's task to begin decorating. A few pictures had been tacked to a corkboard. But the room was not his until Perlozzo sat in the leather chair, facing his new desk and the media, for the first time as manager.
"It's pretty strange," he said. "This is just something you dream about and you don't know if you get that chance. It's overwhelming to know you would have all your life worked hard and now you get the chance."
In previous years, when managing for an absent Mike Hargrove, Perlozzo refused to sit in that chair because it was not his. How comfortable that seat remains and how long Perlozzo gets to sit in it will largely depend on his team, a 5-2 winner against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Tuesday.
"I'd be disappointed if we didn't win tonight," he said. "But we're going to have to go out and win again tomorrow night. It doesn't do us a bit of good to go into a tailspin. It is a special moment for me to be here. It's the Baltimore Orioles, you're right behind this desk here. I can't be more happy about that. After tonight it's back to winning baseball games."
A new set of players awaited Perlozzo as he arrived at the ballpark for the first time as a manager. Injuries to Sidney Ponson and B.J. Surhoff and the demotion of pitcher Chris Ray forced the call up of three minor leaguers. One of them, Alejandro Freire, a career minor leaguer making his first major league appearance at age 30, seemed as awestruck as Perlozzo had been.
There is still one good story for the Orioles right now, outfielder Eric Byrnes, who has a hit in all 10 games for Baltimore. Acquired on July 29 for Larry Bigbie, Byrnes tied Tuesday's game at 2 with a home run to left field against Tampa Bay starter Scott Kazmir. Byrnes also made a running catch in left field on Aubrey Huff's scorching drive.
"I think the biggest thing is the stars are already here," Byrnes said. "I was hoping to just come in and do my job and hopefully that would have an impact on them and make it easier."
The Orioles had made it a point to say that Byrnes would inject the team with energy. He has clearly done that even though it hasn't always translated into wins.
"There's a time when a team gets quiet, every team goes through it," Perlozzo said. "If you're losing the ballgame, every team gets quiet on the bench. Byrnesy doesn't. If I can turn around and say, 'C'mon, guys, let's go,' I can count on Byrnesy saying something."
The Devil Rays took a 2-0 lead in second on a two-run single by Toby Hall. It did not appear Baltimore starter Erik Bedard would be effective on this night. He walked three in the first two innings, but settled down and did not allow a run after the second.
"I got more aggressive and got more ahead in the count," Bedard said. "When you're ahead in the count good things happen."
The win was the first for Bedard, who spent almost two months on the disabled list with a sprained left knee, since May 21.
"I don't remember my last win," Bedard said.
Baltimore took the lead for good in the seventh inning on a single by Melvin Mora, scoring Gomez. On the play Byrnes slid safely -- headfirst, of course -- into third base and scored on Miguel Tejada's single.
"Those things are really important," Byrnes said of his trek around the bases. "When you have a chance to do something like that, you have to take advantage of it."
If there is any sign of an Orioles collapse, it certainly won't be seen with Tejada or Byrnes. The shortstop emphatically pumped his fist after his single in the seventh, a remarkable move by a player on a fourth-place team playing against a last-place team. And Byrnes never slowed down for a moment in the outfield or on the bases.
It may be a sign that perhaps there is still hope for Perlozzo's team.