Devil Rays 6, Orioles 5
The magnetic board in the clubhouse where the Orioles post their lineup showed what Baltimore is playing for at this point in the season, or more precisely what some individual Orioles have at stake. At the end of a three-game series matching the bottom two teams in the American League East, the game seemed more about the players on the board than the overall result -- a 6-5 Devil Rays win.
First baseman Walter Young was one of those players, starting his fifth game of the year after being recalled from Class AAA Ottawa on Sept. 1. The 6-foot-5, 298-pound Young has hit .316 since his promotion, and despite going 0 for 4 in the game, earned an RBI by beating out a possible inning-ending double play in the sixth.
"That's natural," Young said of his effort. "After you hit a ground ball in that situation the least I can do is hustle. Fortunately, I beat it out."
One of the first players to look for his name on the board was 19-year veteran B.J. Surhoff, who has spent parts of eight seasons with the Orioles. Surhoff has been slowed by injuries this year and did not start in the series' first two games. But he has hit .346 in the team's last 10 contests, including a 2-for-4 performance Sunday, highlighted by two-run double.
"I felt pretty good at the plate, but you always think about ways you could have done better when you lose," Surhoff said. "You try to figure out ways to try to get better to help the team more. I feel good and hopefully I'll continue to feel that way, but you're never content when you lose."
After tying Sunday's game at 4, behind a three-run rally in the bottom of the sixth keyed by Surhoff's double and Young's hustle play, Baltimore gave up two runs in the eighth in an unorthodox fashion.
With one out, runners at first and third and Lugo at the plate, Tampa Bay's Joey Gathright attempted to steal second base. Orioles catcher Sal Fasano's throw bounced away from Miguel Tejada, who was covering second, allowing Alex Gonzalez to score and Gathright to move to third. With Lugo still batting, relief pitcher Todd Williams (5-5) uncorked a wild pitch that scored Gathright.
The Orioles scored a run in the ninth inning off Devil Rays closer Danys Baez on a two-out RBI single by Brian Roberts. But Fasano lined out to Lugo to end the game, stranding a runner at third, to give Baez his 37th save. Reliever Travis Harper (4-6) earned the win with a hitless seventh.
Orioles interim manager Sam Perlozzo held a team meeting after the game to address some of the team's mistakes.
"I wanted to get that message across to the team that we're better than we're playing and we just need to concentrate a little bit more," Perlozzo said.
Orioles starter Daniel Cabrera pitched solidly, if unspectacularly, giving up six hits and four runs (three earned) in six innings. He ran into trouble in the fourth, when he walked in a run and then gave up a two-run single to Gonzalez that, combined with a Bernie Castro error, scored three Devil Rays. Cabrera was able to pitch out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth.
With their steady efforts, Young and Surhoff made the case for getting their names on the lineup board Monday night, for the start of a four-game series in New York against the Yankees.
But perhaps the biggest indicator of the nature of the Orioles' season was also located on the board, two names shunted off to the lower right, away from the other players on the active roster: sluggers Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa, on the disabled list and at home recovering from injuries.