Bats come alive when it matters most
Tejada ties it in ninth; Orioles score five runs in 10th for win
ARLINGTON -- Who needs to start when you can serve as the second wave? The Orioles tried to give several of their best players the day off on Thursday, only to pull them into service late in a one-run game. Three Baltimore regulars pinch-hit in the game-tying ninth inning, and the Orioles scored five times in the 10th to earn a 6-3 win over the Rangers.
Second baseman Brian Roberts was the key reinforcement, and he helped the comeback by moving a runner over to third base in the ninth and drilling a three-run home run in the 10th. Shortstop Miguel Tejada came through with the game-tying hit, breaking a 2-for-22 personal skid and giving the Orioles just their second run in their last 26 innings.
"When the game started ... I went to the cage and loosened up just in case the manager needed me," said Tejada, a four-time All-Star and former Most Valuable Player. "It's a long season and I know it's hard to be hot the entire year. I've been struggling ... but every day is a different day and I know I can hit."
"We needed a big hit to break it open," added Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "I thought we were going to do that in the first inning when we got guys on first and second, but [Nick Markakis] hit into a double play.
"The key is keep battling -- don't give at-bats away [and] don't chase bad pitches -- especially at this point and time of the season and the way things have been going for us."
Baltimore had fallen in 12-1 and 2-0 losses in the last two days, and two pitchers combined to shut them down for the first eight innings on Thursday. Starter Brandon McCarthy worked four innings of five-hit ball, and veteran reliever Jamey Wright got 11 outs. Heading into the ninth inning -- and trailing 1-0 -- the Orioles were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
Melvin Mora started the game-changing rally with a double, and that's when Trembley started getting creative. Roberts came in as the first pinch-hitter and moved Mora to third base, setting the stage for Tejada's key single. Catcher Ramon Hernandez entered after the game was tied and reached on an error, but Baltimore couldn't win it without extra innings.
"That was one of our better team baseball games of the season," Trembley said. "From the seventh inning on, we were telling guys where they could possibly hit -- depending on who made the last out and if the lineup rolled over."
Markakis started the 10th with an infield single and moved to second on a wild pitch, and one walk later, Aubrey Huff hit a two-hop grounder up the first-base line. Brad Wilkerson couldn't stop the ball, though, and was charged with a two-base error, as one run scored. Mora pushed another run home with a single, then Roberts crushed his three-run shot to all but seal the game.
"When you have 700 at-bats, you just go up there and do what you normally do," he said of his late arrival. "You don't feel like you're going to go scoreless for that long -- or bust out and at least have a big inning here or there at some point. I don't know that we were thinking about scoring five or six in the 10th, but the guys had good at-bats."
None of that would've mattered if the Orioles (65-87) hadn't gotten a strong pitching performance of their own. Victor Zambrano pitched well in his first Baltimore start, holding the Rangers to one run in five innings of work. Texas (70-83) scored in the first inning and never really challenged again until the sixth, after Zambrano had left the game.
Baltimore had the benefit of a relatively rested bullpen, another key factor in the comeback. Vetreran relievers Chad Bradford and Jamie Walker combined to get eight key outs without putting anyone on base, holding the game in check. Walker (2-2) worked through the ninth, and then Fernando Cabrera pitched a two-run 10th to account for the final margin.
"Our situational pitching was very good tonight," Trembley said. "It just goes to show you that when you give some guys a little bit of rest, they come in and they've got good location and some movement on their pitches. That's what happened tonight, and obviously we got some big hits off the bench from some guys who didn't start the ballgame."
The Orioles have made no bones about saying that they will allow some of their reserves to play in the season's final week, largely because they know what they can expect from their core of starting players. They've also said that they'll do whatever they can to win a ballgame -- even if it means yanking away a day off and putting their starters back to work.
"I wish we would've had a whole lot of runs and those guys could've gotten the whole night off," said Trembley. "That's what the plan was going in, but I talked to them all before the game and told them to be ready. And they were."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.