05/05/09 12:06 AM ET
O's top Rays to break out of skid
Markakis provides early offense, Roberts helps out late
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
The Orioles worked out their problems in the most efficient way Monday, when they buried the haunting specter of a six-game losing streak by simply moving forward. Baltimore chose not to convene and clear the air before the game, and then it rallied to score the final four runs in an 8-4 victory over Tampa Bay.
"Obviously, we're all professionals in here," said starting pitcher Adam Eaton. "You want success. You want to perform at a high level all the time. At times, we've done that and things haven't gone our way. I remember walking back after the second game in Toronto. [Third-base coach] Juan Samuel and I were right there and we said, 'We just need to start creating some luck of our own because we don't have any luck going for us.' "
Second baseman Brian Roberts helped key the win and create some new momentum with a pair of important at-bats late in the game. The two-time All-Star singled to lead off the seventh inning and break an 0-for-18 streak, and, after he scored the go-ahead run in that rally, he came back to launch a two-run home run in the eighth.
The Orioles (10-16) had lost five of their last six games by two runs or fewer, and manager Dave Trembley said Sunday that the team might need a meeting to get back on the right track. Trembley thought better of that Monday, choosing instead to switch his team's relief roles and otherwise carry out business as usual.
In other words, there was no great motivational mantra. Trembley addressed his team as part of the usual pre-series meeting, and the relievers met on their own to discuss their trajectory and how to deal with their new roles. Trembley employed a light hand Monday, knowing that his players were in a somewhat fragile state.
"I told them today I cared about them," said Trembley. "I told them, 'Don't beat yourselves up, because we know we've got a good club. Everybody goes through it. Just relax and go play.' That's all I said to them."
And in the early innings, everything seemed to be taking a familiar tack. Nick Markakis gave the Orioles a three-run lead with a home run in the first inning, and Eaton constantly pitched into and out of trouble. Eaton gave up five hits and four runs in five-plus innings, and he left right before the outcome was decided.
"I thought Eaton pitched with basically one pitch for most of the game," Trembley said. "He didn't have much of a breaking ball. It was a lot of fastballs. He had to locate [and] he helped himself out with a plus play on a bunt. He gave us an opportunity to set the bullpen up toward the end of the game and match people up."
And for Trembley, that's where the fun began. Baltimore's manager had vowed to rejig his bullpen, which basically consisted of pulling closer George Sherrill from ninth-inning responsibilities and filling in around him. Trembley's resolve was tested Monday, and he wound up getting the best from his fractured bullpen.
Danys Baez was the first reliever to enter the game, and he came in during a no-out situation from Eaton in the sixth and stranded a runner at third base. Baez (2-1) also worked out of trouble in the seventh, setting up the endgame. Jim Johnson worked the eighth, and after the Orioles heaped on two more runs, Sherrill worked the ninth.
But he did so without carte blanche. Trembley said that he would've gone to right-hander Chris Ray if Evan Longoria came up in the ninth inning, but Sherrill managed to coax a game-ending short fly with the bases loaded. Otherwise, Trembley may have had his best-laid plans sorely tested at the earliest possible opportunity.
"I'm going to match them up and do what we have to do to get back on track," said Trembley. "I think I've got enough guys. I think all of them are team guys. I think all of them want to win. You've got to take yourself out of the equation. You can't take it personal. I'm not trying to take anything away from anybody.
"In fact, what I'm trying to do is help them. I think we showed confidence in Sherrill tonight, but the bottom line is we've got to win some games and we've got to put the right guys in the right spots."
Perhaps the most important thing to come out of the game for Baltimore was a renewed sense of purpose for Roberts, who hadn't gotten a hit since April 29 and hadn't stolen a base since April 13. The switch-hitter woke up when his teammates needed him most, but he said the slump hasn't really consumed him.
"I really haven't felt bad," said Roberts of his skid. "I had some at-bats that weren't great, but I really wasn't all that concerned about it. It was just a matter of getting a hit eventually. It was nice to contribute. Even though I hadn't felt that bad at the plate, I just felt like I haven't contributed and that's worse than anything."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.