Sunday, July 20, 2008

Scott, O's are walk-off winners

BALTIMORE -- For three hours and forty-eight minutes on Saturday night, the Orioles and Tigers played a back-and-forth game of "anything you can do, I can do better."

Ten innings, 10 runs on both sides and 28 combined hits later, Orioles left fielder Luke Scott turned an 0-1 offering from the Tigers' Freddy Dolsi into a towering home run 420 feet out onto Eutaw Street, sending the Orioles home walk-off winners, 11-10.

"Kind of appropriate on a night when they're giving away those Orioles Magic tapes that something like this would happen," manager Dave Trembley said. "People who have been watching the club all year have seen similar type events like this. I tell you, every time it happens, it just makes you a little more proud to be around these guys, because they will not quit."

With his teammates awaiting his arrival at home plate, Scott sent his batting helmet into the fray like a bowling ball and slid into home, an exclamation mark on the win.

"He's like a little kid," said catcher Ramon Hernandez, who had his own drama an inning earlier. "He gets excited even when he gets a single. For him, he really loves the game. He'd play all day long -- twenty-four hours a day, he would play baseball. He's a great guy. It was a great game. He gave a lot of emotion."

In a game where both teams each had their own six-run innings, it was obvious early on in this one that the winner was going to be whoever could land the final blow. The Tigers looked to be the victor when they took a 10-9 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning and the ball in the hands of flame-throwing right-hander Joel Zumaya.

Enter Hernandez. Knowing the importance of his leadoff at-bat in the ninth, Hernandez sent the first pitch he saw from Zumaya into the left-field seats -- knotting the game at 10 and giving the Orioles, who hadn't scored since the fourth inning, new life.

"He's a tough pitcher... Tonight, he was throwing 100," Hernandez said of Zumaya. "Since I was batting leadoff, I knew I was going to get a fastball the first pitch. If I get a first pitch to hit, I was going to try to do the best I can, because if I fall behind against him, there's not going to be too many chances you're going to get."

The Orioles couldn't muster anything else off Zumaya in the inning, however, and the game was sent to extras. In the top of the 10th, the Tigers looked to have a shot at plating the go-ahead run yet again when Placido Polanco tried to score on a single to center by Gary Sheffield. But a strong throw by center fielder Adam Jones gunned down Polanco at the plate and ended the Tigers scoring threat.

"I did everything right," Jones said of the throw. "I set myself up, took my time and made a good throw... [I just thought] 'Throw it, throw it as hard as I can.' I've been throwing the ball high, so I just tried to keep my mindset down."

All this in a game where the Orioles were down 6-0 before they even stepped up to the plate. As Tigers center fielder Curtis Granderson strode up to the plate for his second at-bat of the first inning, it was clear it was not going to be the best night for Orioles starter Daniel Cabrera.

Cabrera matched a season-high in earned runs in the first inning alone, as the right-hander allowed six runs on four hits -- two of them home runs -- two walks and a hit batsman.

"We got off to a terrible start," Trembley said. "Six pitches and we're basically behind, 6-0. The ball just wasn't coming out of Cabrera's hand very good. There wasn't much finish to it. To his credit, he's a horse. He put three zeros up. He was totally gassed."

When it did get its chance at the plate, Baltimore's offense was equal to the task. After putting up two runs in the first on a two-run homer by Melvin Mora, the Orioles did the Tigers' first-inning show one better in the third. Baltimore sustained a rally of eight hits -- a season high for one inning -- that saw six of its first eight baserunners come around to score, as the O's went from being on the wrong side of a blowout to commanding a one-run lead in a matter of minutes. Brian Roberts had two doubles in the inning, including an RBI-double that scored what was then the go-ahead run, to become the first Orioles to do that since B.J. Surhoff hit two in 1999.

But the Tigers offense, which was quiet from the third to the sixth inning, added three runs in the sixth and took a 10-9 lead.

Despite his rocky start, Cabrera outlasted his counterpart, Nate Robertson, who pitched just 2 1/3 innings, and was able to escape with a no-decision, tossing five innings while allowing six earned runs on five hits, five walks and a hit batsman.

The win was the Orioles 29th comeback victory of the season, and it was just the second time all season that the Tigers have given up a game when leading in the eighth inning.

"As a unit, when we go out there and we play, we're not focused on the scoreboard," Scott said. "We know we've got nine innings -- maybe more -- so each inning we go out there and we play, and that's all you can say."


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