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Markakis, Roberts power O's past Rays
If there was any more proof needed as to Brian Roberts' importance on the Orioles' lineup, the leadoff man provided it in the seventh and eighth innings Monday night, taking over a game that his team badly needed to win.
Roberts, hitless in 18 consecutive at-bats and without a stolen base in his previous 18 games, singled, stole third base and scored to break a seventh-inning tie against the Tampa Bay Rays. He then connected for a two-run homer in the eighth as the Orioles won, 8-4, in front of an announced 12,658 at Tropicana Field.
The victory broke a frustrating six-game losing streak and was just the Orioles' fourth win in their past 18 games. They'll go for the abbreviated sweep in the two-game series on Tuesday afternoon with Koji Uehara taking the mound.
"You don't panic 25 games in or whatever, but at some point you need to start winning games and we haven't been doing that," Roberts said. "It was nice to get a win."
Said Orioles manager Dave Trembley: "It was time for us to get one on our side, and Roberts stepped up big. He took the game over himself."
While Roberts, who had been hitless in his previous three games, was the catalyst as he usually is, he did get plenty of help. Nick Markakis got things started with a three-run homer in the first inning off Rays left-handed starter Scott Kazmir. Markakis finished with three hits and reached base in all five of his plate appearances.
Danys Baez again provided steady relief, entering a tie game in the sixth inning in relief of Adam Eaton and pitching two scoreless frames. He stranded the Rays' potential go-ahead run at third in the sixth, and then got out of a jam in the seventh.
Jim Johnson then turned in a scoreless eighth. Armed with a four-run lead, George Sherrill, who lost the full-time closer job a day earlier, came on and made things interesting in the ninth, putting the first two runners on. However, he worked out of the jam without allowing a run, as Felix Pie made a diving catch in shallow left-center to end the game.
If he had not made the play, Evan Longoria, who had already homered in the game, would have come to the plate as the potential tying run.
"A great team win," Trembley said. "Guys played with great heart and determination. The guys didn't panic. A lot of gutsy performances for the guys on the club."
The Rays had tied the game off Eaton in the bottom of the sixth, as Carlos Pena led off with a double and then scored on Willy Aybar's single. Aybar's second RBI of the season evened the game at four and ended Eaton's night. The right-hander allowed four earned runs on five hits and two walks over five-plus innings.
Trembley tried to keep things as normal as possible, even as his team entered Tropicana Field, where they were 1-8 last year, with a season-long six-game losing streak and .360 winning percentage that was tied with the Cleveland Indians for an American League worst.
Though Trembley said on Sunday that he was considering calling the team together for a pre-game talk, he chose to have his standard meeting with coaches, and then the usual pre-series meeting with the club to go over opposition scouting reports.
"I think everybody is very much aware of the situation," Trembley said when asked why he didn't feel a full-scale meeting was necessary. "Obviously, no one is happy about it, but I think we have to remain positive and just play better. That's all -- just play better. Deal with our frustrations in a better way."
Getting a three-run lead before making an out was a pretty good start. Kazmir threw eight of his first nine pitches out of the strike zone, including one completely behind Roberts. Markakis made him pay by launching his fourth homer of the season.