Baltimore nearly blew another late-inning lead, and its struggling bullpen was only part of the reason.
Tampa Bay rallied for four ninth-inning runs before the Orioles held on for an 8-7 victory Tuesday night, however manager Mike Hargrove was more frustrated by the way his team played defensively.
Sidney Ponson (3-2) was cruising along with a 6-0 lead when errors by Delino DeShields and Will Clark helped the Devil Rays score three times in the sixth inning to get back in the game.
Albert Belle, Cal Ripken Jr., B.J. Surhoff and Charles Johnson all homered for Baltimore, and every bit of their production was needed.
Belle hit his sixth homer, a two-run shot off Esteban Yan (2-3) in the first inning. Ripken's 10th of the season, and 412th of his career, also came in the first as the Orioles built a 4-0 lead.
Ripken added a RBI double off Yan in the fifth, while Surhoff and Johnson hit solo homers in the eighth. Surhoff also scored in the sixth when he doubled off Yan and raced home on a throwng error by shortstop Felix Martinez.
Ponson (3-2) allowed five runs three earned and 12 hits in 8 1-3 innings. He struck out six and walked one before leaving with two on and one out in the ninth. The Orioles bullpen has blown 13 games, eight of them in May, but survived this scare.
B.J. Ryan allowed a two-run single to Vinny Castilla and a two-run homer to Steve Cox with two outs before Mike Timlin struck out pinch-hitter Greg Vaughn for his fourth save.
The loss was the 13th in 16 games for the Devil Rays (16-34), who have the worst record in the major leagues.
"A comeback is only worth anything if you come back all the way and win the game," Tampa Bay manager Larry Rothschild said, who didn't take solace in making it close at the end.
"You could write the same article every night," the manager said, noting his team's failure to take advantage of numerous scoring opportunities. "It needs to change."
The Devil Rays had 13 hits, but were 1-for-11 with men in scoring position during a 5-1 loss to the Orioles on Monday. Tuesday night's game followed a similar script.
Just as they did the day before, the Orioles built an early 4-0 lead and Tampa Bay couldn't recover because of a lack of timely hitting. Ponson worked out of jams with runners at second or third in four of the first five innings, with the Devil Rays going 0-for-8 in those situations.
With help from the Orioles, Tampa Bay finally broke through in the sixth after Jose Guillen and Fred McGriff began the inning with singles. Castilla broke up Ponson's shutout with a grounder to third that Ripken fielded and threw to second for an attempted force.
But second baseman Delino DeShields dropped the relay for an error, leaving runners at first and second. Cox singled to load the bases before Tampa Bay scored two more runs on sloppy Baltimore fielding.
John Flaherty hit a grounder up the middle that shortstop Mike Bordick fielded in front of the bag Bordick flipped the ball to DeShields for a force out, but two runs crossed the plate as DeShields' relay to first got by Will Clark for an error on the Orioles first baseman.
Seven of Baltimore's 10 hits off Yan were for extra bases. DeShields had a double and a triple in addition to his first-inning sacrifice fly. Ripken's double was the 579th of his career, moving him ahead of Wade Boggs into 13th on the career list.
The loss assured the Devil Rays of finishing May with the fewest wins in a month in franchise history. They are 7-19 this month, and with 16 victories overall have the fewest wins through Memorial Day by an AL team since the 1996 Detroit Tigers (12-39).
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