- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 20, 2002

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. Their rough seven-game stretch through Chicago and New York behind them, the Baltimore Orioles came to the mausoleum-like Tropicana Field last night hoping a weekend series with the lowly Tampa Bay Devil Rays would cure their ailments.
Let's be honest: The level of competition the young Orioles faced against the playoff-contending White Sox and Yankees earlier this week is in stark contrast to the Devil Rays, who have finished last in the American League East each of their four seasons.
It took a little longer than they would have liked, 14 innings to be exact, but the Orioles got what they needed most: a 6-5 win, no matter who the opponent was or how it came about.
Backup catcher Brook Fordyce, 0-for-12 this season, laid down a perfect suicide squeeze bunt to score Tony Batista in the top of the 14th, and Jorge Julio escaped a dicey bottom of the inning after blowing a lead in the 13th to finish off the Devil Rays.
"Your hands start sweating, you get all of the normal reactions of panic, but they don't call it a suicide squeeze for nothing," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "If we don't execute it, we're in trouble."
Batista led off the 14th by singling to left. Marty Cordova followed with another single against Tampa Bay's Jesus Colome, and Mike Bordick sacrificed the runners to second and third, bringing up Fordyce. The slumping catcher, not known as much of a bunter, dropped down a beauty to the right side as Batista streaked home without drawing a throw.
"We're in the 14th inning and the team is desperately looking to score runs," Fordyce said. "So, yeah, it was in the back of my mind."
With one out and one on in the bottom of the 14th, Devil Rays outfielder Ben Grieve sent a deep fly to left that for a moment appeared to be a game-winning homer. But the ball died at the warning track, and Melvin Mora caught it up against the fence. Julio then struck out Russ Johnson to end the game.
The Orioles had numerous chances to win earlier in the game. No.5 starter Calvin Maduro pitched five standout scoreless innings but wore down in the sixth. Jay Gibbons launched his sixth home run of the season, giving him a tie for the AL lead and putting the teams in a 2-2 tie.
After losing that lead on shaky relief pitching and a costly defensive gaffe, Baltimore rallied in the eighth to tie it again on a two-run double by Jeff Conine. And once the game went to extra innings, reliever Rodrigo Lopez tossed four scoreless innings, allowing one hit.
Finally, in the 13th, they broke through when Jerry Hairston doubled off the left-field wall, moved to third as Esteban Yan was called for a controversial balk and scored when Chris Singleton (batting .091) lofted a sacrifice fly to center field.
But Julio, a rookie right-hander trying to nail down the closer's role, served up a homer to Bobby Smith on his very first pitch in the bottom of the inning, tying the game again.
Maduro deserved to win the game, even after he surrendered two runs in the sixth inning. But the right-hander was done in when reliever B.J. Ryan struggled in the seventh and rookie catcher Geronimo Gil exacerbated the problem by committing an error.
After Brent Abernathy singled off Ryan to start the inning, Jason Tyner attempted to bunt. Tyner's first two efforts failed, but on the third try he dropped a perfect bunt in front of the pitcher's mound. Gil got to the ball a tad late, fired high to first base and the ball glanced off Hairston's glove. By the time Gibbons retrieved it in the Tampa Bay bullpen, Abernathy had scored and Tyner stood on third base.
Randy Winn followed with a triple to the gap in left-center, and the Devil Rays had a 4-2 lead.
The Orioles responded quickly, though in unconventional fashion. Hairston, batting ninth for the third straight night, doubled down the left-field line, and Melvin Mora was hit by a pitch. That's when the real craziness ensued.
Manager Mike Hargrove called for a surprising two-out double steal with Hairston and Mora on base, but Devil Rays catcher Toby Hall surprised them all by attempting to throw out the trailing runner, Mora. Hall's throw beat Mora to the bag, but Abernathy dropped the ball and the Orioles were spared embarrassment.

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