- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 21, 2002

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. There were only 11,124 spectators at Tropicana Field when Friday night's game between the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Devil Rays began, and the majority long since had left by the time the Orioles won 6-5 on a suicide squeeze in the 14th inning.
The few who did stick it out were treated to an exciting finish highlighted by Brook Fordyce's bunt, Esteban Yan's fastball behind Jeff Conine's back and a couple of controversial calls.
Who says the Orioles and Devil Rays can't play compelling baseball?
Baltimore was the beneficiary of two close calls that outraged Tampa Bay manager Hal McRae. With the Devil Rays ahead 4-2 in the eighth inning, first baseman Bobby Smith appeared to catch a foul pop off Conine's bat, but first-base umpire Andy Fletcher ruled that the ball had grazed the protective netting by the Tampa Bay dugout. Conine then doubled in the tying runs.
In the 13th inning, with Jerry Hairston standing on second, Yan was called for a balk after whirling around without making a pickoff attempt. McRae again was livid, but the call stood, Hairston moved to third, and Chris Singleton drove him home with a sacrifice fly.
It was at that moment that Yan a former Orioles prospect chose to buzz a fastball behind Conine's back, resulting in a long glare from Conine, warnings to both dugouts and strong words from Orioles manager Mike Hargrove yesterday.
"I thought that he should have kicked the guy out of the game because it was so obvious that he threw that him," Hargrove said. "I thought it was intentional. It's a gutless thing for a guy to do, absolutely gutless."
Yan remained in the game, and so did the Devil Rays after Smith greeted closer Jorge Julio with a game-tying home run to lead off the bottom of the 13th.
But the Orioles responded by putting their first two runners on in the 14th. Mike Bordick sacrificed them to second and third, and then Hargrove made the nerve-wracking decision to put on the suicide squeeze with Fordyce at the plate.
"Your hands start sweating, you get all the normal reactions of panic, but they don't call it a suicide squeeze for nothing," Hargrove said. "If we don't execute it, we're in trouble. But if you do execute it and it works, it's a real good play."
Fordyce, who had been 0-for-12 this season, dropped down a beauty off Tampa Bay fireballer Jesus Colome, and Tony Batista scored easily from third with the winning run.
"When you get the squeeze, you're supposed to show it late," said Fordyce. "But I showed it early. There was no other way to get it down against that guy."
Just your average mid-April, 14-inning ballgame.

Familiar faces
The Orioles' minor league and rehabilitation facility in Sarasota, Fla., is only a short drive down the road from Tropicana Field, so injured players Pat Hentgen, Chris Richard and Luis Matos have appeared in the Baltimore clubhouse this weekend.
Hentgen, who underwent right elbow ligament replacement surgery last August, is throwing the ball "extremely well," according to Hargrove. Hentgen has been aiming for a return in August, but the Orioles will be cautious with him, just as they were last season with Scott Erickson.
Richard is rehabbing from offseason surgery on his left shoulder. The Orioles projected his return to come around the All-Star break, but Hargrove said he probably is ahead of schedule.
Matos, who broke the hamate bone in his left hand during spring training, stopped in to see his teammates Friday night. Right-hander Chris Brock also was in attendance; he's on his way to Sarasota to rehab his injured right shoulder.

Extra bases
First baseman David Segui sat out his second straight game last night with a sore right knee but said he was ready to return. Catcher Fernando Lunar, designated for assignment Tuesday, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Class AAA Rochester.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide