- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 24, 2002

BALTIMORE On a day they named a new Class AAA affiliate for the first time in 42 years, the Baltimore Orioles also did something that hadn't been seen around here for some time.
They staged a dramatic late rally. Then they did it again.
Too bad they wasted everything by handing a 5-4 victory to the Boston Red Sox in the 15th inning.
Despite Jay Gibbons' game-tying homer in the bottom of the ninth and Jeff Conine's game-tying homer in the bottom of the 14th (which made up for his costly error in the top of the inning), the Orioles lost their sixth straight and 26th in 30 games thanks to two straight bad throws by reliever Willis Roberts.
With two outs in the 15th, Roberts (5-4) fired a pickoff attempt wide of first base, allowing Johnny Damon to advance to third. On his next throw to the plate, Roberts launched a wild pitch past Shea Hillenbrand's head, allowing Damon to waltz home with the winning run.
That spoiled two improbable comebacks by the Orioles.
Trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth, Baltimore sprung to life when Gibbons went deep off Red Sox closer Ugueth Urbina (Gibbons' 28th homer of the season and second of the night) to send the game into extra innings.
Boston regained the lead in the top of the 14th on Tony Clark's two-out single, but it would not have been possible without Conine's rare error at first base and manager Mike Hargrove's decision to intentionally walk light-hitting Benny Agbayani to get to Clark.
Roberts thought he was out of the inning when he got Manny Ramirez to ground weakly to shortstop. The excitable Baltimore reliever, who had been tagged in the chest by a line drive the previous batter, pumped his fist and pointed to the skies, but Conine dropped Luis Lopez's perfect throw, and Ramirez went to second base.
Hargrove chose to intentionally walk Agbayani to create a potential force out at all three bases, but Clark came through with a single to left field to give Boston the lead.
Conine, the likely goat for his error, made amends immediately, crushing Alan Embree's first pitch in the bottom of the 14th for another game-tying homer.
But it all went for naught one inning later.
Earlier in the day, the Orioles signed a two-year working agreement with the Ottawa Lynx of the International League, a move made more out of necessity than convenience.
When the Rochester Red Wings announced plans last week to leave the Orioles after 42 years to sign with the Minnesota Twins, Baltimore was left searching for a new minor-league affiliate. Only two Class AAA franchises were available: Ottawa, which recently dropped the Montreal Expos, and Edmonton, which had been partnered with the Twins.
Edmonton would not have been a practical choice, given its remote location. So the Orioles had little choice but to come to terms with the Lynx, a Canadian franchise that has had trouble succeeding financially.
In its 10th year of existence this season, Ottawa drew an average of 3,000 fans which was actually the organization's highest since 1998. Principal owner Ray Pecor, who bought the team two years ago, hopes the new affiliation will be a boon to both clubs.
"The Orioles are an organization with a rich history, and we are extremely pleased to be able to have a part in their continuing tradition," Pecor said.
The Lynx can only hope that tradition does not include the Orioles' recent struggles at the minor-league level. Rochester, like the major-league club, posted losing records in each of the last five seasons and had the worst record in Class AAA the last two years.
"We look forward to a new beginning and a strong partnership with the Lynx," Orioles chief operating officer Joe Foss said. "Ray Pecor and his organization have made tremendous strides with, and brought great enthusiasm to, the Ottawa club in the two years they have owned the team. The Orioles are very excited to be entering into a long-term relationship with an owner who has a major commitment to minor league player development."
Notes Though it has not been officially released yet, the Orioles' tentative 2003 schedule includes home interleague series against the Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers and Philadelphia Phillies. Baltimore will face the St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves on the road.

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