- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 19, 2003

BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Orioles had just turned in a horrid performance against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and Mike Hargrove was livid.

Moments after the Orioles’ losing streak reached eight games with a 9-2 defeat last night, Hargrove ripped his players behind closed doors.

“I think at times we were not mentally ready to play the game,” Hargrove said later. “You have that approach, and that’s what you’ll see.

“We didn’t look real sharp. We were not really intelligent hitters, not really intelligent defenders, not really intelligent pitchers. So we pretty much covered the whole ball of wax.”

The uninspired effort left the Orioles a season-high 10 games under .500. Half the losses in the eight-game skid have come against the Devil Rays, who are 11-6 against Baltimore this year.

“We haven’t been winning, but today we beat ourselves,” Orioles catcher Brook Fordyce said. “It seemed like we were flat, or the intensity wasn’t there, and [Hargrove] brought it to our attention.”

Rocco Baldelli drove in three runs to back a fine outing by right-hander Jeremi Gonzalez as Tampa Bay improved to 19-13 since the All-Star break. The Devil Rays have won six of eight, including four straight against Baltimore.

“Whatever the reason, they have our number,” Fordyce said.

Baldelli doubled in a first-inning run and gave Tampa Bay the lead for good with a two-out, two-run single in the seventh.

Julio Lugo and Jared Sandberg homered in a five-run ninth, and suddenly, the last-place Devil Rays find themselves six games behind the Orioles.

“I can’t see us playing more confidently and much better than we are now,” Baldelli said. “Every day when we go out on the field, for at least the last two months, we go out there expecting to win.”

Gonzalez (6-5) allowed two runs — one earned — and five hits in 7⅓ innings. He’s 3-1 in nine starts since June27.

Gonzalez outpitched Eric DuBose (1-3), who gave up three runs and nine hits over seven innings in his first start since joining the rotation for Rick Helling, who was designated for assignment on Friday.

“Eric pitched well enough to win. We just didn’t score any runs,” Hargrove said.

That’s because the Orioles were too anxious at the plate, according to Hargrove. In addition, Jack Cust — who performed a pratfall during a rundown Saturday night and was tagged for the final out in a loss to New York — was picked off second base in the fifth.

Held to three hits over the first five innings, Baltimore used a two-run sixth to take a 2-1 lead. After Deivi Cruz hit a leadoff single and B.J. Surhoff hit a drive off the top of the center-field wall, the relay from Marlon Anderson sailed over the plate to Gonzalez, who attempted to nail Cruz with a quick throw off third.

The toss was wild, allowing Cruz to score and Surhoff to take third. Jay Gibbons followed with a sacrifice fly.

“A little bit of Devil Ray baseball,” manager Lou Piniella joked.

But Tampa Bay quickly regained the lead in the seventh on Baldelli’s two-run single to left.

“The big hit in the ballgame was Rocco’s,” Piniella said.

Anderson hit a sacrifice fly in the eighth to make it 4-2. Lugo led off the ninth with his eighth homer and Damian Rolls added an RBI single before Sandberg hit a three-run shot to chase Jorge Julio.

Notes — Second baseman Brian Roberts was a late scratch from the starting lineup because of a stomachache. He had started 76 of 79 games since joining the team May21. … The Devil Rays claimed outfielder Adam Piatt off waivers from Oakland; he is expected to report to the team in Baltimore today. … Tampa Bay’s 11 wins against Baltimore is the most it’s had against any opponent in a single season.

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