- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 25, 2008

BALTIMORE | The Tampa Bay Rays will have to wait at least another day to celebrate their first American League East title and pop open the 200 bottles of champagne waiting for them in the clubhouse Wednesday night.

Tampa Bay rallied from a six-run deficit to beat the Baltimore Orioles 11-6, but Boston’s win over Cleveland left the Rays’ magic number to clinch their first division title at one.

The night began miserably for the Rays. Tampa Bay trailed 5-0 in the first inning, about the same time Boston took a 4-0 lead over the Indians. But after Cleveland came back to tie it and the Rays overtook the woeful Orioles, it appeared as if Tampa Bay was destined to salute the most successful season in franchise history with a bubbly toast.

Boston regained the lead in the eighth inning and held on, so the champagne was packed up to be sent to Detroit, where the Rays open a four-game series Thursday afternoon.

Akinori Iwamura had two hits and three RBI for the Rays, who completed a four-game sweep. It was the ninth time this season the Orioles blew a four-run lead, most in the majors, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Baltimore has lost nine straight and 28 of 34. The Orioles went 3-15 against Tampa Bay this season, losing the last 12.

Edwin Jackson (13-11) got the win despite giving up six runs and 10 hits in 5 1/3 innings. Trever Miller pitched 2 1/3 innings of one-hit relief to earn his second save.

Down 6-0, the Rays rebounded with a five-run fourth. After Gabe Gross drew a bases-loaded walk and Eric Hinske hit an RBI single, two runs scored when Jason Bartlett’s comebacker bounced off pitcher Radhames Liz, who threw wildly to the plate. Iwamura followed with a run-scoring grounder.

Tampa Bay took a 7-6 lead in the sixth against Brian Burres (7-10). Pinch-hitter Fernando Perez singled, and Jason Bartlett was hit by a pitch before Iwamura tripled to right.

The Rays added four runs in the eighth. Randor Bierd issued two straight bases-loaded walks before Dioner Navarro hit a two-run single. In the midst of that inning, however, the scoreboard flashed the final from Boston.

The first six Orioles to face Jackson got hits in a five-run first inning. Three singles loaded the bases for Aubrey Huff, who picked up his 108th RBI with a single. Oscar Salazar followed with a run-scoring single before Luke Scott drove in three runs with a double to left-center.

Scott was out at third trying for a triple, blunting Baltimore’s most productive first inning since a seven-run outburst May 20 at Yankee Stadium.

In the second, Brian Roberts singled, stole second and scored on a single by Nick Markakis to make it 6-0.

Notes - Closer Troy Percival returned to the Rays after receiving treatment on his back in Tampa Bay. But it’s uncertain whether he’s healthy enough to pitch.

“I think I’ll be fine. But it’s up to them what they want to do that gives them the best opportunity to win,” Percival said. …

Sidelined since Aug. 29 with a sore shoulder, Orioles right-hander Jeremy Guthrie threw a simulated game and will pitch in Sunday’s finale. …

Baltimore reliever Jim Miller has soreness under his right armpit and is likely done for the year.

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