- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 7, 2010

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Rays talked all spring about trying to recapture the magic of their World Series run two years ago, an improbable journey that included late-inning rallies and memorable wins.

Kind of like Tuesday night, when Carl Crawford doubled in the ninth inning to drive in two runs for a 4-3 season-opening victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

“That was definitely like ‘08. We did that a lot,” Crawford said. “It’s good to get that feeling back. … Hopefully we can ride the wave and get something going.”

Adam Jones, Luke Scott and Matt Wieters homered for the Orioles, who were unable to put the game away because of a lack of timely hitting with runners in scoring position. Baltimore went 1 for 12 in those situations, and that hit didn’t produce a run.

Evan Longoria homered in the sixth for the Rays, who loaded the bases in the ninth against new Orioles closer Michael Gonzalez with a single, pinch-hit double and an intentional walk. Crawford lined a 1-0 pitch into right field, driving in the tying and go-ahead runs before a sellout crowd of 36,973 at Tropicana Field.

The winning hit initially was scored a single. It was later changed to a double.

“We played with a lot of poise, very confident. It just came down to the last three outs and we didn’t get it done,” Orioles manager Dave Trembley said.

“It really doesn’t matter what you do the first eight (innings). You’ve got a one-run lead going into the ninth. What you’ve done earlier in the game is a wash,” Trembley said “It comes down to getting those three outs. Whoever gets it first is going to walk away the winner. We didn’t get it.”

Rafael Soriano (1-0) got the win, despite struggling to get through the top of the ninth in his debut for Tampa Bay. The former Atlanta closer escaped a bases-loaded jam when Miguel Tejada hit a hard line drive to Crawford in left field.

Orioles starter Kevin Millwood allowed two runs and nine hits in five-plus innings. The right-hander was two outs away from getting the win before Gonzalez (0-1) gave up a one-out single to Rodriguez and pinch-hit double to Kelly Shoppach to start the winning rally.

“A very interesting first game of the year,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “With all the drama built up, and everything we’ve been talking about coming into this season, it was kind of nice to get it done that way.”

Baltimore hopes it hasn’t set the tone for another long year.

“I’m disgusted by the whole thing,” Gonzalez said. “Obviously, you see Millwood go out there and pitch a gem. The bullpen did awesome. … I’ve got to come in and shut the door. I’ve got no excuses about that. I didn’t get it done.”

Jones, Scott and Wieters hit solo homers off James Shields. Baltimore’s bullpen pitched three scoreless innings to get the game into the ninth.

Millwood, who walked one and struck out five, is one of four major additions the Orioles made during the offseason, along with third baseman Miguel Tejada, first baseman Garrett Atkins and Gonzalez.

At 28, Shields is the oldest member of a starting rotation whose average age of 26.19 is the second youngest in the majors leagues. He’s been tough on the Orioles during his career, winning six of eight decisions against them.

Jones homered in the third, Scott made it 2-0 in the fourth and Wieters put Baltimore up 3-1 in the sixth.

Longoria’s homer, a 473-foot shot to left that landed in the first row of the upper deck, trimmed Millwood’s lead to 3-2. Trembley turned to his bullpen after Carlos Pena laid down a bunt single and B.J. Upton lined a hit to left to give Rays runners at first and second with no outs.

Baltimore escaped the jam when reliever Matt Albers struck out Rodriguez after getting Pat Burrell to ground into a double play.

The Orioles finished with seven extra-base hits — three homers and four doubles — but wasted several opportunities to break the game open. They stranded seven baserunners while going 0 for 8 with men in scoring position against Shields, who allowed three runs and nine hits in six-plus innings.

Brian Roberts made his seventh straight opening day start for Baltimore, despite being slowed much of spring training by a herniated disk in his back. He went 0 for 5.

Tejada, beginning a second stint with Baltimore, also went 0 for 5 after finishing last season on a 21-game hitting streak with Houston.

“You’re going to lose tough games, sometimes,” Millwood said. “That’s just the way it is.”

NOTES: The Orioles opened the season on the road for just the fourth time in the past 30 years. … Admiral Eric Thor Olson, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. … The last three times Baltimore has had multiple homers on opening day, it was against Tampa Bay. They hit two against the Rays in 1999 and four in 2006. … Shields made his third consecutive opening day start for Tampa Bay, a franchise record.

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