The ingredients were there for yet another heart-breaking loss for the Baltimore Orioles. Despite leaping out to a three-run lead in the top of the 10th inning, they still had to sweat out Jim Johnson doing his best impression of gasoline thrown on a raging inferno for the bottom of the 10th inning. Recording only one out in the 10th after having pitched a scoreless 9th, JJ was replaced by Cla Meredith, who inherited two men on base and a hair-thin one-run lead. Ten pitches and two outs later, the game was over.
For a team that's found so many ways to lose over the cours e of the season, to see them finally find a way to scratch out a win was heartening. Starter David Hernandez had the wheels fall off the bus in the 6th inning, and once the bullpen came into play, Mark Hendrickson did little to help. Thanks to a Rhyne Hughes double and a Craig Tatum RBI single in the 2nd, the Orioles had a 1-0 lead that suddenly became a 4-1 deficit in the bottom of the 6th. An early-season tendency towards offensive anemia made that lead seem insurmountable... at least until the next half-inning and the Orioles' top of the order came up.
Nolan Reimold doubled and went over to third on an Adam Jones grounder (chasing Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield), scoring on a Nick Markakis double. Nicky didn't say on second base for long as Miguel Tejada launched a home run over the Green Monster, his third of the season, to tie the game at 4-4, where it remained until extra innings. These runs all scored under the watch of reliever Hideki Okajima, always a favorite punching bag for the O's.
Five straight Orioles reached base in the top of the 10th inning, with three of them scoring on RBI singles by Hughes and Matt Wieters to give a 7-4 lead which, for any other baseball team, would have probably led to a stress-free bottom of the 10th. However, with two men on and no one down, the Orioles hitters decided three runs was enough and left the game in the hands of Johnson, who gets credited with the win (1-1) despite doing everything in his power to be credited with the loss. Scott Atchison (0-1) took the loss for Boston and Cla Meredith was credited with his first major league save.
The 7-6 win allows the team to go into tomorrow's off day with at least a little pride intact. With 31 hits in the past two games, perhaps the bats are finally coming alive in time for the New York Yankees to arrive in Baltimore.