"It was ridiculous -- unbelievable," said Melvin Mora, Baltimore's third baseman. "But what can we do? We came back. We scored a lot of runs, but it wasn't enough to win the game."
Ridiculous and unbelievable were two perfectly apt descriptions, but Baltimore manager Sam Perlozzo may have settled for his own word: unbearable. Perlozzo answered all of the postgame questions in a flat monotone, and when he was asked if he had ever been part of a game like that, he calmly shook his head.
"I don't think so," he said. "And don't care to be again."
A moment later, when he was asked the worst part of the game, Perlozzo issued another frank response.
"I guess the pitching. I guess the fact that we couldn't get anybody out," he said. "Neither team could, really. It wasn't very pretty."
The two teams combined for 398 pitches, and the Rays set a team record for the most runs (27) in back-to-back games. Tampa Bay (41-57) tied team marks for both hits (10) and home runs (three) in an inning, and Julio Lugo became the second Ray and the second big-league shortstop to hit two home runs in one inning.
"That was as strange as strange can be," said Kevin Millar, who started at designated hitter for Baltimore. "We kept battling. We kept fighting. We showed a lot of character. If we could've gotten one more run there in the eighth inning, it would've been nice."
Before Friday night, the Orioles (44-55) hadn't allowed more than seven runs in any inning all season. And they hadn't allowed 10 runs in any inning since April 1996, when they gave up 16 runs to Texas. This time, Baltimore starter Rodrigo Lopez cruised into the fifth with a shutout, but he quickly lost whatever had made him dominant.
"I know I made some mistakes, but there weren't as many as it looked like at the end on the board," he said. "Everything turned around in one inning. You think you're dropping your arm or you get out in front of your mechanics, but this time, I felt pretty secure in what I was doing.
"I threw the ball where I wanted and I was pretty aggressive. I faced eight batters in that inning, and most of them -- I believe five or six -- were first-pitch strikes. I was throwing it where I wanted them to hit the ball."
The right-hander had only given up two hits all game when the fifth started, but he allowed hits to each of Tampa Bay's first seven batters. Right fielder Russell Branyan started the rally with a double off the center-field fence, and Lugo tied things with a two-run home run. Lopez (6-11) also allowed a triple and three singles.
"All of the games are frustrating in different ways. Tonight was just one of many that I've had this year," he said. "I wish I could've stayed longer in the game, because these guys kept fighting and fighting and scored a lot of runs."
Eventually, the starter got one out and yielded to Kurt Birkins, who came into the game with two men on base and a two-run deficit. Birkins retired his first batter, but quickly widened that gap. Branyan swatted a three-run homer to give the Rays an 8-3 lead, and Lugo hit his second homer of the inning to cap the scoring in the fifth.
"We went to Birkins in the fifth, trying to shut them down," Perlozzo said. "It felt like if we could've held them that inning, two runs [down], we had a pretty good shot. I felt like our 'pen still had enough there to hold them down. We just couldn't get out of the inning."
Baltimore scored a season-high nine runs in the seventh, and it did so without an extra-base hit in the rally. The Orioles did their damage on eight singles, three walks and a sacrifice fly. They also loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth, but Tampa Bay's Brian Meadows got out of the jam on a fly ball and a ground-ball double play.
"That was the first time I've ever done that. I mean, a situation like that, you look to give up one run and get out of there," he said. "We could've still been tied and given us a chance to score another run. ... Luckily, I got away with that one. Then I got [Ramon Hernandez] to hit my pitch right at somebody.
"So, I had a lot of luck on my side tonight. Somebody was looking down on me more than once."
"When we started rallying, guys were fine. They were having some fun with it, coming back," Perlozzo said. "Obviously, when we got within one run and loaded the bases, I thought the momentum was in our favor. I thought they were the ones worrying at that particular point in time. We just didn't get the hit there."