"We talked a little bit before the ball game, tried to get the guys to settle down and not do too much," Baltimore manager Sam Perlozzo said. "We felt we were a good team, but we had to relax. They did that tonight."
Baltimore (4-6) got 12 hits Thursday night and left runners in scoring position four times. Perhaps the home team's best chance for a big rally came in the seventh inning, when Gibbons was erased at the plate on a strong relay throw from shortstop Tony Pena. One out later, Paul Bako doubled in Kevin Millar with the tying run.
The winning run on Thursday night represented Baltimore's first lead since a 6-2 win on Monday. The Orioles didn't score until the eighth inning of their 2-1 loss on Tuesday and were blanked until the 12th on Wednesday. That's what made Thursday's close call a must-win game, and that's why the O's felt the need to celebrate.
"We've run into some pretty tough pitching, but we're a better offense than one run per game," Gibbons said with the clubhouse stereo pumping high-decibel hip-hop music in the background. "Our pitching has been awesome -- the bullpen [and] the starters. We're just happy to get a 'W' for them tonight."
Said Perlozzo: "It goes in spurts. You have to be patient with your ballclub. Hopefully, we'll look back at this in another week when we're whacking the ball around and kind of forgetting [about it]."
Kansas City (3-7) scored first on Thursday night, but Baltimore starter Steve Trachsel pitched an impeccable game. Trachsel took a one-hitter into the sixth inning, but catcher John Buck hit a leadoff double. The veteran right-hander came back to coax two quick outs before Mark Grudzielanek singled to break the scoreless tie.
"I was hitting spots. I felt a little strong, so I was a little nervous about that," Trachsel said. "I was concentrating on keeping the ball down. I felt really good with all my pitches, and I was locating really well. When I'm able to locate with all my pitches, I'm able to go pretty deep.
Baltimore had used seven relievers Wednesday night, but since they all threw one inning, they were all fresh for work on Thursday. Perlozzo used Chad Bradford and Jamie Walker to get one out apiece in the eighth inning, and Danys Baez retired four batters. Finally, closer Chris Ray pitched a scoreless 10th inning to get the win.
"I've been extremely confident in them [the relievers]. I just don't want to see them every night," Perlozzo said. "We're able to put them in there in short periods of time and allowing them to come back on a daily basis and still be fine. That's something that I think should have an effect on your ballclub when they see that you can hold a lead."
Of course, they had to get a lead before they could hold one. The Orioles left two runners on base against Gil Meche in the first inning and two more over the next three innings. The team's first scoring chance came in the seventh, when Gibbons singled and tried to come home on Millar's double. The resulting relay beat him on a bang-bang play.
"He took a shot," Perlozzo said. "I'd rather see us be overly aggressive a little bit. [It] might not have been the best play at that time, but I think we've all been there and done that. We learned from it and move on."
Gibbons popped up with runners at the corners and two outs in the eighth inning, so he was thankful to get another chance to end the game. He took advantage in the 10th by rifling a bases-loaded single to the opposite field.
"It was over setting in," Gibbons said of his frustration level, which had spiked in recent days. "A couple of days ago, I had an opportunity. Last night. Tonight. When you keep failing, it's hard not to press. But I had a good swing in the at-bat before and I just went up there with the same approach [in the 10th]."
Said Perlozzo: "What I like about Jay is that he's using the whole field a little bit. He got a nice base hit to left field to win the game, and he hit a ball to left-center field. I think that's what he needs to do."