The Orioles came through with a key 10th-inning rally to earn a 3-2 win over Cleveland on Friday night, a result that improved Baltimore's record to 2-14 when trailing after seven innings and 2-9 when scoring three runs or less. That result also snapped a skid of nine losses in 10 games, but nobody's ready to call it a watershed win.
"Ask me in about four or five days," said left fielder Jay Payton, who scored the winning run. "It's great to think this was the starting point of something good, but you've got to go out and play each game each day. Hopefully, we can carry it over tomorrow."
"That was a big win, we needed it," added Baltimore manager Sam Perlozzo, mincing no words. "Give them a lot of credit. They went out there and just kept battling. ... A lot of good things happened. The bats started coming alive, and not necessarily in run totals, but they started swinging the bat a little bit better."
Baltimore's winning rally came after a strong performance from the bullpen, which threw four scoreless innings in relief of staff ace Erik Bedard. Chris Ray pitched both the ninth and 10th innings, handing his offense a chance to take over the game. And Payton, who had homered earlier, got things rolling with a clean single to short left field leading off the bottom half of the 10th.
That brought Corey Patterson to the plate, and Cleveland correctly guessed that he would try to bunt. Third baseman Casey Blake was way in on the grass, so Patterson dropped a perfect bunt to the right side. The ball stopped rolling midway between the pitcher's mound and the infield dirt, and Payton moved to third on pitcher Tom Mastny's throwing error.
Next came an intentional walk to load the bases, and Nick Markakis won the game on a line-drive single through first base.
"I was just up there looking to hit a fly ball or hit it through a hole, and that's what happened," Markakis said. "I think tonight was a start. Guys are taking good swings up there, and we're starting to hit the ball, and hopefully, we can continue."
"It's kind of one of those things where you have to pay attention and take what they give you," Patterson said of his decision to bunt toward first base. "He was in hard, and obviously, I thought if I went in that direction, they'd have a play at second base. So I went in that direction and Jay went to third. It worked out for us."
"You feel pretty good with Nick because you feel comfortable he's going to put it in play somewhere," Perlozzo said. "Whether it be a sac fly -- which he did do for us earlier -- I think he shows you something out there. He doesn't rattle in those situations ... and he came through big for us tonight."
Blake had the game's first big hit, a two-run blast off Bedard in the fourth inning. The Indians (17-9) couldn't muster any more offense, but they had enough for an early lead. Baltimore's staff held the road team to six hits, and five of them were singles. Outside of the homer, Cleveland pushed just three runners into scoring position.
Baltimore hit into two double plays in the first two innings to erase some early offense. Payton drilled a solo home run in the third inning off Cleveland starter Paul Byrd, but the O's (13-16) didn't put anyone in scoring position until the sixth. They stranded runners in the sixth and seventh, but tied the game on a sacrifice fly in the eighth.
"You got to have some kind of confidence in your ballclub," Perlozzo said. "You can't just sit back and say, 'They're not gonna hit, ever.' These guys, they're capable of hitting the ball, and you've got to have some patience and persevere with them. It's easy to get on them when they're not doing [well], but you've got to stay with them and that's when they need you the most. So you've just got to keep plugging away with them."
Ray (3-2) threw just 10 pitches in his first inning of work and got through a tough spot in the 10th. The right-hander gave up a pair of two-out hits in the 10th and ran to a 3-1 count against pinch-hitter Trot Nixon before getting a key fly ball.
"Every win is important, but especially when you're scuffling like this, it's good to get one in there -- especially in this fashion," Ray said of Baltimore's 10th comeback win. "Everyone played hard and we ended up on top."
Before the game, the Orioles learned that southpaw Adam Loewen would be out for the foreseeable future with a stress fracture in his left elbow. That threw Baltimore's rotation into disarray, pushing long reliever Brian Burres into a starting role. Fellow long reliever Jeremy Guthrie may also move into the rotation in place of injured starter Jaret Wright.
"It's tough, coming up through the Minor Leagues with him, him being around all the time and being my roommate," Markakis said of Loewen. "I think it hit me a little harder than most guys to see him out for however long. It's definitely a big loss, and hopefully things will work out for him and hopefully we can get him back as soon as possible."
"We've basically lost three starters already with [Kris] Benson and Wright and Adam," Perlozzo said. "You've got to pick up the pieces and keep going, though. It is what it is there, and we can all feel sorry for ourselves. No one else is going to, so we've got to go on out there and keep playing the ballgame, and there might be some times where we just have to outslug some people. We're capable of it."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.