Huff buries old mates with big blast

Huff buries old mates with big blast

ST. PETERSBURG -- Aubrey Huff played parts of seven seasons for the Rays and ranks among the franchise leaders in many categories.

He continues to put up big numbers with Rays on the field, delivering a two-run home run off Tampa Bay ace Scott Kazmir on Tuesday night that highlighted the Orioles 8-4 win before 9,112 at Tropicana Field.

Huff has hit seven of his 15 home runs this season against Tampa Bay, and is batting .379 (19-for-55) against the Rays.

"We needed a win, whether it's by one run or by 10, we just needed a win," said Huff, who has hit a record 73 career home runs at Tropicana Field "At this point, we're just playing for pride and to try and have some fun."

Huff's three-hit performance was one of just several strong contributions at the plate for the Orioles, who won for just the second time in 14 games and the first time in six outings against the Rays.

Outfielder Nick Markakis enjoyed his third four-hit game of the season and catcher Ramon Hernandez provided a pair of doubles, including a three-run shot that highlighted a four-run eighth inning.

The Orioles scored six runs after the sixth inning, a marked contrast to their recent nine-game losing streak, in which they led in seven of the nine games, but were outscored 72-11 in the last four innings.

"You never relax, not with everything that's happened to us this year," said Markakis, who grounded out in the ninth in a bid for a fifth hit.

Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie, who has not won since July 27, allowed just three runs in six innings. It was his third time in four starts he has pitched at least six innings, allowed three or fewer runs and received a non-decision.

"The last few outings were some of the best I've felt all season," said Guthrie, who struck out five. "They haven't been the best results, but I have built some momentum and I do feel like I'm finishing strong."

Huff belted 34 home runs for the Rays in 2003, a club record broken by Carlos Pena on Monday night, and often was one of the few bright spots for the perennially struggling team before being traded to Houston midway through last season.

Playing for a Tampa Bay team that has finished above fifth place just once (2004), Huff has some insight into miserable seasons.

"Winning is fun and we haven't been doing enough of it lately," he said. "What we can do, though, is try and spoil things for teams that are still in it and have some fun doing it."

As has been the case all season, Huff didn't attach any special significance or reason for his hot hitting against his former team.

"He's killing us," said Rays manager Joe Maddon. "Right now you can see that he's locked in. ... He looks like he's going to hit every ball hard when he swings at it."

The Orioles got off to a quick start against Kazmir, the Rays' young ace who won at Baltimore last Thursday. The Orioles scored twice in the first inning, with Corey Patterson delivering a solo home run and Markakis an RBI single.

Guthrie had allowed just an RBI single to Josh Wilson and had retired the first two batters he faced in the fifth when Akinori Iwamura walked and advanced to third on Carl Crawford's double. After Pena was walked intentionally, B.J. Upton delivered a two-run single.

Guthrie departed with a 4-3 lead after six innings. Jamie Walker hit the first two batters he faced, Crawford and Carlos Pena, before being replaced by Chad Bradford, who managed to get out of the inning allowing just one run.

Though the Devil Rays have the worst record in baseball, they've been one of baseball's hottest teams of late, winning 10 of 14 since Aug. 22 and gaining eight games on the fourth place Orioles.

An unlikely rivalry has developed between the two teams, who since the Devil Rays inception in 1998 usually have battled for fourth place in the American League East.

The Rays have finished in last place -- behind fourth-place Baltimore -- each year but 2004, when the Orioles finished third and the Rays fourth.

The Orioles added four players prior to Tuesday's game and manager Dave Trembley said the last month of the season will be used to establish an identity for the 2008 season.

"Tonight was a long time coming," Trembley said. "It's a good confidence boost for the team and these are the types of things that get you going back in the direction where you should be."

Pete Williams is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.