Home-field advantage returns to O's

Home-field advantage returns to O's

BALTIMORE -- In the midst of a franchise-record 11-game home losing streak, relaxation has become an unattainable commodity for the slumping Orioles. On Saturday night, they discovered it in a player who reached his comfort zone via a stellar defensive play and a pitcher who hadn't won in three years or started in more than two.

Scott Moore's grand slam capped a seven-run third inning, Baltimore's biggest outburst of the year, and the Orioles roughed up right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka en route to an 11-5 victory over the Red Sox on Saturday.

"We played with some emotion tonight. ... What has been missing here is some confidence," Baltimore manager Dave Trembley said. "Obviously, your confidence gets beat up when you go through what we've gone through."

Instead of absorbing their 16th loss in 18 games, the Orioles got a big boost from two unlikely sources. Moore, acquired from the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 31 in the trade for pitcher Steve Trachsel, broke a 4-4 tie, and right-hander Jon Leicester, forced into the rotation by injuries and ineffectiveness, got the Orioles through five innings.

Before Moore's blast knocked Matsuzaka from the game in the third and saddled the Sox right-hander with his fifth loss in six decisions, a first-inning defensive gem calmed him down and provided a boost of confidence. Trailing 2-0 after a two-run homer by David Ortiz, the third baseman dove to his right to snag a scorching grounder by Mike Lowell, got up and gunned Lowell out at first for the inning's second out.

"After that, I relaxed and settled down a little bit," Moore explained. "It's just one of those plays that happened so quick, and I just reacted and made the play."

Matsuzaka (14-12) was tagged for six hits, three walks and eight runs in 2 2/3 innings, his shortest outing of the season. The Orioles erased a 4-1 Red Sox lead in the third -- sandwiching bases-loaded walks on 3-2 pitches to Nick Markakis and Kevin Millar around a run-scoring Miguel Tejada single -- before Moore's blast.

Trembley credited the work Moore had been doing recently with Orioles hitting coach Terry Crowley for a two-hit night. Moore said that he felt relaxed enough at the plate to wait out Matsuzaka, who came down the middle with a 2-2 fastball.

"I knew that he had to come to me," said Moore, who also singled in the seventh. "I didn't want to chase. I wanted to be patient and get a pitch to drive, and I got one."

Aubrey Huff barely missed a grand slam on a 1-1 Matsuzaka pitch, hammering a deep fly just to the right of the right-field foul pole before striking out swinging; Jay Payton popped up to second after Huff's at-bat. But Moore ended an 0-for-8 start to his Baltimore career with a shot into the bleachers in right-center, his first career slam.

"I don't know if it's been a struggle -- I'd only had seven at-bats coming into the game today -- but it definitely felt good to get two hits today and to get that big hit early in the game," said Moore, who got his grand slam ball after a Red Sox fan in the pro-Boston sellout crowd of 48,043 tossed it back onto the field, mimicking what Orioles fans do to opponent homers.

Tike Redman and Markakis also homered for Baltimore (61-80), which temporarily averted cementing its 10th consecutive non-winning season. Trembley said he was confident a comeback was possible, even after Leicester coughed up a 4-1 lead after two innings.

"We're going to outslug them," Trembley recalled thinking. "If you don't think that, you shouldn't be managing the team. We're going to win."

And when the Orioles loaded the bases with no outs against Matsuzaka, Trembley sensed they wouldn't waste the opportunity.

"When you get the bases loaded and nobody out, your goal is to score three," Trembley said. "If you don't score three with the bases loaded and nobody out, usually at some point in time later in the game, it's going to come back and get you. You're not really taking advantage, fully, of what the other team is giving you. We haven't gotten a two-out RBI hit, a big one, in a while."

Leicester (1-1), making his first start of the year and his first since May 9, 2005, allowed four runs on seven hits over five innings, walking one and striking out two. The victory was his first since Sept. 19, 2004, with Chicago over Cincinnati.

Leicester rebounded after an Ortiz double and a walk to Lowell to open the third, retiring nine of the next 10 hitters he faced.

"He got the ball down after the second inning," Trembley said of Leicester. "The first two innings, his fastball was up. I didn't think he was going to have much of a chance unless he made some adjustments and got the ball down. He had to get the ball down, otherwise he wasn't going to be out there very much longer."

Leicester could be excused if he was unfamiliar with the territory. Waiting so long between starts is one thing; getting the call against an American League East-leading Boston (86-57) club that had won six out of seven was another.

"Nerves played a little bit of it, and you're excited," Leicester said. "Just a matter of settling down and realizing what my job is, to just get through some innings with the lead. They just picked me up, and I decided to take them on my back and get some quick innings.

"I just really wanted to keep it close so we could have that. I felt like getting out of that third inning without giving up a run kind of turned the tides. And then when we score, whether it's one run or seven, you've got to get that shutdown mode."

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