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Homer off Wheeler spoils night of promise as Rays lose to Orioles

ST. PETERSBURG — After giving up a tying, three-run homer to Carlos Pena on Friday night, Orioles veteran reliever Jamie Walker said that if the southpaws met again Saturday, the result would be different.

Turns out, Walker was right. This time, Pena only hit a solo homer, which tied the score in the eighth.

Quipped Walker: "(Pena) is hitting like Babe Ruth off of me the past two nights."

But the real home run king Saturday night was Orioles catcher Ramon Hernandez, who hit a solo shot in the ninth off Dan Wheeler to lift the Orioles to a 3-2 victory in front of 19,295 at Tropicana Field, spoiling the much-anticipated debut of Rays prized prospect Evan Longoria.

Wheeler, who came in with two outs after strong relief work by lefties J.P. Howell and Trever Miller, grooved a 2-and-0 fastball over the middle that Hernandez drove into the leftfield seats.

"If you fall behind, bad things happen," Wheeler said.

There were, however, plenty of good things manager Joe Maddon took from the game.

Longoria, fresh off a late-night Friday flight from Durham, performed well in his first start at third base, recording his first hit — and RBI — with one swing in the sixth .

"It's one of many, hopefully," Longoria said.

Pitcher Jason Hammel delivered a second straight strong start, giving up just two runs in a career-high seven innings.

Said Pena: "He pitched his heart out."

But so did Orioles right-hander Daniel Cabrera, who continued to have the Rays' number. Cabrera, undefeated in 13 starts against the Rays, gave up one run in 62/3 innings, scattering five hits and striking out four. He's still 6-0 vs. the Rays, 3-0 at the Trop.

Hammel, a 25-year-old right-hander, did his part, giving the Rays (5-6) a chance to win. But like his first start in New York, Hammel got off to a somewhat shaky beginning. In the first inning, he gave up a leadoff double to Brian Roberts, then hit Melvin Mora before giving up a run when Nick Markakis hit into a double play.

In the second, Hammel again minimized the damage after Aubrey Huff doubled and Hernandez tripled him in to give the Orioles (7-4) a 2-0 lead.

"Control (the) first two innings," Hammel said. "I think we win the ballgame."

Hammel cruised through the next four, keeping the ball down and getting tough outs while allowing his defense to play well behind him. He helped his own cause in the fifth, dropping down and ducking a bit before making a nice stab on a Luis Hernandez liner. Pena, the hero of Friday's game with his bat (two homers, six RBIs), made the game's best defensive play, diving to his right to rob Orioles leftfielder Luke Scott of a potential double.

The Rays put together what could have been a big rally in the sixth. B.J. Upton led off with a walk, then moved to third on a single by Eric Hinske. That brought up Longoria, who delivered a single through the hole between third and short. The hit drew a smile from Longoria at first and sparked his mother, Ellie, to jump out of her seat in the family's third-floor suite.

But the rally would go no further as speedy rightfielder Nathan Haynes grounded into an inning-ending double play. Longoria finished 1-for-3, reaching on a walk and an error while making several plays in the field.

Longoria "played a nice first game," Maddon said. "Well done."

Orioles 3

Rays 2

Homer off Wheeler spoils night of promise as Rays lose to Orioles 04/12/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 14, 2008 12:09pm]

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