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Rays keep O's 0-for-'99 at Tropicana Field

Tampa Bay pounds out 15 hits and gets good pitching in key moments to earn a 10-9 win, its fourth home triumph against Baltimore.

This was the kind of night Roberto Hernandez figured to have off.

With his Devil Rays leading by seven runs five innings into a game between teams bobbing to stay out of last place, there would have seemed to be little need for the closer's services.

But then starter Ryan Rupe gave the Orioles an opportunity, and relievers Rick White, Norm Charlton and Albie Lopez gave them hope, and first-base umpire John Hirschbeck gave them a chance to win.

When the end finally came and Hernandez got the final out, what looked like a snoozer had turned into a thriller, the Devil Rays hanging on for a 10-9 victory before an announced 17,796. It was their fourth win in their past five games and ran their record against the Orioles to 6-1 this season, 13-6 overall.

"I was busy trying not to look," Hernandez said. "You don't want to start thinking it's going to slip away, but you can't help it."

The game started to get away when Rupe's concentration seemed to slip in the sixth. He led 10-3 after allowing just five hits through the first five innings, but quickly found himself in trouble, and then out of the game, after allowing a two-run homer and two additional baserunners.

"He got, I don't know if I want to say careless with the lead, but he didn't protect it the way he should," manager Larry Rothschild said. "It's something that happens from time to time, but the game rolled over and you saw what happens when you don't protect the lead.

"I think his concentration probably changed a little bit into just throwing strikes instead of the quality strikes and going after people like it was 0-0 or 1-0."

Said Rupe: "I just lost it a little bit."

Still, it was 10-5 when Rupe left and White struck out the side to end the sixth. But the Orioles scratched for another run when White walked Mike Bordick to open the seventh, then closed to within 10-8 in the eighth, scoring twice against Lopez and leaving the bases loaded when Esteban Yan came in to strike out Jeff Conine.

"Huge," Rothschild said.

The Orioles rallied again in the ninth off Hernandez, though Hirschbeck had a hand in it, too.

Baltimore had the tying run on first with one out after Will Clark doubled and Charles Johnson singled hard off shortstop Aaron Ledesma's glove.

The Rays thought they had the game won when Ledesma fielded Brady Anderson's grounder and flipped to Tony Graffanino, who fired on to first for what appeared to be a game-ending double play.

Hernandez pumped his fist and Ledesma raced toward the dugout, but it was a case of premature celebration as Hirschbeck called Anderson safe.

"If you look at the replay, like a lot of other people have, there was no question about it," Hernandez said. "He missed the call."

Clark scored to make it 10-9 and the O's still had the tying run on first when Hernandez got his 31st save by getting Bordick to fly to right-center, but even that was an adventure as outfielders Terrell Lowery and Jose Guillen nearly collided.

"All I did was look to make sure it was in the glove, and that was good enough," Rothschild said.

The Rays ended up needing almost every one of their 15 hits, two shy of their season high. Paul Sorrento led the way with a double and a two-run homer, which was the Rays' 111th of the season, matching their 1998 output.

Most of the damage came against Jason Johnson, the starter whom the Rays traded to Baltimore in March in exchange for outfielder Danny Clyburn (who is hitting .249 with eight homers for Durham after a disappointing two months with the Rays) and rookie-league shortstop Angel Volquez.

"Sure I played with them last year, but it doesn't matter if I pitched for them for 10 years or one year, they're still just another team," Johnson said.

Even with the quick start, the Rays nearly let it get away. "The momentum kept changing," Rothschild said. "It was a game that we had a chance to put away early and not have to go through the bullpen like we did. But as long as we win, that's what counts."

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