Orioles 7, Devil Rays 6

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—Lou Piniella’s final weekend as Devil Rays manager got off to a rough start.

Melvin Mora hit a two-run homer, and the Baltimore Orioles beat Tampa Bay 7-6 Friday night, hours after it was announced that Piniella would not return as Devil Rays manager.

“It’s definitely sad seeing Lou go,” Devil Rays second baseman Jorge Cantu said. “That’s his decision. But with this group of guys, we’re really hungry to have a winning record. It’s just a matter of us sticking together.”

Aubrey Huff hit a three-run homer for Tampa Bay (67-93). The Devil Rays are 39-32 since the All-Star break.

“We’ve got a new ownership group taking over. They need to bring in their own manager that they can grow with,” Piniella said. “At the same time, it’ll give me time to go home and relax, fish and play some golf. I’m tired. I need some time off. It’ll give me a chance to do those things, and at the same time to evaluate and look at situations that might arise about my future.”

Mora has homered in five of his last nine games. Eric Dubose (2-3) allowed one hit in 3 1-3 scoreless innings for his first win since Aug. 17, and B.J. Ryan pitched the ninth for his 35th save in 40 opportunities.

The decision on Piniella had long been expected after he questioned ownership’s commitment to winning.

Piniella had one season remaining on a $13 million, four-year contract he signed in October 2002. According to terms of the buyout, he will be free to pursue other jobs after Sunday’s finale.

Orioles interim manager Sam Perlozzo was a coach when Piniella managed Cincinnati and Seattle.

“I’m sure the last three years have been tough,” Perlozzo said. “He’s such a competitor. He’s a winner. If he wants to sit out a year he will. If he wants to manage, someone will go get him.”

The Orioles are 21-32 under Perlozzo, who could learn his status for next season by early next week. Baltimore’s win was its second in the last 13 games.

Luis Matos hit a two-run double during a three-run first for Baltimore. Jonny Gomes drove in a run with a double as Tampa Bay pulled within 3-2 in the bottom half.

Huff’s three-run homer in the third put the Devil Rays ahead 5-3, but Mora connected as the Orioles scored three times in the fourth to take a 6-5 lead.

Pinch-hitter Chris Gomez extended the Orioles’ lead to 7-5 with an RBI single in the eighth. Mora misplayed Julio Lugo’s grounder for an error in the bottom of the inning that allowed a run to score and make it 7-6.

Neither starting pitcher made it past the fourth. Baltimore’s John Maine allowed five runs and six hits in 2 2-3 innings. Devil Rays right-hander Doug Waechter (5-12) gave up six runs and seven hits over four innings.

Waechter, winless in six starts, pitched with a head cold.


Piniella said rookie LHP Scott Kazmir (10-9) will not make his last scheduled start on Sunday. Kazmir has thrown 186 innings in 32 starts. “I don’t see any reason,” Piniella said. “He’s had a good year.” … Ryan has converted 13 straight save chances. … Tampa Bay LF Carl Crawford (sore left wrist) was out of the lineup for the third straight game. Crawford experienced pain swinging a bat and doesn’t expect to hit again this season. … Huff has 22 homers this year. Ten have been three-run shots or grand slams. … Mora has reached 25 homers in consecutive seasons.

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