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Orioles Escape Last Place in the AL East

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BALTIMORE (AP) _ Kevin Millar served as the disc jockey, playing raunchy tunes in the Baltimore Orioles clubhouse at an earsplitting volume while several teammates sang along. Such antics don't often occur so early in the season, yet the Orioles felt compelled to celebrate because _ for a change _ they didn't let a fine pitching performance go to waste.

Jay Gibbons hit a bases-loaded single with two outs in the 10th inning Thursday night, and Baltimore slipped past the Kansas City Royals 2-1 to escape last place in the AL East.

The Orioles had scored only three runs in 33 innings before Gibbons delivered his third hit of the game, an opposite-field single to left off Jason Standridge (0-1).

``Our pitching has been awesome, bullpen and starters, and we're just happy to get a win for them tonight,'' Gibbons said. ``It's huge. Our pitching has been great and we've been wasting opportunities for them, so we needed a win.''

In other AL games Thursday night, Cleveland wrapped up its ``homestand'' in Milwaukee with a 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels; Minnesota topped Tampa Bay 3-2; and Detroit defeated Toronto 5-4.

Two innings before his game-winning single, Gibbons fouled out with two on and two outs. It wasn't the first time this season he stranded runners on base late in the game, and the last thing he needed was to botch another opportunity.

Asked in the jubilant clubhouse if he felt redemption for failing to deliver in the eighth, Gibbons replied: ``I was trying not to think about that in the 10th. It's just been kind of a rough start. I've had a lot of situations like that and didn't come through, so it felt good to hit that ball in play.''

Only 13,229 showed up on a chilly night at Camden Yards, the second-smallest crowd in the history of the 16-year stadium. Kansas City entered in last place in the AL Central; Baltimore owned the same spot in its division.

Brian Roberts led off the 10th with a double and took third on a bunt by Melvin Mora. After Nick Markakis and Miguel Tejada received intentional walks, Aubrey Huff hit into a forceout at the plate before Gibbons stepped in.

Chris Ray (1-1) worked a perfect 10th to earn the win.

Kansas City starter Gil Meche left with a mild right hamstring strain after blanking the Orioles on seven hits over six innings. That, more than the defeat, bothered Royals manager Buddy Bell.

``There's a couple reasons why it's disappointing. We lost, but we're not quite sure what's going on with Gil right now,'' Bell said. ``His hamstring, we're anxious to see where that is. We think it's fairly mild, but we'll get a better diagnosis (Friday).''

Meche said he felt a twinge while throwing a sixth-inning curveball to Huff, who struck out to end the inning.

``I just felt a little stiff. It's very unfamiliar to me,'' said Meche, who signed a five-year contract in December. ``I've never had anything to do with my hamstrings, ever. I was making good pitches for the most part. I just couldn't risk going back out there and maybe doing some bad damage to it.''

Huff went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts. He stranded nine runners.

Steve Trachsel gave up one run and three hits in seven innings, but couldn't get enough support to earn his first win with Baltimore. Trachsel, who has a 2.63 ERA in two starts, kept Kansas City hitless until Ross Gload led off the fifth with a bloop single to center.

John Buck opened the sixth with the Royals' second hit, a double. He remained there until Mark Grudzielanek blooped a two-out RBI single for a 1-0 lead.

Paul Bako tied it with an RBI double in the seventh.

It was the seventh straight game in which an Orioles starter allowed three runs or fewer; Baltimore is 4-3 over that span. The Orioles had 12 hits but struck out six times and bounced into three double plays.

Indians 4, Angels 2

At Milwaukee, Travis Hafner hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning to send Cleveland back to Jacobs Field with a victory in its homestand away from home.

The Indians took two out of three in the series, moved from Cleveland to Milwaukee's Miller Park after snow wiped out a four-game series against Seattle and left Jacobs Field unplayable. The Indians expect to play a true home opener against the Chicago White Sox on Friday night.

Scott Shields (0-1) walked his first two batters in the eighth before Hafner homered. Aaron Fultz (2-0) got one out, and Joe Borowski pitched the ninth for his third save.

Tigers 5, Blue Jays 4

Brandon Inge homered and drove in three runs, and Mike Maroth (2-0) limited host Toronto to two runs and nine hits in six innings as Detroit won for the fifth time in six games.

Joel Zumaya pitched two innings for his first save.

Tomo Ohka (0-1) allowed five runs _ four earned _ and eight hits in six innings.

Twins 3, Devil Rays 2

Justin Morneau homered off Brian Stokes (0-2) leading off the bottom of the ninth.

Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist led off the top half with a single off Joe Nathan (1-0), and Carl Crawford lined a double into the right-field corner.

Crawford headed for third after Zobrist stopped at the bag, and the two teammates met each other on the base as Michael Cuddyer's throw from right field was cut off by second baseman Luis Castillo. Castillo turned and threw home to catcher Joe Mauer, who chased down Zobrist and tagged him out. Crawford broke back for second, and Mauer threw him out for a 9-4-2-6 double play.
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