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Palmeiro strands two in making final out

BALTIMORE (AP) -- Perhaps the Baltimore Orioles would have been
better off if someone other than Rafael Palmeiro came to the plate
with the outcome hanging in the balance.

After all, Palmeiro was playing in his first game since July 31
and had yet to hit the ball out of the infield. But there was no
one else interim manager Sam Perlozzo wanted up with two on, two
outs and Baltimore trailing the Toronto Blue Jays 7-6 Sunday.

"When I looked at the card, I was thinking positive and I said,
'Let me tell you what. It's going to get down to this and I'd love
to see him get a knock here," Perlozzo said.

Some fans booed, but others chanted "Raffy! Raffy!" as he dug
in against Toronto closer Miguel Batista.

Palmeiro hit a routine fly to right, capping an 0-for-4
performance and sealing the Blue Jays' fifth win in six games.

"You never want to see him come up," Toronto manager John
Gibbons said. "He's a great hitter, but his timing was a little
off. He was out in front."

It might be a while before Palmeiro regains his home run swing,
and it will probably take a little longer for Baltimore fans to
completely forgive the troubled slugger.

In his first game since returning from a 10-day suspension for
using steroids, Palmeiro received a mixed response from the crowd
of 30,954. The cheers probably outweighed the jeers, but it was
evident that not everyone was in a forgiving mood.

"I thought it was exactly the way it would be," Perlozzo said.
"I thought the cheers eventually lasted longer than the boos, and
the boos quieted down."

Palmeiro returned to the Orioles on Thursday, but Perlozzo
waited until Sunday to finally put him in the lineup. Batting sixth
as the designated hitter, Palmeiro drew a walk in his first plate
appearance but followed with three grounders before his final
climactic at-bat in the ninth.

"It was kind of like opening day, almost," Palmeiro said.
"You're anxious to get out there and you want to start, get going
again. I was a little nervous."

Palmeiro, who contends that he has never intentionally taken
steroids, will next test his popularity on the road. Perlozzo said
he won't start Palmeiro in Oakland on Monday, but probably will get
him back in the lineup Tuesday.

The Orioles were seeking to win a second straight series for the
first time since early May, but Toronto snapped a 4-all tie with a
three-run eighth. Russ Adams hit a leadoff single off Tim Byrdak
(0-1) and was at second with two outs when Reed Johnson hit an RBI
double off Todd Williams that glanced off Sammy Sosa's glove in
right field.

Orlando Hudson and Vernon Wells followed with RBI singles.

Jason Frasor (2-5) allowed one hit in 1 1-3 innings, and Batista
gave up Melvin Mora's RBI groundout and a run-scoring single to
Javy Lopez in the ninth before earning his 21st save by retiring
Palmeiro.

"Miggy got the job done," Gibbons said. "He went through some
pretty good hitters there."

Toronto got a run off Erik Bedard in the first inning when
Johnson hit a leadoff double and scored on a two-out wild pitch.
Baltimore scored twice in the bottom half on a run-scoring
groundout by Miguel Tejada and an RBI double by Lopez.

The Blue Jays used two singles and a groundout to pull even in
the second, but the Orioles regained the lead in their half when
Brian Roberts hit a sacrifice fly to score Jay Gibbons, who reached
when center fielder Johnson lost his high fly ball in the sun.

Baltimore went up 4-2 in the fourth when Eric Byrnes drew a
bases-loaded walk.

Toronto used a two-out RBI single by Aaron Hill to get within a
run in the fifth, then tied it in the sixth when Frank Catalanotto
walked and scored on a two-out single by Hudson.

Game notes
Toronto starter Dustin McGowan yielded four runs, five hits
and four walks in 3 1-3 innings. ... Sosa went 0-for-4 and is
1-for-25 in his last seven games. He batted seventh for the first
time since Sept. 17, 1993.