Homer-happy O's win sixth straight on Opening Day

BALTIMORE (AP) -- The Baltimore Orioles were supposed to be a better team this season because of the addition of esteemed pitching coach Leo Mazzone.

So what happened Monday? The Orioles put on their most prolific power-hitting display in 24 season openers since 1982, using a four-homer attack to beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 9-6.

Luis Matos and Melvin Mora hit successive home runs in the fifth inning and Miguel Tejada and Jeff Conine also connected for the Orioles, who hit an AL-low 14 homers during spring training.

"We basically have a veteran bunch of players, so they know what to do once the light switch goes on," hitting coach Terry Crowley said. "I'm very happy with the outcome today."

For good reason. The Orioles batted .260 in spring training and went 14-for-36 (.389) on Monday. The four homers tied the team mark for an opener, set against Kansas City.

It all added up to Baltimore's sixth straight win on Opening Day and a memorable debut for first-year manager Sam Perlozzo.

"I'm glad it's over with a 'W,'" Perlozzo said. "It was a good day for all of us."

Newcomer Ramon Hernandez went 3-for-3 with a walk, and eight different players for the Orioles had at least one RBI. Hernandez had six hits in spring training and batted .167.

"I was worried about spring training," Hernandez said. "I guess I got lucky today. I hit the ball where nobody was."

Jonny Gomes and Travis Lee homered for Tampa Bay, but it wasn't enough offense to make a winner of Joe Maddon in his managerial debut.

"They swung the bats pretty good today and when we made a mistake, they did not miss it," Maddon said. "That's what I saw. And we made several mistakes."

Rodrigo Lopez (1-0) allowed seven hits and five earned runs in seven innings. LaTroy Hawkins pitched the eighth and rookie Chris Ray got three outs for his first big-league save.

Scott Kazmir (0-1) gave up six runs in four-plus innings. He yielded a career-high three homers after surrendering only 12 in 186 innings last year.

Three of the four home runs he yielded came when he had two strikes on the batter, including an 0-2 count on Matos.

"When I want to finish something, I need to bring it. Hanging it up there with two strikes isn't getting it done," Kazmir said. "It was frustrating getting ahead of the hitters, working hard and then making mistakes when I was ahead in the count."

Baltimore trailed 4-3 before batting around in a four-run fifth to take the lead for good. After Matos and Mora homered, Kevin Millar and Hernandez added RBI singles.

Lee hit a two-run shot in the sixth to get the Devil Rays to 7-6, but Jay Gibbons doubled in a run in the bottom half and Conine added a solo homer in the seventh.

All told, it wasn't the start Maddon had in mind when he became the fourth manager in team history in November.

Maddon's mother and sister drove down from Hazelton, Pa., to join him for his big day. They didn't come empty-handed.

"Everytime somebody from Hazelton comes to a game they're required to bring either Third Base Hoagies or Bell Hops steak and cheese hoagies or Snape's cold cut pizza," Maddon said. "Especially if I leave you tickets."

Maddon saved the subs for after the game. He was probably too nervous to eat them beforehand.

"We've had a great spring training," he said, "and I'm really eager for us to get it started to see how it all shakes out."

Tampa Bay went up 1-0 in the first inning when Julio Lugo doubled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jorge Cantu. Gomes led off the second with a drive to center, his second homer in nine career at-bats against Lopez.

Baltimore tied it in the bottom half. In his first at-bat with the Orioles, Millar hit a one-out double. He scored on a triple by Javy Lopez, who came home on a single by Hernandez.

A throwing error by Rodrigo Lopez and an RBI single by Cantu made it 4-2 in the third. Tejada homered in the Orioles' half.

Game notes
Matos became the first Oriole to homer on successive Opening Days since Frank Robinson in 1969 and 1970. ... Lugo left in the third inning with a strained abdominal muscle. His replacement, Luis Ordaz, left with a sore left knee. Ordaz will undergo an MRI on Tuesday. ... Kazmir (22 years, 69 days) was the youngest Opening Day major-league starter since Dwight Gooden (21 years, 143 days) in 1986. ... The last Orioles to homer in successive at-bats in an opener were Don Baylor and Brooks Robinson in 1973.