- 142 wins
- 110 wins
BALTIMORE -- The Orioles knew Derrek Lee would not be the face of the franchise.
The 35-year-old veteran first baseman was acquired over the offseason to be neither the most powerful nor consistent bat in the Baltimore lineup.
But at least for Friday night, Lee was all of that in a 5-4 win against Cincinnati, as he hammered a walk-off home run to left to lead off the bottom of the 12th in front of the first sold-out crowd at Camden Yards since Opening Day.
"I knew I got that one," Lee said of his game-winning shot. "I put a good swing on that one. If that one didn't go over the fence, we would have had some problems."
The homer was Lee's third career walk-off shot and his first home run since May 8 against Tampa Bay.
"[Jose] Arredondo left a pitch up, a split-fingered [fastball] that kind of hung up there," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.
Friday night's 3-for-5 performance and heroics represented a glimmer of positivity in an otherwise cloudy 15th season for Lee.
After being put on the 15-day disabled list May 17 with a strained left oblique and missing playing time due to the loss of his grandfather, it appeared this would be a tough year for Lee for several reasons.
A two-time All-Star with the Cubs, Lee won the 2005 National League batting title in Chicago and recorded a banner year just two seasons ago. In 2009, Lee hit .306 with 35 home runs and 111 RBIs.
But in his first year with Baltimore, Lee has been looked to more for his defensive prowess, as he entered Friday hitting .238 with four homers and 18 RBIs.
Friday night, though, 45,382 fans saw a different Lee.
"It felt good to finally get a big hit, and it went over the fence," Lee said. "It was definitely a good feeling. Hopefully, I can continue."
The blast not only helped Lee, but the entire team, who returned to Baltimore on Friday after losing six of nine on a road trip.
"It was a tough road trip, there were two or three games that could have gone our way but didn't," starter Chris Jakubauskas said. "Instead of going 6-3, we went 3-6. So it's definitely good to get back -- good crowd. Friday-night-fireworks night. It was good to get a win for all the people."
Jakubauskas was part of an Orioles pitching staff that held off the run leaders in the NL long enough to give the offense an opportunity to win.
The right-hander threw 76 pitches, 50 for strikes, in five innings of work in which he gave up three earned runs on five hits.
However, after Jason Berken gave up his first run in five appearances in the sixth inning to allow Cincinnati to tie the game, the rest of the Baltimore bullpen excelled.
The combination of Jim Johnson, Kevin Gregg, Koji Uehara and Michael Gonzalez held the Reds scoreless for six straight frames.
"They have been huge for a while," Jakubauskas said of the bullpen. "They've been throwing their brains out, guys coming in and shutting down the door."
But the night belonged to the veteran first baseman who proved he can still play, as he rounded third to find the team already huddled around home plate to the cheers of a sellout crowd.
"This place is a beautiful park," Lee said. "When the seats are full, it's definitely a nice electricity. It would be nice to get a few more nights like that."
Avi Zaleon is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.