ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Brian Roberts knows the Orioles are concentrating on more than wins as the 2009 season winds down.
Roberts hit his fourth career grand slam and rookie Nolan Reimold added a three-run shot, leading Baltimore past the Tampa Bay Rays 8-7 on Thursday night.
"This may sound bad, but we're not too focused on wins and losses," Roberts said. "They are what they are right now. Certainly you don't want to lose, but what I'm saying is we're playing good games and you want to win."
Baltimore (49-72) is heading for its 12th straight losing season and looking toward the future. The Orioles have had rookie pitchers start 69 games this year.
Roberts' 12th homer of the season came on a 3-2 pitch from reliever Lance Cormier with two outs in the sixth and made it 5-1. Roberts was the first batter Cormier faced — he replaced starter James Shields. It was Roberts' first grand slam since June 20, 2004, against Colorado.
"I fell behind him, so the pitches I went to were fastballs," Cormier said. "He's probably sitting 3-2 fastball. I just went with a two-seamer that didn't get the outside part of the plate. In my mind, I'm not going to walk this guy. Make him put it in play, trust percentages and I gave him too good of a pitch to hit."
Reimold extended Baltimore's advantage to 8-4 with his homer in the seventh. The Orioles stopped a five-game losing streak and are 9-24 since the All-Star break.
"The home run ball usually plays against us, but it was really for us tonight" Orioles manager Dave Trembley said.
Ben Zobrist homered and had four RBIs for the Rays, who entered with a four-game winning streak. Carlos Pena drove in two runs with a single during a three-run eighth as Tampa Bay cut its deficit to 8-7.
"It's a tough loss," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We just have to put it aside and come back tomorrow night.
The Rays are four games behind AL wild-card leader Boston. Texas, trailing the Red Sox by a game, opens a three-game at Tampa Bay on Friday night.
Jim Johnson pitched the final 1 1-3 innings for his fifth save. The Baltimore closer, who rejoined the team after missing the previous two games for the birth of his daughter, struck out Evan Longoria a runner on third and two outs in the ninth.
"I loved the fight," Maddon said. "We were there to the very end."
Shields (7-10) allowed four runs and seven hits over 5 2-3 innings. All three runs charged to him in the sixth were unearned because leadoff hitter Reimold reached second on third baseman Longoria's throwing error. The Rays' opening day starter is 1-5 over his last 11 starts.
Zobrist put the Rays up 1-0 with a first-inning RBI double, and then got Tampa Bay to 5-4 on a three-run homer off Brian Matusz (2-2) in the sixth.
Matusz, making his fourth major league start, gave up four runs and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings.
"I feel like it was the first time this year I was really able to settle down and get into a great groove," Matusz said.
Baltimore tied it at 1 when Cesar Izturis hit a run-scoring grounder in the fifth.
NOTES: Shields (3.81) is the only AL pitcher with 10 defeats and an ERA under 4.00. ... Roberts has a 10-game hitting streak. ... Tampa Bay 2B Akinori Iwamura (left knee surgery) was the DH for Triple-A Durham two days after leaving a minor league rehab start with leg muscle fatigue. ... The Orioles claimed RHP Chris Lambert off waivers from Detroit and optioned him to Triple-A Norfolk. ... Injured Baltimore INF Luis Montanez (right thumb) will play in the Puerto Rico winter league. ... Baltimore has set up a throwing program for RHP Koji Uehara (right elbow), who is rehabbing at the team's minor league complex in Sarasota, Fla.