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

Palmeiro went 0-for-4 in his first game since returning from a 10-day suspension for using steroids, making the final out with two runners on Sunday in Baltimore’s 7-6 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Orioles supporters welcomed back Palmeiro with a mixed response, but many of those remaining in the crowd of 30,954 began chanting “Raffy! Raffy!” as he stepped to the plate in the ninth inning.

Facing closer Miguel Batista, Palmeiro sent a routine fly to right field, the only time all afternoon he hit the ball out of the infield.

Palmeiro returned to the Orioles on Thursday, but interim manager Sam 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.

Many stood and cheered as he walked to the plate in the first inning, but others booed loudly. The pattern continued for each of his at-bats.

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.

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.

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.

AP-ES-08-14-05 1727EDT


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