O's zero in, Trombley blasted, 5-1

Reliever yields 3 HRs to Red Sox in 7 pitches to blow 1-0 lead in 8th

Johnson: No hits for first 5 2/3

Hargrove keeps faith after 10th loss in 11

May 14, 2000|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Orioles starter Jason Johnson flirted with history yesterday. Reliever Mike Trombley courted disaster.

Working quickly and through lapses in control, Johnson carried a no-hit bid into the sixth inning and handed off a 1-0 lead in the eighth. Buddy Groom recorded two outs around a single by Brian Daubach before Trombley served up three home runs in a span of four batters.

He left to a chorus of boos after playing a familiar tune in the Orioles' 5-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox. Again, the bullpen collapsed in the late innings, this time ruining a chance for the club to receive its first win from a member of the rotation since Mike Mussina on April 29.

Trombley has given up seven homers in 15 innings, eight fewer than last season in 87 1/3 . He didn't get an out yesterday while blowing his fourth save.

The first batter he faced in the eighth inning, Mike Stanley, drove a 1-0 pitch into the seats in left to move Boston ahead, 2-1. Trombley threw two balls to Scott Hatteberg before allowing an opposite-field homer to left, another wheel coming off the cart.

His next pitch, a looping curveball, hit Wilton Veras on the elbow as he turned away. Trombley flexed his right hand as if indicating a lost grip. Various Red Sox, not buying that silent explanation, rose to the top step of the dugout."I hit the guy with a breaking ball. I thought it was kind of comical how they were getting all mad," he said.

Revenge for the Red Sox came on the next pitch, as No. 9 hitter Donnie Sadler drilled a homer to left, bringing manager Mike Hargrove to the mound and venom from the majority of the 48,579, who made up the largest regular-season crowd ever at Camden Yards."It's very frustrating," Hargrove said. "We're one out away from bringing our closer into the ninth inning with a one-run lead. Before you can draw a deep breath, we've given up five runs."Mike's still a good pitcher. He's having a run of bad luck."

Asked if this was the season's low point, Hargrove said, "I don't know. We haven't played tomorrow yet."

Trombley wore an expression of disbelief as balls were flying over the fence. He tried to throw a curveball away to Stanley that stayed in the middle of the plate. He tried to throw a sinker away to Hatteberg that stayed in the middle of the plate. He tried to throw a fastball away to Sadler that stayed in the middle of the plate."When you think about it, it's kind of tough to do, go out there and throw batting practice. It's just one of those things. They're a good team. You make mistakes and they'll hit them," he said.

As for his confidence level, Trombley, whose ERA went from 4.20 to 6.60 in seven pitches, said, "It's been better. I've been sent to the minors a few times in my career. It's been low before. Sure, this will bother me today, but when I go out there the next time, it's got to be forgotten."

The bullpen has nine blown saves, enough to test the patience of most managers. Hargrove is trying to keep his emotions in check."If the effort wasn't there mentally and physically, I'd have lost all my hair and about four quarts of blood by now. But I know the effort is there," Hargrove said. "I know the talent is there. It's just a matter of them settling in and making the pitches consistently. They've done it in the past."It's not just one guy. It's been every one of them. And we're in one of those spells, and have been now for about 10 days, where every time we blink and make a mistake, it gets capitalized on. We have not gotten away with mistakes at all, and that's unusual."My patience? Yeah, I'm normal like anybody else. I don't like what I'm seeing. But I have faith in the people we have out there."

The home runs by Hatteberg and Sadler were their first of the season. Trombley also gave up the first to New York's Scott Brosius last Sunday, a grand slam. On June 14, 1999, while pitching for Minnesota, Trombley allowed consecutive homers to Boston's Darren Lewis and Mark Frye in the ninth inning. Neither player has gone deep since.

Contending with a broken callus on his right hand, Johnson appeared to stop the bleeding in more ways than one. He stood on the verge of ending the Orioles' losing streak at five and bringing them within two games of .500 instead of being 16-20. It would have been only their second victory in 11 games. It might have provided a lift to a club scraping bottom.

Before yesterday, Orioles starters had been 0-7 with a 7.62 ERA in the past 10 games. Johnson, with a fastball that reached 95 mph and good breaking stuff, could only alter a few of those numbers. His no-hit bid ended when Stanley grounded a single into left field with two outs in the sixth. Jose Offerman reached on an infield hit with two outs in the seventh. Otherwise, Boston's offense with Johnson in the game consisted of six walks, including three in the third inning when the callus opened.

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