Another day passed without the Orioles pulling off a trade, the only changes yesterday being the bloodshot eyes that come from flying across the country to play a makeup game. Jose Mercedes still had a nameplate above his locker. So did Jeff Conine, Sidney Ponson and Melvin Mora.
That was the naked truth, which seemed appropriate.
In a game that was delayed in the eighth inning when a male fan wearing only his orange floppy hat streaked across the outfield, Texas shortstop Alex Rodriguez lined a two-run single into left field with two out in the 11th inning to defeat the Orioles, 6-4, before an announced crowd of 38,152 at Camden Yards.
Looking for his first win since June 28, Ponson took a shutout into the sixth inning before Texas scored four runs to tie the game. Mike Trombley, the Orioles' fifth reliever, walked the bases loaded but got two quick strikes on Rodriguez. The count went to 2-2 before baseball's highest-paid player left the Orioles with their 20th loss in 25 games.
Frank Catalanotto was walked intentionally with Craig Monroe on third and two out. Randy Velarde also walked, which wasn't part of the plan. "That's the guy you've got to get," manager Mike Hargrove said.
Four-run leads have escaped Ponson's grasp in his last two starts. "I just had a conversation with Sidney about that," Hargrove said. "There are times in everybody's career where they feel a little too comfortable with a lead, and I think Sidney relaxed a little bit mentally and it cost him."
Needs, not leads, was the topic hours earlier. As reporters filed out of Hargrove's office before the game, Jason Johnson quipped, "Did my name come up in there?" He was told not to remove his jersey. Johnson, too, remained an Oriole.
The waiver deadline arrives today, with the Orioles still in fourth place in the American League East and possibly more interested in adding a pitcher rather than moving one to a contender.
Pat Hentgen expects to learn soon that he needs ligament-transplant surgery, which would keep him out for most or all of next season. Mercedes kept his stock from plummeting further with Sunday's 6 2/3 shutout innings in Anaheim, but are the Orioles still willing to punch another hole in their rotation?
Hentgen's injury "makes me more prone to trade for [a starting pitcher]," said Syd Thrift, the Orioles' vice president of baseball operations. And less prone to give up one? "I'd say yes," Thrift said.
Out west, the San Francisco Giants acquired a starting pitcher, Pittsburgh's Jason Schmidt. San Diego sent Sterling Hitchcock to the New York Yankees. And the New York Mets shipped Rick Reed to the Twins, who were interested in Mercedes, for outfielder Matt Lawton. The Orioles, meanwhile, remained on hold.
"I think we've had the same amount [of interested teams] we've had in the past. It just happens to be that the players that they want, we can't afford to trade," Thrift said.
"I'll give you, for example, Jeff Conine. I've said over and over that what we need is one more Conine. That doesn't mean one less Conine, and then one more."
Conine remains the position player most likely to leave, with the Atlanta Braves showing significant interest. So were the Chicago Cubs before acquiring Fred McGriff.
"I didn't measure the attention, but he got a lot," Thrift said.
Conine singled in his first two at-bats last night, as the Orioles built a 1-0 lead against Texas left-hander Doug Davis. Conine scored in the second inning on a one-out single by Mike Kinkade.
Batting with two outs in the fifth, Conine ripped a double into right-center field to score Chris Richard for a 4-0 lead and complete a three-run rally. He provided the only run in Sunday's game with a sixth-inning double.
The Orioles didn't arrive in Baltimore until 6 a.m. after flying in from Anaheim. What should have been an open date became another game in the aftermath of the train derailment two weeks ago.
It also provided another opportunity for Brian Roberts to bat leadoff when Brady Anderson doesn't start. Roberts drove in the Orioles' second run in the fifth inning on a single to right, and scored on a two-out single by Richard.
Roberts had broken too soon on an attempted steal of second, but Rafael Palmeiro's throw bounced off his helmet. The error resulted in two unearned runs off Davis, who didn't get a decision in Game 2 of Wednesday's doubleheader against the Orioles despite allowing only one earned run in seven innings.
The Rangers bailed him out last night by scoring four runs in the sixth inning, the last coming on another defensive lapse in left field by Kinkade.
Michael Young's line drive deflected off Kinkade's glove as he attempted a knee-high catch that would have provided the last out. His throw to the plate was cut off as Ricky Ledee scored the tying run, leaving Kinkade bent at the waist and subjected to scattered jeers from a sparse crowd.
Ponson also lost a four-run lead in Texas last Tuesday when his outfield defense went from comical to cruel. He got into trouble last night by allowing a leadoff single to Rodriguez and walking Palmeiro. Gabe Kapler singled over Jerry Hairston at second base to reduce the Orioles' lead to 4-1. Ledee lined a double to score Palmeiro and bring pitching coach Mark Wiley from the dugout.
Kapler came home on a bouncer to short by Bill Haselman, setting up Kinkade's misplay in left that was scored a hit. Ponson, charged with four runs and nine hits, was replaced after the seventh.
"Right now I'm letting everybody down," Ponson said. "I'm letting my teammates down and my manager down. I have to come up with something."
Opponent: Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Site: Camden Yards
TV/Radio: CSN/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Devil Rays' Paul Wilson (3-7, 6.67) vs. Orioles' Josh Towers (6-5, 3.39)