Towers' arm gets tattooed by Sox

Orioles suffer 5-2 loss as Chicago tags pitcher for three home runs

April 13, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

CHICAGO - Feeling like a traveler who left something important at home, the Orioles searched themselves for answers about their missing offense again yesterday.

The most productive inning in franchise history was less than 20 hours old, and here the Orioles were, sitting in a new time zone, staring at another discouraging defeat.

The Orioles managed just two hits off Mark Buehrle in seven innings, and the Chicago White Sox celebrated their home opener with three home runs off Orioles starter Josh Towers.

Following a repeating plot line, the Orioles brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth, but White Sox closer Keith Foulke escaped to cap a 5-2 victory before 41,128 at Comiskey Park.

"No excuses, no excuses," Orioles catcher Brook Fordyce said. "Tip your hat to Mark [Buehrle]; he pitched a heck of a game. He's tough. He's got a good changeup, a cutter and a curveball. You can see why he's a talented pitcher."

On Thursday night, the Orioles ended a six-game losing streak when they scored 12 runs in the sixth inning for a 15-6 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Finally, they felt like they had some momentum.

But after that game, the Orioles went directly to the airport, where they waited an extra 30 minutes to board their plane because the bomb-sniffing dog was sick and a replacement had to be found.

It was a bad omen. By the time the Orioles arrived in their downtown Chicago hotel, it was 3 a.m., Central time. The wake-up calls came about six hours later, and by 1 p.m., the team was standing on the first-base line for player introductions.

Buehrle, a left-hander who won 16 games last season, took the mound and breezed through a revamped Orioles lineup. With leadoff hitter Jerry Hairston out with a strained left groin and Marty Cordova back from the disabled list, manager Mike Hargrove mixed and matched, but the Orioles still managed just four hits.

"Let's not make a mountain out of a molehill," Hargrove said. "It's still early in the season. Do we need to get better? Yeah, we need to get better and more consistent swinging the bat.

"But we're playing good defense, we're getting good pitching. We're 2-7 and we've been in every ballgame. Every game.

"If we continue to stay in games, and our hitting comes around as it should, then we're going to be OK. But I'm getting real tired of answering these questions."

Towers didn't exactly enjoy talking about home runs again, either. He gave up two homers in his first start, a 3-0 loss against the Boston Red Sox. So in two games, spanning 12 1/3 innings, he has already given up five homers. A year ago, he gave up 21 home runs in 140 1/3 innings.

With two outs in the fourth, Jose Valentin sent a sinking changeup from Towers over the right-field fence. The two-run shot put the White Sox up 2-1.

Sandy Alomar hit Towers' first pitch of the fifth inning for a home run to left, and three batters later Ray Durham added a two-run blast to center field. Those last two homers both came on belt-high fastballs.

"Some innings I'm starting to pitch all right, and obviously some I don't," Towers said. "I thought Valentin hit a good pitch, but the other two were just right there. I've just got to eliminate my mistakes. I've just got to eliminate them hitting the ball over the fence."

Cordova made it 5-2 with a home run off Buehrle in the seventh inning. In the ninth, David Segui singled and Jeff Conine doubled against Foulke, putting runners at second and third with two outs.

But Foulke struck out Tony Batista and Cordova fouled out to the third baseman, ending the game.

"Is it frustrating? You bet it's frustrating," Hargrove said. "Do we want to change it? Yeah, we want to change it, and we're working to do that. But it's a nine-game trend. We've got a whole lot more to play."

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