Maduro loses, gets few A's on report card

Four runs in 4 2/3 innings extend starter's woes as Oakland beats O's, 5-2

Rotation spot is in jeopardy

A's Mulder finds form

O's fall 5 games below .500

May 29, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Exhibiting an impressive range of motion in his neck, Orioles pitcher Calvin Maduro was able to clearly read the signs from his catcher last night while also looking over his shoulder. For his next trick, he'll try to avoid disappearing from the rotation.

Maduro's immediate security among the starters didn't necessarily hinge on his results against the Oakland Athletics, but he raised more doubts about his longevity by lasting only 4 2/3 innings against them in a 5-2 loss at Camden Yards.

The Orioles (22-27) fell five games below .500 for the first time since April 25, when they were 8-13. A loss tonight would drop them six under for the sixth time this year.

Though his velocity increased over previous outings, Maduro surrendered two-run homers to Eric Chavez and Adam Piatt in the second inning and was booed by a crowd of 24,825. Walks preceded both homers, which came on a fastball to Chavez and curveball to Piatt and gave Oakland a 4-0 lead.

A two-out double by Terrence Long in the fifth scored Miguel Tejada and chased Maduro from the game. Making his 10th start since coming off the disabled list, Maduro allowed five runs and six hits, and walked four. He's posted only one victory since April 14.

The Athletics, winners of four in a row, already had roughed up Maduro (2-5) last Wednesday. They collected six runs and 10 hits in only four innings, and worked him for 95 pitches - three fewer than he delivered last night.

Travis Driskill will receive another start Saturday after handcuffing the Seattle Mariners for six innings last weekend. The pitcher he replaced in the rotation, Jason Johnson, will make his second injury rehab start later this week while drawing closer to a return. And the bullpen continues to hold two rookies, Sean Douglass and Rick Bauer, who don't project as relievers.

The heat Maduro felt last night had nothing to do with the 85-degree temperature.

Surrounded by reporters in the Orioles' dugout before the game, manager Mike Hargrove sounded a tone that, if not ominous, certainly couldn't be classified as soothing.

"This is an important start for Calvin." he said. "We need to see Calvin go out and pitch well, throw strikes, command his pitches and give us a good ballgame."

The only positive development in his last appearance was a fastball that stayed around 88-89 mph, compared with the 84-85 range of previous starts. Maduro hit 91 twice last night while facing Tejada in the first inning and consistently reached 89.

Chavez tore into an 87-mph fastball for his 11th career homer against the Orioles in 123 at-bats. Piatt's two-run shot, which came after a four-pitch walk to Long, was magnified when the Orioles scored twice in the second.

Oakland committed two errors in the inning, which also included a run-scoring single by Marty Cordova and a sacrifice fly by Melvin Mora with the bases loaded. Cordova had gone 0-for-12 with six strikeouts in Seattle and was battling a 10-for-57 slump in his last 15 games since his average peaked at .367 on May 5.

The radar gun also has been a curse to Oakland's Mark Mulder, who continues to work himself back into top pitching form after going on the disabled list last month with a strained forearm muscle. He had lost four consecutive decisions and the zip on his fastball, contributing to the Athletics' hasty slide down the American League West standings.

Hoping to divert attention from his lagging fastball, Mulder reportedly didn't want the radar readings posted at Network Associates Coliseum during Thursday's start against the Orioles. With his velocity reaching 92 mph last night, Mulder was only slightly behind last season, when he won 21 games and finished second to Roger Clemens in the Cy Young voting.

Originally slated to pitch tonight, Mulder requested that Oakland manager Art Howe bump him up in the rotation to keep him on normal rest. Erik Hiljus was held back until tonight.

Mulder (3-4) won for the first time since April 6 by limiting the Orioles to one earned run in six innings.

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