Slumping O's in over heads against Rays

Tampa strands 16 on base, still piles on in 6-1 victory

Hargrove lashes out at team

Uninspired after brawl, O's lose 6th game in seven

July 30, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - If Sunday's benches-clearing brawl with the Boston Red Sox was supposed to have a motivating effect on the Orioles, it sure didn't show last night against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

The Orioles didn't look inspired. They looked punch-drunk. And after the 6-1 loss at Tropicana Field, manager Mike Hargrove administered a few verbal smelling salts, keeping the clubhouse doors closed for a 10-minute tongue-lashing.

"Physically, the effort was there," Hargrove said. "Mentally, I don't think we showed up. ... It could have been a lot worse than 6-1. ... I've already talked to them. I guess you could say I talked to them."

Losing for the sixth time in seven games, the Orioles (48-54) dropped six games under .500 for the first time since April 21. Travis Driskill continued to sink like a plummeting blue-chip stock, and Devil Rays pitcher Paul Wilson (3-7) took advantage of the one team he has been able to beat all season.

While the rest of the American League seems to use Tampa Bay as a resort destination, chalking up easy victories over the hapless Devil Rays, the Orioles continue to make Tropicana Field their personal torture chamber.

The Orioles are 5-7 against Tampa Bay this season and have dropped four of their past five here in the juicer. This time, the Devil Rays left 16 men on base, tying a franchise record, and still won for just the sixth time in July.

After fighting and falling, 12-3, the day before at Fenway Park, the Orioles found themselves face-down on the canvas once again.

"Everybody was really frustrated after that game [Sunday]," said Orioles first baseman Jay Gibbons, who went 0-for-4. "We got beat pretty badly, and then getting into a fight didn't help things. We might have carried that over. I don't think it's going to happen again. After the talk, everybody's going to wake up."

Tampa Bay scored the only two runs it would need in the third inning. After loading the bases with no outs, the Devil Rays made two quick outs and looked like they might squander opportunity.

But Carl Crawford hit a run-scoring single on a ball that bounced off Driskill's glove and rolled slowly toward second base. Had Driskill not reached up for the ball, it probably could have been played by one of the Orioles' middle infielders.

And Driskill compounded the problem by walking Jared Sandberg, forcing home the second run.

It was that kind of night for Driskill (6-5), an absolute struggle. In his four-plus innings, the Devil Rays had 10 hits and three walks, but he kept averting major disaster and left with the Orioles trailing 2-0 in the fifth.

Still, it wasn't the type of performance the Orioles saw from Driskill during his storybook start to the season, when he emerged as a 30-year-old rookie and won his first five decisions. Since June 22, he is 1-5 with a 6.96 ERA.

"Obviously," Driskill said, "it wasn't a good outing."

The Orioles trimmed Tampa Bay's lead to 2-1 in the fifth inning, when Jerry Hairston scored Chris Singleton with a two-out single up the middle. Hairston extended his hitting streak to seven games, but the Orioles continued to look like a team that desperately misses injured veterans David Segui, Jeff Conine and Mike Bordick.

Since Bordick became the third member of that trio to hit the disabled list, on July 17, the Orioles are 3-8.

"The last few games we've been flat," Gibbons said. "There hasn't been as much emotion as there has been all year. I don't know if it's the season's dragging along, but we need to pick it up."

Wilson allowed one run on four hits in eight innings to earn his first win since May 12. All three of his victories are against the Orioles.

B.J. Ryan pitched two scoreless innings in relief of Driskill, allowing just one of his two inherited runners to score in the fifth, and the Orioles had a big chance in the sixth. Wilson hit Howie Clark to start the inning, and Gary Matthews singled, putting runners on first and second.

But Tony Batista lined out to left, Gibbons flied out to center and Marty Cordova struck out to end the inning.

"We just couldn't get anything going," Hargrove said. "We were aggressive. We swung the bats. We weren't passive and giving away at-bats. Wilson made good pitches, and when we hit the ball hard, they made plays on it."

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