Tigers shut down Orioles

Johnson's strong effort wasted in 3-0 defeat to last-place team

August 10, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

DETROIT - The Orioles can handle the first-place teams. It's the other side of the standings that's troubling them.

One night after completing a three-game sweep of the American League Central-leading Minnesota Twins, the Orioles ran into all kinds of trouble against the last-place Detroit Tigers.

Jason Johnson looked strong in his return from the disabled list last night, but the Orioles couldn't solve Tigers rookie Mike Maroth in a 3-0 loss at Comerica Park.

The Orioles take great pride in their 14-10 record against the first-place Twins, Yankees and Mariners, but they are scratching their heads at their 9-10 mark against the last-place Tigers, Devil Rays and Rangers.

Johnson, who spent 2 1/2 weeks on the disabled list with tendinitis in his right shoulder, said his arm felt great, as he held the Tigers to three hits in five innings on a strict 72-pitch limit. But with a 3-9 record, his frustrations are mounting.

"My shoulder felt great," Johnson said. "That's good, but it also ticks me off that we lost because I'm sick and tired of losing. I'm out there doing the best I can, working [hard], and things just aren't working out."

The Tigers scored all their runs with two outs, taking the lead on Chris Truby's run-scoring double in the third inning and watching as the Orioles squandered golden scoring chances in the fourth and sixth innings.

Maroth (4-4) allowed just six hits in 8 1/3 innings, and Juan Acevedo got the final two outs for his 21st save. Maroth, a left-hander who turns 25 later this month, improved to 3-1 with a 1.30 ERA at Comerica.

"You've got to give credit where credit is due," said Orioles manager Mike Hargrove. "I don't know if it's all our doing. In some cases we swung a little too hard, but for the most part he was very good."

Trailing 1-0, the Orioles wasted leadoff doubles by Gary Matthews in the fourth inning and Melvin Mora in the sixth. Hargrove felt both of those players lost home runs in Comerica's spacious outfield - Matthews in the first inning, Mora in the eighth - but ultimately the two squandered doubles would be more frustrating.

Matthews might have lost a triple in the fourth, as a fan reached over and grabbed a ball he hit down the third-base line, limiting him to a double. With Tigers left fielder Bobby Higginson playing Matthews in the gap, it was a tough play and Matthews has great speed, but on this play he couldn't use it.

"There's no way you'd know," Hargrove said, "unless the fans don't reach out."

Tony Batista moved Matthews to third base with a grounder to shortstop, but Maroth struck out Jeff Conine for a huge second out, and Marty Cordova grounded to third, ending the inning.

After Mora doubled to start the sixth, Luis Lopez moved him to third with another grounder to shortstop. Once again, the Orioles had a runner on third with less than two outs, but Matthews popped up to shallow left field.

Higginson ran in to make the catch, but following third base coach Tom Trebelhorn's command, Mora tagged up and tried to score. Higginson unleashed a strong throw to home plate, and Tigers catcher Brandon Inge caught it with enough time to contemplate just how he wanted to tag out Mora, who was out by four steps.

Said Mora: "The guy [Maroth] was throwing pretty good on the mound, so you have to run."

It turned out to be a bad inning for Mora, whose sixth-inning error allowed the Tigers to pad the lead. With Johnson out of the game, Randall Simon and Robert Fick hit back-to-back two-out singles off Orioles reliever Yorkis Perez.

Simon raced to third on Fick's single, and Mora's throw bounced past third baseman Batista and past Perez, into the netting that protects the Tigers dugout. Simon scored, putting Detroit ahead 2-0.

Fick completed the scoring with a two-out homer off Orioles reliever Rick Bauer in the eighth.

For Johnson, who has been on the wrong end of two 1-0 losses this season, it was more of the same. His fastball reached 94-mph on the Comerica radar gun, but Johnson could hardly enjoy the return of his velocity.

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