Orioles' bats dormant in Daal's debut

Offense is held to 5 hits by Indians in 4-2 defeat

Lefty allows 4 runs in 1st start

O's first 4 batters 0-for-15

Batista, Cruz hit homers

April 03, 2003|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

After all their talk about adding offense, the Orioles made their biggest investment of the offseason on left-handed pitcher Omar Daal, and he went to the mound last night for his debut carrying those added expectations.

Orioles manager Mike Hargrove wasn't overly impressed after watching Daal make six appearances this spring, and this time, without question, the results mattered.

Daal responded to that challenge, but the Orioles' offense turned in a performance painfully reminiscent of September 2002.

Cleveland Indians rookie Ricardo Rodriguez and three relievers held the Orioles to five hits, and after taking the lead on Daal's third-inning throwing error, Cleveland hung on for a 4-2 victory before 27,658 at Camden Yards.

After knocking out 15 hits in their 13-inning victory on Opening Day, the Orioles came back with a clunker.

They got home runs from Tony Batista and Deivi Cruz, but little else, with their most glaring struggles coming from the top of the order. Jerry Hairston, Gary Matthews, B.J. Surhoff and Jeff Conine combined to go 0-for-15.

"It seemed everybody was just a little jumpy, a little on edge tonight," Hargrove said. "This certainly wasn't one of our better offensive nights."

Hairston drew a fifth-inning walk, and that was the only time one of the top four hitters reached base. Matthews struck out twice, Surhoff remained hitless in nine at-bats, and Conine has one hit in 10 at-bats.

With the Orioles facing Cleveland left-hander Brian Anderson in tonight's series finale, Hargrove said he would give Surhoff a night off.

"B.J.'s going to be fine," Hargrove said. "He's a veteran player, a veteran hitter, and he just needs at-bats. We'll probably give him a day to catch his breath, but we'll use him again."

Daal was answering for his own struggles before last night. The Orioles signed him to a two-year, $7.5 million contract in January, and he went through the spring with a 6.95 ERA.

This time, using his assortment of slow pitches, he battled through 6 1/3 innings and left with the Indians clinging to a 2-1 lead. The Orioles haven't had a left-hander as a regular in their starting rotation since Jimmy Key in 1998, and when Daal left the game, the crowd gave him a nice ovation.

"I was very pleased with the way Omar threw the ball tonight," Hargrove said. "That was the best I've seen him throw. He keeps giving us outings like that, and we're going to be OK."

With one out and runners at second and third, Hargrove pulled Daal and inserted Willis Roberts. Ellis Burks immediately delivered the back-breaker with a single up the middle that scored both runs for a 4-1 lead.

A year ago, Roberts posted a 3.36 ERA, but it was somewhat deceptive because he allowed a team-high 18 inherited runners to score. That was one reason the Orioles added right-handed reliever Kerry Ligtenberg this offseason.

"It was his first outing; last year was last year," Hargrove said of Roberts. "He had a base open and hung a slider with the infield in. Burks didn't hit it hard; he just hit it in the right spot."

Daal was charged with both runs. For the game, he allowed four runs on eight hits, walked two and struck out seven. The most memorable part of his performance came after he made his third-inning error, allowing Brandon Phillips to score the go-ahead run.

After walking Burks, Daal was on the ropes. The Indians had the bases loaded with no outs. But Daal struck out Shane Spencer and Karim Garcia, then got Travis Hafner to bounce to second for the final out.

Garcia looked downright foolish swinging and missing at three consecutive sliders, and Daal entered a stretch in which he retired 13 of 15 batters.

"What happened in spring training was spring training," Daal said. "I go there just to work. I'm not a hard thrower. In spring training, if I don't get my pitches under control, I know I'm going to get hit. Today, I felt great. All my pitches were under control."

Orioles tonight

Opponent:Cleveland Indians

Site:Camden Yards

Time:7:05

TV/Radio:Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters:Indians' Brian Anderson (6-11, 4.79 in 2002) vs. Orioles' Rick Helling (10-12, 4.51 in 2002)

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