In 32 years of professional baseball, Orioles manager Mike Hargrove has known few competitors like Pat Hentgen.
That's why it was so difficult watching Hentgen nibble against the powerful Texas Rangers' lineup last night. Four walks in three innings? That's not Hentgen's style.
Hargrove became so agitated, he made a rare mound visit and gave Hentgen an earful. The former Cy Young Award winner righted himself for a while, but by the fifth inning, Hargrove pulled him from the game.
Hentgen walked off the field and flipped his glove into the stands. It was that kind of night, as Texas broke the Orioles' four-game winning streak with an 8-4 victory before 19,767 at Camden Yards.
"The biggest disappointment is we were playing so good," Hentgen said. "We had a nice winning streak going, and as a starting pitcher, I want to keep that train rolling. I didn't do that tonight, so that's frustrating to me."
The Orioles (25-27) missed a chance to return to .500 for the first time since May 10, as their bats cooled from white-hot to warm. They had eight hits after compiling at least 10 in their previous nine games.
Rangers rookie Hank Blalock went 3-for-3 to regain the major league hitting lead from Orioles left fielder Melvin Mora. Blalock raised his average to .359, and Mora went 1-for-4, lowering his average to .356.
Hentgen (1-2) finished with a season-high five walks in 4 1/3 innings. When he walked Rafael Palmeiro in the third inning, forcing home the Rangers' second run, Hargrove went to the mound for what looked like a scolding session.
"I felt that Pat was getting a little frustrated, and some of those calls weren't going his way," Hargrove said. "I was just trying to get him to refocus and not lose sight of the fact he had to pitch and get these guys out."
Said Hentgen: "He said, `Don't get away from your game, stay with your game, stay aggressive.' And I feel like I was aggressive. The ball was just not going where I wanted it to go, and I rely on my location. I have for my entire career."
Hargrove's shock therapy seemed to work. To that point, Hentgen had thrown 25 balls and 18 strikes. But he gathered himself and struck out two-time American League MVP Juan Gonzalez on three pitches.
Standing at the dugout railing, Hargrove clapped his hands in approval.
Hentgen nearly escaped the inning without further damage, as Ruben Sierra grounded to Jeff Conine at first base. Conine fired to second for the forceout, and Sierra just beat the relay throw back to first.
Texas led 3-0, but Mora put the Orioles on the scoreboard the next inning with a two-out, two-run triple.
Mora extended his hitting streak to a career-best 11 games, and the at-bat showed just how well he is seeing the ball. With a full count, Rangers starter Ismael Valdes (5-2) threw a curveball, low and away, but Mora went with the pitch, sending it into the right-center-field gap.
Hentgen retired the side in the fourth inning, breezing through the bottom of the Rangers' order for the second time. But Blalock led off the fifth inning with a double, bringing Alex Rodriguez to the plate with a runner in scoring position for the third time.
To that point, the Rangers were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, but Rodriguez hit a ground-rule double, scoring Blalock, and Palmeiro followed with a run-scoring single.
Hentgen struck out Gonzalez again, but he walked Sierra, and by that point, Hargrove had seen enough. He pulled Hentgen, and summoned reliever Travis Driskill.
After a slow walk off the mound, Hentgen spotted a young boy in the stands, and tossed him the glove. It was one of the few times he hit his target all night.
"I saw the little guy," Hentgen said. "I was looking for him, and it's not the first time I've done that. Believe me, I'm frustrated with myself, not with anyone else."
Driskill's first batter was Mount St. Joseph's Mark Teixeira, who doubled down the first base line, making it 6-2. But Driskill didn't allow any more damage over 2 2/3 innings, giving the Orioles a chance to come back.
Valdes went 5 2/3 innings, and Texas manager Buck Showalter used three relievers to finish the game.
The Orioles scored two runs off Rosman Garcia in the seventh, but Sierra hit a two-run homer off Willis Roberts in the ninth, and Francisco Cordero pitched the final 2 2/3 innings to get his second save.
Opponent: Texas Rangers
Site: Camden Yards
TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Rangers' John Thomson (3-5, 4.85) vs. Orioles' Omar Daal (3-5, 4.98)