O's Mazzilli stays calm in storm of rout by Rays

Tejada, pitchers struggle in 10-1 loss in series finale

April 12, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - This time, there was no managerial tirade. The little jars in the visiting clubhouse with all the goodies - Twizzlers, Snickers and Hot Tamales - were still intact.

The Orioles had just been embarrassed yesterday in a 10-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, their second defeat in three games at Tropicana Field, but none of the tables or garbage cans had been overturned.

It was first-year manager Lee Mazzilli's moment, and he chose to let it pass.

"I didn't say anything [to the team] yet," he said as the Orioles quietly packed for Boston, where they begin a three-game series tomorrow night. "I mean, they know they made mistakes."

Miguel Tejada made two errors, Eric DuBose gave up three home runs and reliever John Parrish threw three wild pitches in two innings as the Devil Rays remained in a first-place tie with the Red Sox atop the American League East.

Making it even more frustrating, the Orioles had multiple chances against Tampa Bay starter Victor Zambrano (3-0), but they went hitless in their first eight at-bats with runners in scoring position.

By that time, the Devil Rays already led 5-0 after getting home runs from Aubrey Huff, Jose Cruz and Tino Martinez. Then things turned ugly as Tampa Bay piled on for five runs in its last two at-bats.

Afterward, Mazzilli looked disappointed, but he didn't lash into the team.

"Other than walks, home runs, wild pitches and errors, we played a pretty good game," he said sarcastically. "That's the only way I can look at it."

Eight months ago, under this same dome, the manager of the Orioles handled a similar situation differently. This was the site of one of Mike Hargrove's most defining moments.

Last August, the Orioles arrived in Florida after taking three of four games from Boston at Fenway Park, only to get swept in a three-game series by the Devil Rays.

Tampa Bay won each of those games by narrow margins - 4-3, 4-2 and 6-5 in 10 innings - and once it ended, Hargrove tore into the club. Privately, Orioles management viewed that as a sign he had lost his touch.

Rather than show his team some love when it was down and push harder when it was riding high, Hargrove had done the opposite.

When they went looking for his replacement, the Orioles asked each candidate how he would handle situations like this and Mazzilli gave the answer they wanted.

But that was a virtual test. This was the real thing. Mazzilli has his own methods, and the full-blown clubhouse tirade can wait.

"I'm not satisfied," he said. "I'm not happy with the outcome. I'm not happy with the wild pitches, guys on base, getting behind. You've got to be baseball-savvy out there. I don't [care] if you're down 15-1 or it's 2-1, you've still got to play the game. You've got to play the game right.

"When you're walking guys, or making errors or wild pitches, that's not good. Errors are part of the game, but you've got to minimize it and you've got to regroup and you've got to get picked up the other way."

The Devil Rays capitalized on Tejada's first error to score an unearned run in the first inning. Huff's homer made it 2-0 in the third, and Tampa Bay's pesky leadoff hitter, Carl Crawford, practically stole a run in the fifth.

DuBose (0-2) walked Crawford on five pitches, and that turned into the equivalent of a triple. Crawford stole second and third, giving him six stolen bases in seven games. Then, Rocco Baldelli singled past a drawn-in infield making it a 3-0 lead.

At that point, the Orioles were still in the game waiting to capitalize on the myriad chances they were getting against Zambrano, who posted an unsightly 10.80 ERA against them last season.

The Orioles had their best opportunity in the fourth, when Rafael Palmeiro singled and Javy Lopez walked to start the inning. But Zambrano got Jay Gibbons to ground into a double play and David Segui flied to left, ending that threat.

Zambrano was on a roll. His first two victories had come against the New York Yankees - one in Japan and the other at Tropicana Field on Tuesday, when he won despite walking seven batters.

Yesterday, the Orioles drew just two walks. They were patient enough to get into some good hitters' counts - 3-1 for Palmeiro in the first inning, 2-1 for Gibbons in the fourth - but Zambrano kept making big pitches to finish them off.

"How can you fault anybody who is 3-0, and we've got four wins?" Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella said of Zambrano, who reached three victories in the fewest games since Kevin Appier got three in seven games for the Kansas City Royals in 1995.

Tejada stranded four runners. Gibbons and Segui both stranded three. Segui also got ejected for lashing out at plate umpire Marvin Hudson after taking a called third strike to end the eighth inning.

Asked what Segui said to upset the umpire, Mazzilli said: "I didn't ask him, but it wasn't `Happy Easter,' I know that."

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