O's end up scratching their heads

Team shows pop at bat, but bad luck rules day

April 22, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

When a team goes four innings without a batter reaching base, the opposing pitcher usually is described as having no-hit stuff.

Tampa Bay starter Paul Abbott had no-chance stuff last night, but the result was the same - much to the chagrin of a team trying to extend its winning streak to six games and strengthen its hold on first place.

The Orioles kept knocking the cover off the ball, only to have the insides hook foul or lose steam at the warning track. Abbott wasn't fooling anybody. He was just perfect through the fourth.

And the Orioles were perplexed after a 7-3 loss.

"You have to give him credit. He moved the ball around and got ahead of the hitters," Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said. "They just didn't fall in. What can you do?"

Devil Rays shortstop Julio Lugo made a nice play to deny Brian Roberts a hit leading off the first inning. In his next at-bat, Roberts drove Jose Cruz to the scoreboard in right field, where another out was recorded and another hitter returned to the dugout wondering how he got there.

Cruz also ran down David Segui's liner in right-center field, and the wind knocked down Javy Lopez's fly ball at the fence in left-center. Rafael Palmeiro came within inches of an extra-base hit.

Each time, the sounds were the same. The crack of the bat, a roar from the crowd and a sigh of disappointment heavy enough to move the flags beyond the bullpens.

"That's the way this game is sometimes," said Segui, a former teammate of Abbott's in Seattle. "You hit the ball hard and it's right at somebody."

No at-bat tested the Orioles' resolve like the one by Jay Gibbons in the second inning. It lasted 13 pitches and included a handful of seat-rattling foul balls - the kind that make fans scatter and hitters stomp back to the plate.

He left trails of smoke with every hack, but Abbott didn't get burned until Gibbons homered in the fifth.

"I've been having trouble keeping the ball fair the last few games," Gibbons said. "After about 10 foul balls, you're just trying to put it in play somewhere and not strike out."

Gibbons' three-run shot provided the Orioles with their first hit, but the Devil Rays had already built a 7-0 lead. The winning streak was about to end. But it wasn't for lack of quality swings.

"The balls we hit on other days fall in," Segui said, "and maybe that's the spark that would have gotten us rolling."

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