With another of their young starting pitchers needing early assistance yesterday, the Orioles piled a little more weight on their bullpen. Though sturdy for three weeks of the season, cracks eventually began to form, and a team's strength finally turned against it.
Called upon to begin the 12th inning, Mike DeJean allowed a run after throwing only three pitches, the last resulting in a single by Toronto's Frank Catalanotto that scored Chris Woodward and gave the Blue Jays a 5-4 victory over the Orioles before 41,093 at Camden Yards.
The loss dropped the Orioles (10-6) into second place in the American League East, a half game behind the Boston Red Sox. They were trying to move six games above .500 for the first time since April 2000, but that achievement will have to wait.
Woodward doubled off the fence in left field, the ball missing by a few feet of clearing it. After getting ahead 1-0, Catalanotto lined a fastball into left field to produce the go-ahead run. He entered the game as a pinch hitter in the 10th.
Two batters, three pitches and an outcome was decided. Former Oriole Kerry Ligtenberg retired the side for his first victory with the Blue Jays, an inning after Catalanotto made a sliding catch in left on a sinking liner by Miguel Tejada with two outs to keep the game going.
"I tried to throw a fastball away [to Woodward] and that's not really my strong suit, being a sinkerballer," DeJean said. "I made a decent pitch to Catalanotto and he did a good job of hitting it. But ultimately I have to make better pitches to the righties and get the ground balls. The bullpen pitched really well. I'm real disappointed with the outcome."
Before yesterday, Orioles' relievers had posted a 1.79 ERA in 55 1/3 innings. On three occasions, they combined for six or more scoreless innings. Manager Lee Mazzilli trusted the ball in whichever hand took it.
Rick Bauer gave up bases-empty home runs yesterday to Carlos Delgado and Kevin Cash after relieving Erik Bedard, both times losing a one-run lead. But Rodrigo Lopez, B.J. Ryan and Jorge Julio blanked Toronto over 5 1/3 innings before DeJean entered in the 12th.
"That's all we can ask, to have a shot to win it," said Rafael Palmeiro. "We had some chances at the end and just didn't do it."
Starting for the first time since an administrative error forced his return to the minors, Bedard took a no-hitter into the fourth inning and a seat on the bench before it ended.
Mazzilli signaled for Bauer after the Blue Jays scored twice with two outs. Bauer stranded two runners to preserve a 3-2 lead.
Bedard threw 88 pitches, forcing Mazzilli to make a move. He walked four and struck out five, and all three hits off him came in his last inning.
"He got ahead in the count, and the next thing you know he's gotten to 3-2," Mazzilli said. "He was trying to make that perfect pitch."
Bedard arrived from Triple-A Ottawa during Friday night's game, unpacked his bags and hoped he'd never have to experience that journey again. He didn't expect to go back so soon after the Orioles recalled him on April 10. Neither did the team.
The Orioles optioned Bedard before breaking camp because they didn't need him to pitch until the sixth game. Major League Baseball rules state that a player must remain in the minors for a minimum of 10 days after being sent down. Club officials figured the clock started the day he was optioned, not when the season began on April 4.
The mix-up resulted in Bedard returning to Ottawa after throwing 91 pitches in three innings against Tampa Bay at Tropicana Field. He made one start for the Lynx, taking the loss after allowing four runs and eight hits in four innings.
Bedard retired seven of the first eight batters he faced yesterday, but the walks and pitches began to pile up.
"It's been an up-and-down month and I'm just trying to get my groove back," he said. "I'm trying to get back in the five-day rotation. When I do, we'll see if everything comes together."
Mazzilli confirmed that Bedard will make his next start, but wouldn't go much further. Asked how much room he'll give the rookie, Mazzilli said, "I can't answer that."
The Blue Jays won despite stranding 18 runners, two short of their club record set on Aug. 15, 1984. They won while manager Carlos Tosca fumed in the clubhouse after being ejected in the 11th for not getting a batter's interference call on Melvin Mora after he stumbled out of the box on a pop-up. Catcher Cash had to push Mora out of his way, and the ball glanced off his mitt and fell to the ground as he reached over Ligtenberg.
Tejada followed with his liner to left, and the Blue Jays had dodged defeat.
"We didn't execute at the end," Palmeiro said. "We didn't get the hit that we needed."
The Blue Jays could relate until Catalanotto's single. They put runners on second and third with one out in the 11th, but Mora ranged to his left to field a grounder by Cash and threw home to cut down Delgado, and Tejada made a stop in the hole and fired from his knees to get the force at second.
Javy Lopez singled twice and drove in two runs, and Tejada hit a two-run homer off former Oriole Pat Hentgen for a 3-0 lead in the third. But the game lasted too long for the Orioles, and a bullpen finally withered.
"We had a shot," Mazzilli said. We just came up short."
Opponent: Toronto Blue Jays
Site: Camden Yards
Time: 1:35 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Blue Jays' Roy Halladay (1-3, 3.77) vs. Orioles' Sidney Ponson (2-0, 3.91)