O's drop ball in 15-3 loss to Jays

Bigbie mix-up on 1st play sets tone, draws Mazzilli chat

Ponson is pounded

April 26, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

With 145 games left in the season, Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli has plenty of chances to gather his players after a loss and give a speech, his words either soothing some hurt feelings or peeling paint off the clubhouse walls. Tantrums can be unleashed at his discretion. And the same hand he uses to guide an entire team can point out a guilty party.

Yesterday's 15-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays didn't initiate a group scolding, though culprits weren't hard to find. But Mazzilli was irritated enough to meet one-on-one with outfielder Larry Bigbie after a miscommunication in the first inning set the tone for an ugly defeat.

And he didn't wait until the last out.

The discussion took place in the Orioles' dugout, and it shed some light on a first-time manager who hasn't been in charge long enough to develop a reputation or a pattern for dealing with adversity. He addressed the problem immediately, then was ready to turn the page and look forward to tonight's chance at redemption.

Bigbie failed to call off shortstop Miguel Tejada after leadoff hitter Howie Clark lifted a fly ball into left field. Tejada raced back, waiting for Bigbie to take charge, before twisting around and seeing the ball deflect off his glove for an error.

It was only one glitch, but it defined an entire game. By the time starter Sidney Ponson (2-1) got the last out of the inning, the Orioles had committed another error, failed to turn a double play and fallen behind 2-0. By the time Toronto reliever Micheal Nakamura struck out the side in the ninth, the Blue Jays had a season-high 17 hits and their first two-game winning streak.

"That was inexcusable, that dropped fly ball to start the game. That can't happen," Mazzilli said.

"The outfielder's got to be in charge of that. You've got a play that's in front of you and you've got a chance to get underneath it, you've got to take the ball. That cannot happen. That's a mental error, and it can change a lot of things. And I told him. I said it can't happen again."

Bigbie wasn't ducking responsibility. Given another opportunity, he would have been more aggressive rather than deferring to Tejada. And just maybe, 31,028 fans at Camden Yards wouldn't have been exposed to such a one-sided loss.

"I thought it was going to stay in the infield, and the wind brought it back a little bit," Bigbie said. "I should have come in and taken charge. It's definitely my fault. I knew it before [Mazzilli] said anything. It's one of those plays that happens during the year. It's something you have to learn from."

"I dropped it. I got the error," Tejada said. "Bigbie might not have seen the ball because it was a little bit dark. I'm not blaming anybody. But I think on another day, I could have gotten to that ball."

The next batter, Frank Catalanotto, blooped a single into left. Vernon Wells grounded to Tejada, who couldn't get the ball out of his glove on the first attempt and settled for the force at second base. After Carlos Delgado struck out, Melvin Mora booted a slow roller from Josh Phelps for his eighth error - most in the majors - as Catalanotto scored.

Eric Hinske followed with another bloop single, and the Blue Jays led 2-0 for Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay (2-3). Ponson probably would have been out of the inning without any damage if Bigbie made the catch or Tejada started a double play or Mora picked up the ball with his bare hand instead of swiping at it with his glove. And if Toronto's hitters weren't so adept at finding open territory in the outfield.

"After that inning," Tejada said, "everybody could see everything going in the wrong direction."

Wells lined a two-strike pitch into left field in the second to score two runs. Ponson also got two strikes on Delgado, but he singled for a 5-1 lead.

Coming off an 88-pitch gem in his last start against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Ponson gave up nine runs (seven earned) and 10 hits in 5 1/3 innings. Reliever John Parrish allowed two runs in two innings, and Mike DeJean was charged with four in one-third of an inning. In the process, the bullpen's ERA increased from 1.89 to 2.67.

"I threw some good pitches and they got base hits, and I threw some bad pitches and they hit them pretty hard," Ponson said. "It's kind of a bad combo. I had no chance today."

Ponson said he didn't lose concentration after the mistakes in the first inning. "The bottom line is I didn't make pitches," he said.

The Blue Jays were thrown out for the cycle, with runners cut down at home, third, second and first. Perhaps they felt a little rambunctious after three weeks of offensive futility. No one could hold them down except the players in their own dugout.

They batted around in the eighth while scoring six runs, giving them 15 on the afternoon - or two more than they totaled in their first five games against the Orioles this season. Toronto ranked next to last in the league in hitting before yesterday.

The Orioles chose Little League Day to turn in probably their worst performance, rivaling the Easter loss to Tampa Bay. Kids paraded around the field in their baseball uniforms before the game. Hopefully, their eyes were covered once it started.

"You get a few like that," Mazzilli said. "It was just an ugly game. Ugly."

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