Orioles squander chances, fall in 13

Indians' maligned 'pen comes through

O's lose for 5th time in 7 games, 3-2

May 02, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND - The booing becomes louder at Jacobs Field each time another Cleveland Indians reliever falls behind in the count. No sense waiting for the inevitable runs to score. A pitcher stands in the bullpen, removes his jacket and puts a crowd on edge. And it usually gets worse.

So why were the Indians spilling out of their dugout yesterday in the 13th inning, gathering at home plate to begin a celebration that didn't seem possible? And why were the Orioles eating their meal in silence, as if trying to make sense of it all?

For one day, the baseball world spun in the other direction.

Unable to score after putting runners on base the last four innings, the Orioles lost to the Indians, 3-2, in the 13th when Coco Crisp grounded a single into right field off Mike DeJean.

Crisp, who pinch-ran in the 11th, ended a streak of seven scoreless innings by the Orioles' bullpen after starter Erik Bedard left the game. Crisp's opportunity came after Matt Lawton singled and was sacrificed to second. And after Lou Merloni was walked intentionally to set up a double play that didn't materialize.

As Lawton's foot touched the plate, the Indians were assured of winning their first series of the year - an accomplishment made possible because the Orioles left the bases loaded in the 11th and Miguel Tejada was thrown out trying to score in the 13th.

"We had chances left and right and didn't get it done," manager Lee Mazzilli said. "Bases loaded, one out, and we don't get it done. We've got first and third, one out, and we don't get it done. There are only so many times you can do it."

After losing for the fifth time in seven games, the Orioles (12-10) are just percentage points ahead of the Yankees, winners of five in a row, for second place in the American League East.

"There's a lull right now," DeJean said, "but we'll be all right."

Merloni was 2-for-4 with a walk when Mazzilli chose to put him on base. Crisp, a switch-hitter, was batting .211 in 19 games, though his average jumped to .273 vs. right-handers.

"If you pitch to [Merloni], you've still got two switch-hitters coming up," said Mazzilli, who had left-hander Buddy Groom ready in the bullpen. "You set up the double play, but it didn't work out."

Orioles relievers ranked second in the league with a 3.01 ERA before yesterday, holding opponents to a .218 average. The Indians were last with eight losses and a 7.46 ERA, and teams were hitting .318 against them.

"I'm comfortable with everyone who comes out of the gate for us," catcher Keith Osik said.

True to form, Indians right-hander Rick White gave up the tying run in the eighth after replacing C.C. Sabathia, who limited the Orioles to Melvin Mora's bases-empty homer in the sixth and led 2-1. Recovered from a biceps injury that cost him two weeks, Sabathia reached his pitch count of 85 and left manager Eric Wedge with no choice except to trust the bullpen.

Mora singled off White to score McDonald, but the last four relievers held up under enormous pressure.

Osik lined into a double play to end the 10th. The Orioles loaded the bases in the 11th before Luis Matos grounded into a force at home and Jay Gibbons struck out. And one-out singles by Tejada and Rafael Palmeiro in the 13th produced nothing, with Alex Escobar catching Matos' fly ball in shallow center field and nailing Tejada at the plate.

"We're all not getting the job done," Mazzilli said.

Rodrigo Lopez tossed 3 1/3 scoreless innings after replacing Bedard. B.J. Ryan went 1 2/3 innings, and DeJean (0-2) was working on his third when Crisp settled the issue.

"He hit the ball on the ground. That's how you can tell when I'm starting to throw the ball where it's supposed to be. It just wasn't at anybody," DeJean said.

"I kind of won and I lost. That's what I was looking for, but it found a hole. He's a big league hitter. He's supposed to hit the ball where they can't catch it."

DeJean lowered his ERA from 9.45 to 8.00 but became the Orioles' first reliever to lose twice this season.

"I'm the one scuffling in the bullpen but that doesn't mean my confidence is down," he said. "I can get anybody out. There's no doubt in my mind. I'm going to come back tomorrow expecting to take the baseball and get people out. I'm not going to come back down. I might come back a little sore, but I won't be down."

More than a season is getting shorter for Mazzilli. His bench is shrinking.

Left fielder Larry Bigbie was scratched because of neck stiffness, putting B.J. Surhoff in the starting lineup and temporarily leaving Mazzilli with two reserves: infielders Luis Lopez and Jose Bautista. Javy Lopez couldn't play because of a strained oblique muscle in his right side, and he might sit out today's series finale.

With the Orioles down to one catcher, Mazzilli couldn't pinch-hit for Osik in the late innings. He couldn't use Bigbie until the 10th. For much of the game, he managed with his hands tied.

"I didn't have a bench. I couldn't make any moves," he said. "We were very limited, but you have to go with what you have."

"We were battling," Osik said. "We just came up on the short end."

Against a team that isn't supposed to win games like this.

"Maz has told us from the start, you can't take anybody light," DeJean said. "No matter who it is."

Orioles today

Opponent: Cleveland Indians

Site: Jacobs Field, Cleveland

Time: 1:05 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Matt Riley (1-1, 5.66) vs. Indians' Jake Westbrook (1-1, 1.69)

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