Jays chase skidding O's out of town, 8-5

Last-place Toronto caps sweep

Orioles finish 0-6 on homestand

August 23, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

With their losing streak at six games yesterday, the Orioles maintained an air of calm as they dressed for the charter flight to Oakland that begins a two-week exile from their home ballpark. But even in their finest clothing, the indignity of being swept by a last-place team still seeped into their pores.

Scoring twice in the ninth inning and loading the bases with two outs patched a few wounds to their collective pride, though it only delayed an 8-5 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays before 44,482 at Camden Yards. And it didn't change the direction their season is headed as the club moves West.

Alexis Rios charged a sinking liner from Jay Gibbons and made a lunging catch in right field to end the game, giving the Jays three straight road wins for the first time since April.

"I thought it was down for sure," Gibbons said. "I didn't think he'd dive for it because if he misses it, it's tied. I know it's tough to see out there. He just made a hell of a catch."

Miguel Tejada homered, had three doubles and drove in all five runs, giving him 113 RBIs on the season to move past St. Louis' Scott Rolen for the major league lead. The Orioles' bullpen, including Friday's starter, Dave Borkowski, held the Blue Jays to one run over the last 6 1/3 innings.

So much for the highlights.

Erik Bedard (5-8) surrendered two home runs and turned in his shortest outing this season, the second time that's happened to an Orioles starter in two days. The Blue Jays led 7-1 with two outs in the third inning before manager Lee Mazzilli called upon another rookie, Eddy Rodriguez, who hit Carlos Delgado with the bases loaded in the fourth.

Was there a more appropriate way to conclude a homestand in which the Orioles were swept twice and outscored 51-18? The Blue Jays outscored them 32-13 -- the second-highest run total in a three-game series in Toronto's history.

"We never quit fighting. That's one thing this team never does," Brian Roberts said. "But sometimes you run out of gas."

At 57-65, the Orioles have the same record after 122 games as last season, when they lost twice more to run their streak to eight.

Now the fun begins.

The next 14 days will be spent on the road, with 10 games against teams either in first place or tied for the wild-card lead before yesterday.

"We've got a tough trip ahead of us, no question," Mazzilli said.

As first base coach of the New York Yankees the past four years, Mazzilli has been on the other side of these August beatings. Those teams showed no mercy. Those teams came hard after the Orioles, who would like to become the aggressors.

"We have to reverse that," Mazzilli said. "But you're not going to do anything different than you do all year to win games."

Except compensate for injuries to starting outfielders Larry Bigbie and Jerry Hairston -- losses that Mazzilli leans on like a fence post.

"You've seen what happens when you get banged up," he said.

The Orioles have seen how brutally cold this month can be. Players vowed that 2004 would bring changes. So far, it hasn't.

"This is still a different team," Gibbons insisted. "A week and a half ago, we were the hottest team in baseball."

Bedard lasted only 2 2/3 innings, surpassing Daniel Cabrera's output from Saturday by one-third. Mazzilli took the ball from him in silence.

"He was behind hitters again," Mazzilli said.

Eric Hinske became the third player this season to reach Eutaw Street with a homer, his second three-run shot of the series giving Toronto a 3-1 lead in the second inning. Vernon Wells added a two-run blast in the third and Chris Woodward grounded a two-run single.

Bedard struck out Wells with a curveball in the first inning, but Hinske launched the same pitch 385 feet with the count full.

"You get ahead of a hitter 0-2 and you get to 3-2 and he hits a home run, that's no good," Mazzilli said. "You can't do it in this league. You've got to put guys away early."

Orioles starters posted an 18.62 ERA in 9 2/3 innings this series. None went more than six innings on the homestand.

"You can't use five pitchers all the time," Mazzilli said. "It's too taxing for the bullpen."

Having gone 10-for-30 in eight games before the homestand, Rafael Palmeiro was 2-for-23 against Oakland and Toronto. He has one RBI in his past 15 games.

He's also short of reasons why the Orioles have lost six straight after winning 11 of 13.

"We had a lot of momentum," he said. "We never saw this coming."

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