O's stay on bumpy trail, 12-3

Early errors, Lopez put O's in familiar hole

Yanks roll

6-0 deficits mark past 3 losses

5 unearned runs unhinge Lopez as third place looms

July 06, 2005|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - Unable to tolerate another error yesterday, the count rising to three in the first three innings, Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli gathered his players on the mound at Yankee Stadium for an impromptu group therapy session. All four infielders attended it, as did the starting pitcher and catcher. It seemed like the right time for them to get in touch with his feelings.

"He told us to keep our heads up, to keep plugging," second baseman Brian Roberts said. "You just can't overcome mistake after mistake after mistake against a good team. They should bury you. That's what we would want to do."

Analyze this: The Orioles have dropped 11 of their past 13 games, the latest indiscretion a 12-3 loss to the New York Yankees that included five unearned runs charged to Rodrigo Lopez in the third inning. They're only five games above .500, their lowest margin since April 24, and a half game ahead of the third-place Yankees.

The rotation remains in tatters, with Lopez (7-5) doing his share of the damage. Orioles starters have combined for 5 2/3 innings over the past three games, frying the bullpen in the process.

Maybe that's the smell coming from this club. It sure isn't victory.

"It's a long season," Mazzilli said. "You've got to grind, you've got to keep going, you've got to keep fighting every day."

This would be a good time for the Orioles to start defending themselves. They've got four games at home against the Boston Red Sox, beginning tomorrow, before the All-Star break. Once obvious buyers in the market as the non-waiver trade deadline approached, they're trying to maintain the look of contenders while teams bloody their noses.

"I think we're aware of where we're at, what we want to do," Mazzilli said.

Sidney Ponson, who turned in 1 1/3 innings against Cleveland on Sunday, offered to become a reliever yesterday. Mazzilli appreciated the gesture, sensing the club's desperation, but he declined.

"We can pitch," said James Baldwin, who allowed a two-run homer to Hideki Matsui in the sixth. "But there will be days like this."

Lopez has lost three straight starts, none as brutally as this one. He allowed 10 runs, though only five earned, and 11 hits in three-plus innings. He faced four batters in the fourth without recording an out, the last two slugging home runs to give the Yankees a 10-0 lead.

"Knowing him and the state of the 'pen today, I think he was trying to be really perfect," Mazzilli said.

His fielders didn't come close. Third baseman Melvin Mora committed two errors, the second on a botched rundown in the third inning after Robinson Cano's grounder scooted through first baseman Chris Gomez's legs.

Mora fielded Gary Sheffield's grounder and fired the ball to catcher Sal Fasano, trying to nail Derek Jeter at the plate. Jeter retreated to third, and Fasano's return throw nicked Mora's glove and bounced to Miguel Tejada, who hit Jeter on the leg as the Yankees' shortstop raced home. That's when Mazzilli pulled his team together for another pep talk. He has become part manager, part Dr. Phil.

"I told them, `Stay positive. You can't just let the game go like this. Let's bear down, stay in the game. Whatever happened, you can't bring it back.'"

It was a nice message that didn't bring the desired result. The Yankees scored four runs after the error, marking the third straight game that the Orioles have fallen behind 6-0. Sheffield hit a three-run homer in the fourth and Alex Rodriguez followed with a bases-empty shot.

"I made a lot of mistakes and wrong decisions," said Lopez, working on three days' rest for the first time. "With these guys, you've got to concentrate more on hitting your spots and staying away from their power."

Lopez became so frustrated after Sheffield's homer, he swiped at the ball tossed to him by plate umpire Tim Timmons and accidentally swatted it to the ground. Timmons gave him a new one, and Rodriguez lost it in the center-field seats.

"We didn't really help his cause, and then the wheels fell off," Fasano said. "I think he started to press once we made a few mistakes."

Randy Johnson (8-6) retired the first 12 batters before Tejada reached on an infield single in the fifth. Luis Matos did the same with two outs, and Gomez hit a two-run homer in the sixth.

The Orioles' other run came on Eli Marrero's sacrifice fly in the ninth off Buddy Groom. Sammy Sosa broke an 0-for-20 slump with an infield single in the sixth, and he doubled in the ninth - encouraging nuggets that didn't prevent the club's seventh straight road loss, and 12th in 14 road games.

"We're going through a little bit of a funk right now," Baldwin said. "The guys aren't pressing. We're going to be fine. We've got to take the day off [today], clear our minds and get ready for Boston."

Injury breakdown

A chronology of key Orioles injuries this season:

May 10: OF Sammy Sosa placed on DL retroactive to May 5 with abscess and staph infection on left foot. Activated May 24. Orioles' record without him: 9-7.

May 11: OF Luis Matos placed on DL with fracture of right ring finger. Activated after game June 18. Orioles' record without him: 19-16.

May 25: C Javy Lopez placed on DL with broken right hand. Orioles' record without him: 16-23.

May 26: P Erik Bedard placed on DL with strained medial collateral ligament in left knee. Orioles' record without him: 15-23.

May 28: OF Larry Bigbie placed on DL with strained left hamstring. Activated June 13. Orioles' record without him: 6-10.

June 21: 3B Melvin Mora strains right hamstring in Toronto, returns July 3. Orioles' record without him: 2-8.

June 22: OF B.J. Surhoff placed on DL retroactive to June 20 with injured left rib-cage muscle. Orioles' record without him: 3-12.

July 3: C Geronimo Gil placed on DL with sprained left thumb. Orioles' record without him: 0-3.

Orioles by the numbers

Through June 21 After

Wins - Losses 42-28 2-11

Winning Percentage .600 .154

Batting Average .285 .238

Runs Per Game 5.3 3.5

ERA 4.17 6.24

Hits Allowed per 9 Innings 8.7 11.8

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