Twins rally by Ryan in 9th, 4-3

Closer blows 2nd save in row as hosts score 2 with 2 outs

9 walks, lack of clutch hitting foil O's

`We gave it away'

Cabrera leaves in 6th with 2-1 lead

July 20, 2005|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

MINNEAPOLIS - The Orioles' clubhouse was as quiet as it has been all season after a game. In the middle of it sat the team's All-Star closer, who slumped dejectedly in a chair in front of his locker, his eyes fixated on the ground.

B.J. Ryan blew his second save in as many nights, allowing two runs in the ninth, the final one coming on Jacque Jones' infield single, as the Minnesota Twins beat the Orioles, 4-3, last night at the Metrodome.

"It was just a tough way to lose the game," said Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli.

A victory would have sent the Orioles (50-43) back into a first-place tie with the Boston Red Sox in the American League East, but they squandered the opportunity because of a series of ninth-inning mishaps. The Orioles are now in third place, a half game behind the New York Yankees.

"If we are going to stay in this thing, we have to put these games away," said first baseman Rafael Palmeiro. "This is a game we had to have. We had it, but we gave it away."

With the Orioles leading 3-2 after Brian Roberts' sacrifice fly in the top of the ninth, Ryan came on and got two outs around a walk to Joe Mauer. The Twins catcher then stole second and advanced to third on Eli Whiteside's errant throw into center field. Whiteside had entered the game in the ninth when Mazzilli lifted Sal Fasano for a pinch hitter.

On Ryan's first pitch to Matthew LeCroy, his low slider got away from Whiteside and went to the backstop. Whiteside hustled back to retrieve the ball but was unable to throw out Mauer at the plate.

Ryan walked LeCroy for the Orioles' ninth of the game and when Torii Hunter singled through the hole at second base, Michael Ryan, who pinch ran for LeCroy, advanced to third. After Hunter stole second, Jones took Ryan's offering up the middle and shortstop Miguel Tejada ranged to his left, picked up the ball and fired to first, but Palmeiro couldn't scoop the throw off the Metrodome turf.

"It was just a tough play, a tough hop," said Palmeiro.

Their seventh straight one-run game, the Twins rushed out of the dugout and mobbed Jones, while Ryan walked off the field.

"The guys battle back and give you a chance and I just let down our team," said Ryan, who now has five blown saves in 26 chances. "I didn't do my job tonight. That's all I can say."

The Orioles had 13 hits, but were also 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position, managing just an infield first-inning RBI single by Tejada and Luis Matos' fourth-inning sacrifice fly. They are 3-for-37 in the past four games with runners in scoring position.

They had plenty of chances to tack onto an early 2-0 lead, but ultimately needed Roberts' clutch at-bat in the ninth to take a 3-2 lead. Matos had started the top of the ninth with a single off Jesse Crain (9-1) and moved to second when Larry Bigbie came off the bench to lay down a sacrifice bunt.

Matos advanced to third on Mauer's passed ball and with two strikes, Roberts drove a ball deep to right field to score Matos.

Starter Daniel Cabrera left the game in a tenuous spot in the sixth, the Orioles nursing a 2-1 lead, but the run-starved Twins having a base runner on third and one out. Cabrera, who shut out the Twins through eight dominant innings more than two months ago, appeared to tire, finally succumbing to his game-long battle with his control.

The right-hander, who had allowed just three earned runs over his previous 20 innings, struck out seven Twins, but those were offset by his four walks. He had thrown 106 pitches when Mazzilli walked out to the mound and took the ball from his starter, handing it to much-maligned Steve Kline.

The lefty, who just a day earlier had turned down the club's request to go down to the minor leagues, did what he hadn't been doing and got a left-handed hitter out. Lefties were hitting .349 against him entering last night, but he got Justin Morneau on a shallow pop to Sammy Sosa in right field, leaving Jones, who had led off the sixth with a double off Cabrera, standing at third.

It was temporary. Nick Punto went down and lined Kline's first offering into center field and the game was tied at 2.

At one point last night, the Orioles appeared to be ready to send Minnesota starter Kyle Lohse to an early shower, but again their lack of clutch hitting reared its ugly head.

Roberts led off the game with a double down the left-field line, and he moved to third on a Melvin Mora groundout. Moments earlier, Mora had given the Orioles a scare, hurting his right hand while trying to lay down a bunt.

Mazzilli came out and argued unsuccessfully that Mora should have been awarded first for a hit-by-pitch, while trainer Richie Bancells tended to Mora, who opted to stay in the game.

Tejada followed with a sharply hit infield single that scored Roberts and gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead. It could have - perhaps should have -been much worse. Palmeiro singled, his 3,008th career hit. That moved him past Al Kaline into sole possession of 24th place on baseball's all-time hit list.

Continuing to show signs of breaking out of his season-long slump, Sammy Sosa singled, loading the bases with one out. But Lohse got out of it on just one pitch, getting B.J. Surhoff to ground into an inning-ending double play.

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