O's whiff again vs. D. Rays for 5th loss in row

Bats stay quiet in 6-2 defeat at Tampa Bay

3-game sweep ends Orioles' 3-7 road trip

July 25, 2005|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- If their season ends a few games short of a playoff berth, the Orioles are likely to look back on the past three days with deep regret.

It was here under a big white dome, in a dark and drab stadium that houses perennially one of the worst teams in baseball, that the Orioles' 2005 season probably hit its lowest point.

Again unable to mount any offense against the league's worst pitching staff, the Orioles fell, 6-2, to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays yesterday for their fifth straight loss, and left Tropicana Field reeling from a three-game sweep.

"We'll get through this," Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said. "Nobody is going to jump off the ship here. We are going to fight our way through it and we're going to battle our [butts] off to get back to where we can be. We are too good of an offensive club not to be hitting, but right now we're struggling."

Their latest defeat went like so many of their previous losses on this road trip, which ended mercifully yesterday for the Orioles, who went 3-7 and have dropped 19 of their past 24 road games.

The Orioles (50-47) managed only four hits one day after collecting five. Yesterday, it was Casey Fossum who shut down the Orioles, allowing three hits over 6 1/3 innings to beat Orioles starter Erik Bedard.

In his second start since returning from the disabled list, Bedard allowed nine hits and three earned runs and lost for the first time since April 18.

The only positive emanating from yesterday is that Boston also lost, leaving the third-place Orioles 3 1/2 games behind in the American League East.

"We try not to think about [the offense's struggles], but it's always in the back of your mind," said Bedard (5-2), whose scoreless streak ended at 15 2/3 innings on Jorge Cantu's game-tying RBI double in the third inning. "You just try to put zeros up there so the offense can get back on track and get some runs."

Fossum, Scott Kazmir and Seth McClung, the three pitchers to beat the Orioles in this series, entered their starts with a combined 8-20 record, and the Devil Rays' team ERA remains the highest in the league.

But when everything was said and done at Tropicana Field, the Orioles scored just nine runs in the series. They managed six hits in their final 17 innings this weekend, continuing a slump that started in the first post-All-Star break series in Seattle.

Over the past eight games, the Orioles are batting .247 overall and .127 with runners in scoring position. They scored only 21 runs, an average of 2.6 a game, during that span.

"A slump is a slump," hitting coach Terry Crowley said. "If there was a quick fix, every hitting coach and manager would do it."

Help is on the way, but just how much help is still unknown. Phil Nevin spoke with the Orioles yesterday but had yet to decide if he would waive his no-trade clause and agree to a trade, which would send starter Sidney Ponson to San Diego.

Javy Lopez, however, will be back in the Orioles' lineup tonight, for the start of a four-game series with also-fading Texas. The Orioles were 22-31 without Lopez, who broke his right hand May 24, and hit .263 as a team. Before Lopez's injury, they were batting .290 and had a 28-16 mark.

The Orioles know they must find their way soon. Only 10 of the next 42 games come against below-.500 teams.

"The only thing you can control is just to keep playing and see what happens," Orioles third baseman Melvin Mora said. "Somebody is going to pay."

It certainly wasn't Fossum, who didn't allow an Oriole to touch second base aside from on home run trots by Sal Fasano and Sammy Sosa. Fasano lined a bases-empty shot in the third inning to give the Orioles a 1-0 lead and the catcher his career-high ninth homer.

In giving the Orioles a 2-1 lead in the fourth, Sosa hit a majestic shot to left field, his 11th of the season and the 585th of his career, moving one away from Frank Robinson for fifth on the all-time home run list.

But the Orioles got little else, striking out 11 times against four Tampa pitchers.

"[Fossum] did a good job," said second baseman Brian Roberts, who went 0-for-4 to yield the American League batting lead to Johnny Damon. "Everyone has done a great job lately."

The Devil Rays tied the game in the fourth when Bedard fielded a bunt and threw high and wide at first trying to get Alex Gonzalez. The ball bounced down the right-field line and Eduardo Perez scored all the way from first.

Toby Hall then singled in Gonzalez and the Orioles trailed 3-2. With the way the Orioles were hitting, another loss, and the end to a distressing road trip, was in sight

"They're still good hitters," Crowley said. "They're good people. They're trying hard. Maybe they're trying too hard. I know one thing, it will be good to get home."

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Texas Rangers

Site, time: Camden Yards, 7:05

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Rangers' Joaquin Benoit (1-1, 2.32) vs. Orioles' Daniel Cabrera (8-7, 4.64)

No Tropicana punch

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays entered this weekend's series at Tropicana Field with a league-worst 5.76 ERA, but they held the Orioles to nine runs and a .183 average (17-for-93) en route to a sweep. A game-by-game look at the Orioles' offense in the series:

Date AB H BB SO Res.

7/22 34 8 5 10 L, 7-5

7/23 29 5 3 9 L, 3-2

7/24 30 4 1 11 L, 6-2

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