White Sox finish off sinking Orioles

Chicago takes 6-3 win for four-game sweep

O's have dropped 14 of past 16

Team gets Palmeiro news after 1-7 homestand ends

August 02, 2005|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

By then, it all seemed so insignificant: Another game in which they couldn't get enough clutch hits; another outing mixed with wildness and brilliance from starter Daniel Cabrera; another shoddy performance from reliever Jorge Julio; and another deflating defeat, their 14th in the past 16 games.

When the Orioles retreated to their clubhouse yesterday afternoon at Camden Yards after a 6-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox, who swept the Orioles in Baltimore for the first time since 1954, they were quickly informed that their situation was actually even bleaker.

Rafael Palmeiro, their 40-year-old first baseman whose bat had become one of the lone bright spots on a team that is sinking further and further every day, had been suspended for 10 days for violation of baseball's steroid policy.

"I think the guys were taken back by [the news]," said Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli, who read the team a statement from Palmeiro after the game, though he said its contents would stay inside the clubhouse. "They were saddened, and a little disappointed on what happened. The guys kind of all together wanted to give the support for Raffy."

By the time the media arrived after a near 20-minute news conference with Mazzilli and team executives Mike Flanagan and Jim Beattie, the clubhouse was nearly barren of players.

B.J. Surhoff was one of the few Orioles still at his locker, though the media was asked to focus questions only on yesterday's game.

"We've played without a number of guys so far this season, but everybody goes through that," said Surhoff, who had three hits yesterday and was also hit by a pitch that triggered the ejection of White Sox starter Mark Buehrle.

"We just have to play. We have to fill in. This could be an opportunity for somebody else to get their foot in the door."

Who that may be was not exactly known as of last night, but Mazzilli does have options. Surhoff, Chris Gomez and Jay Gibbons have all played at first base this season.

Walter Young, a power-hitting first baseman, is having a good season at Triple-A Ottawa, and the Orioles are allowed to add a 25th player to the roster while Palmeiro serves his suspension. However, they also may be tempted to use that spot to bolster a bullpen that Mazzilli admitted is running on fumes.

And while the non-waiver trade deadline ended on Sunday, the Orioles still could make a deal, but any players involved would have to pass through waivers.

"Can a trade energize a team? Yeah, I think it can," Surhoff said. "But if you are just banking on the front office to do everything for you, you shouldn't be playing. We have to take care of ourselves. All of us in this clubhouse have to play a little bit better than we've been playing if we want any chance to win."

After the game, the Orioles left for Anaheim Calif., the first of two stops on a six-game road trip.

That the Orioles (51-54), who have lost 19 of their past 25 road games, were in a hurry to get out of town says plenty about the current state of the team. On their homestand, which ended yesterday with a sixth straight loss, the Orioles went 1-7 and are 4-14 since the All-Star break.

An offense that has scored three runs or fewer in 11 of the past 16 games was outscored 52-31 and left 77 runners on base on the homestand. A starting rotation that has been riddled by aches and pains compiled a 7.31 ERA and got only two starters out of eight to pitch more than five innings. Overall, Orioles starters haven't earned a win since July 15.

"If you watched us the last few weeks, we've not hit when we're supposed to hit," Mazzilli said. "We've been banged up a little bit. It's just taken a little toll on us."

Asked if there were any positives for his club, all a downtrodden Mazzilli could muster was, "Tomorrow," he said. "What's the recourse you have?"

Cabrera, who started two days earlier and didn't get out of the second inning after getting hit by a line drive, allowed three runs and walked three in 6 1/3 innings yesterday, but threw a wild pitch that led to a first-inning run, and hit a batter that led to a sixth-inning run, breaking a 1-1 tie.

The White Sox (69-35) scored three runs in the eighth as Julio allowed a bases-empty homer to A.J. Pierzynski and Pablo Ozuna hit a two-run double off Jason Grimsley.

"We just have to play better," Surhoff said. "The team we just played, they do everything right to get a win. We just have to [do] a little more of those things at the right time and at the right place."

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