Outfielders' mix-up helps bump off Orioles, 5-1

Matos, Byrnes collide, setting up go-ahead run as Indians cap sweep

August 22, 2005|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND - It was supposed to be Eric Byrnes' fly ball. Or maybe it belonged to Luis Matos. Somebody needed to make the catch, and the failure to do so led to another defeat for the Orioles yesterday, one that completed a three-game sweep and raised more concerns about their susceptibility to August swoons.

With the score tied, Byrnes and Matos made contact while trying to grab Jhonny Peralta's drive to left-center field in the sixth inning. Matos was charged with an error for jarring the ball out of Byrnes' glove and putting Peralta on second base.

Hot teams reduce the importance of such a mistake, but the Orioles let it crush them. Travis Hafner singled off Bruce Chen to score Peralta with the go-ahead run, and the Cleveland Indians later built on their lead in a 5-1 victory at Jacobs Field.

After sweeping the Oakland Athletics, the Orioles (60-63) had to accept going 3-3 on the road trip and try to regroup in time for a seven-game homestand that begins tomorrow.

"We just happened to win the first three and lose the second three," Brian Roberts said. "If we go 2-1 on one of them and 1-2 on the next, and you win the last game, everybody leaves feeling a little different. That's the way you have to look at it."

It's hard to be positive when a team commits six errors in the past two games. When two wild pitches contribute to a three-run seventh inning. When an offense keeps shutting down.

"When you're not hitting, you've got to play good baseball," interim manager Sam Perlozzo said. "You can't afford to make many mistakes. We made a few today.

"I'm disappointed. I didn't expect to come in here and be swept, and hopefully the team didn't."

Nothing seemed right about the Orioles, including a lineup that had Miguel Tejada as the designated hitter for the first time in the majors.

"I don't know if I'm going to do it again in my career," said Tejada, who went 0-for-4 against starter C.C. Sabathia. "I just gave four at-bats away. It's tough for me."

Tejada suggested the change awhile ago, but Perlozzo had to wait for the right opportunity.

"He brought it up in the past, and it's a way to get him off his feet a little bit," Perlozzo said. "I wasn't sure I wanted to do it quite yet, but I thought about it when I got back [to the hotel] and couldn't sleep. I said, `You know, if I can't take care of Miguel, I can't take care of anybody.'"

Tejada, who last missed a game in May 2000, said he isn't tired, "but one day at DH will help me think about hitting."

Every Oriole should concentrate on it.

The team averaged two runs and five hits in the series. Sabathia (10-9) controlled the Orioles for eight innings, allowing three hits and Roberts' run-scoring grounder.

"I don't know if I've ever seen the kid pitch bad," Perlozzo said. "I'd like to see him pitch bad one time."

The Orioles still had a chance to win as they entered the sixth. Peralta sent his fly ball into the gap and Byrnes called for it early. Matos extended his arm and shouted to Byrnes, who never heard him.

Byrnes reached in front of Matos' glove and had possession for a brief instant before they collided. The ball fell to the ground, Peralta cruised into second and Perlozzo turned his back and left the dugout steps.

"That can't happen either," Perlozzo said.

Matos was the last player to yell, but Byrnes already had committed to it.

"I called for it a couple times, and at the last second I heard him," Byrnes said. "It's tough to get out of the way, but that's my job. Pretty much I [messed] it up."

Said Matos, whose base-running mistake in the third led to an out: "I called it, but it was loud. He told me he didn't hear it until the last second. That happens. But that was the key of the game. If we caught that ball, you never know. The game's still tied, and we're still playing."

Hafner's single produced a 2-1 lead and drove Chen (10-7) from the game. Chen allowed four hits and one earned run while losing for the first time since July 22.

He was forgiving of the mix-up between Byrnes and Matos. "It was a tough play, windy, and two guys with good range tried to go for the ball," he said.

Hafner added a two-run double in the seventh after reliever Tim Byrdak bounced two breaking balls in the dirt, the first wild pitch coming on a strikeout.

The Orioles' bench coach when they lost 16 of 20 games to end August 2003 and 12 in a row in August 2004, Perlozzo is trying to avoid another crash.

"This team has a history of long losing streaks, and we're certainly going to try to prevent that," he said. "The first thing you do is try to keep the guys up and playing hard. I think I can do that. The rest is going to depend on how well we pitch and hit."

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