Hardly hitting pretty, O's dealt ugly loss by A's

Gibbons after 4-1 defeat: `Our hitting is brutal'

August 27, 2005|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Batting helmets are flipped to the ground with disdain. Faces are twisted from the anguish of another failed at-bat and the prospect of another loss. It isn't supposed to be pretty.

The scenes keep unfolding at Camden Yards as if playing on one continuous loop, while the Orioles fight a collective slump that leaves more welts than wins.

Rookie Joe Blanton tossed six scoreless innings last night, scattering four hits and some protective head gear, and the Oakland Athletics held on for a 4-1 victory over the Orioles before 26,105.

Brian Roberts had the last of three straight singles off reliever Kiko Calero to open the seventh inning, scoring Eric Byrnes and preventing a shutout. Melvin Mora bunted into a force at third base, Miguel Tejada struck out on three pitches with runners on the corners, and Rafael Palmeiro grounded weakly to short.

Breaking out is hard to do.

"Our hitting is brutal right now," Jay Gibbons said. "We've been pitching pretty well, and we're not holding up our end of the bargain. We have no excuses."

Bobby Crosby hit a two-run homer off Bruce Chen in the eighth. The ball traveled 412 feet. Fans had a shorter trip to the exits.

They missed Tejada striking out again on three pitches while representing the tying run in the ninth.

"We had plenty of chances," interim manager Sam Perlozzo said. "In those situations, we're not swinging at our pitches."

Palmeiro flied out to end the game, leaving him 2-for-20 since returning from his suspension. "It seems like I've got a couple good at-bats and then a couple bad at-bats," he said.

Asked if he's putting pressure on himself to prove something to fans after the suspension, Palmeiro said, "Prove what? I've proved myself for 20 years. I don't have nothing else to prove on the field."

The Orioles (61-66) don't have the same luxury, not after going 14-26 since the All-Star break.

"It's not do-or-die," Perlozzo said, "but we have to win some games."

They also have to fight off the constant distractions. Players are injured, suspended, arrested. A manager gets fired. Players never know what's coming next.

"It's the news capital of the world," one coach said. "The center of the universe."

Not for the right reasons.

Pitcher Sidney Ponson's arrest early Thursday morning on charges of driving under the influence and driving while intoxicated was the latest blow to a team that must feel like it's about to cave.

"I'd like to see us win as many games as we can the rest of the year," Perlozzo said. "If I plan on being here, and we want to get some steppingstones done for this club to go into spring training with a little positive note, then I'd like to see us finish strong and start on something."

Sammy Sosa probably doesn't figure into next season's plans, and he missed last night's game because of a lesion beneath his right toenail. He visited team podiatrist Dr. Jay Lebow, who cleaned out the area.

Compared with the other issues hounding the club, Sosa's foot doesn't seem too important. The Orioles were in first place when he went on the disabled list May 5 and remained there during his three-week absence.

Now they'd be content to gain a few games on the Toronto Blue Jays and challenge for third place.

"The guys are pretty smart," Perlozzo said. "They know someone needs to come through one time to get us going, and they're just putting a lot of pressure on themselves."

The Orioles fell behind 1-0 in the first inning on Eric Chavez's sacrifice fly after Tejada's throwing error, leaving Chen (10-8) with an unearned run. They got a leadoff double from Roberts in the first, but Blanton (8-9) retired the next three hitters on ground balls. Javy Lopez and B.J. Surhoff singled in the second and were stranded.

"We need somebody to hit a ball in the gap when we have people on. Or a sacrifice fly would be a start," Perlozzo said. "It's frustrating for them. They can hit a lot better than they're hitting. But we're going to stay with them and hang tough."

Blanton hasn't lost since July 26, when the Athletics were shut out. He's allowed two runs or fewer in his past seven starts.

Winless in his first 10 starts this season, Blanton has posted a 0.95 ERA in six August starts that ranks as the lowest in the American League.

As if the Orioles needed a stiffer challenge when they came to the plate. They've totaled seven runs against starting pitchers in their past seven games.

On paper, the lineup looks good enough to bust out. "But that's on paper," Palmeiro said. "We don't play it on paper. That's the tough part."

Faced with a bases-loaded situation in the fourth, Blanton struck out Luis Matos to end the threat. Matos grimaced and shook his head. He looked like just about every other hitter in the lineup.

Orioles today

Opponent: Oakland Athletics

Site/Time: Camden Yards/4:35 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/1090 AM

Starters: Athletics' Joe Kennedy (6-8, 6.38) vs. Orioles' Eric DuBose (1-1, 6.75)

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