Orioles take wild walk on frustrating side, 10-3

A's turn 11 walks, 6-run seventh into another unsightly rout

August 29, 2005|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

Perhaps, the reality set in long ago and the Orioles simply weren't ready to admit that a once-promising 2005 season, one that saw them possess first place for 62 consecutive days, had gotten to this point.

But second baseman Brian Roberts became the first Oriole to voice the sentiment when, after Saturday's nine-run loss to the Oakland Athletics, he acknowledged that the Orioles are essentially playing for pride, not the playoffs.

That, as proved again yesterday, is not going well either. The 26,971 at Camden Yards spent another afternoon booing the home team, specifically its pitching staff, as the Orioles issued a season-high 11 walks and hit two batters, contributing to a lopsided - and at times, unsightly - 10-3 loss to the A's.

It was the Orioles' third straight defeat and their eighth in the past nine games and they are now 14-28 since the All-Star break. The Orioles (61-68) also set another season-high for games under .500.

"When the team is struggling, everything looks bad," said Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo, who appeared to have guided the Orioles out of their slump, but is now 10-12 since taking over for the fired Lee Mazzilli. "That's all there is to it."

With the victory coupled by the Los Angeles Angels' loss to Tampa Bay, the A's (73-56), who will go for the four-game sweep today, moved into first place in the American League West.

Meanwhile, it's becoming increasingly possible that the Orioles will have to battle to stay out of last place. The thought seemed comical even a few weeks ago, but their lead over the basement-dwelling but red-hot Devil Rays has shrunk to seven games. Twenty of the Orioles' remaining 33 games are against either the Devil Rays, New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox.

"I don't think I've ever seen it like there where you have a club going so well and then end up in this situation right now for the last couple of months," Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie said. "It's frustrating to watch and it's frustrating to go through as a player."

That statement was embodied in the body language of Orioles outfielder Eric Byrnes. After making the last out, Byrnes spun in the air and spiked his helmet violently off the dirt. He then kicked his helmet all the way back to the dugout.

"Obviously, it's a frustrating time," Byrnes said later in a classic understatement.

Imagine how the Orioles pitchers felt.

In the seventh inning alone, when the A's turned a one-run lead into a 9-2 bulge, Orioles pitchers allowed two hits and a sacrifice fly, walked four, including one that forced in a run, and hit a batter, which also brought in a run. Catcher Javy Lopez was credited with a passed ball that allowed a run to score and Melvin Mora committed a throwing error.

Jorge Julio started the six-run mess, which came on the heels of a seven-run inning by Oakland on Saturday. Julio allowed a hit and walked two and never did get an out.

"My mechanics today were no good," said Julio, who appeared to get slightly agitated when informed after the game that Perlozzo felt that he was throwing, rather than pitching.

Tim Byrdak, who admitted to Perlozzo later that he had a sore left shoulder that was affecting his command and will likely make him unavailable for about four days, came in and walked three, hit one and allowed a hit. He gave up three earned runs, while getting just one out.

"Today, I was embarrassed to be out there and pitch the way I did," said Byrdak, who said his arm has been bothering him since the Orioles' Aug. 20 loss to Cleveland, but didn't want to say anything because he knows he's auditioning for a spot on the roster next year.

"I'll never make excuses for myself. ... I told Sammy [Perlozzo] today that I feel like I can throw, but I can't pitch. If you are just throwing it over the plate, you are going to get hurt."

Put in an early hole as starter John Maine (1-1) allowed single runs in the second, third and fifth, the Orioles' offense didn't fare much better. They didn't manage a hit off Oakland starter Dan Haren (11-10) until Jay Gibbons doubled with two outs in the fifth inning. Mora and David Newhan each struck bases-empty homers in the sixth to cut the A's lead to 3-2.

Even with Mora's second homer in the ninth, the Orioles have scored four runs or fewer in 12 of their past 16 games.

"We need some guys to go ahead and swing the bat and start feeling good about themselves, otherwise, they are sitting there worried about themselves and not the team," Perlozzo said. "Then everything snowballs."

Perlozzo saw enough positive signs to suggest that the Orioles have plenty of fight left in them. He pointed to Miguel Tejada legging out an infield single with the Orioles down seven runs in the ninth inning. He pointed to Byrdak taking the ball despite an ailing arm and Mora's renewed power at the plate.

Asked if he was considering holding a meeting to try to light a fire under his players, Perlozzo said there was no need.

"If I thought going in there and yelling at these guys would make them get a hit, I wouldn't be able to talk to you right now," Perlozzo said. "These guys are not stupid in there. They are trying. They are putting pressure on themselves, but you have to get past the pressure and relax and play the game of baseball."

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