Left-hand turn steers losing

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

Baffled O's are 1-9 in games started by lefties

Chen falters in relief, too

May 08, 2006|By JEFF ZREBIEC | JEFF ZREBIEC,SUN REPORTER

BOSTON -- To a man, the Orioles aren't sure why they have had so many problems against left-handed starters, but third baseman Melvin Mora wants one thing to be clear. It's not one of those baseball anomalies chalked up to the relative newness of the season.

"It's not a coincidence," Mora said after the Orioles were beaten, 10-3, yesterday by Boston Red Sox left-hander Lenny DiNardo. "There's not any excuses. We need to find a way to beat a lefty. I was talking to [Miguel Tejada]. Maybe [we need to] try to get another lefty to throw batting practice, I don't know. We need to figure it out. If you look at our numbers, all the lefties have thrown good [against us]."

The Orioles have lost to lefties Randy Johnson and Jamie Moyer, two pitchers who each have more than 200 major league wins. But they've also been shut down by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' Mark Hendrickson, the Texas Rangers' John Koronka and Boston's DiNardo.

DiNardo, who held the Orioles to two hits and one earned run through five innings to get his first major league win, became the ninth lefty to beat the Orioles this season. They are 1-9 in games started by opposing lefties this season, failing to beat a southpaw since Tampa Bay starter Scott Kazmir on Opening Day.

Against right-handed pitchers, the Orioles are batting .287. Against lefties, they are hitting an American League-worst .200.

"Every team goes through that," designated hitter-first baseman Kevin Millar said. "We went through it [in Boston]. You run into some, and then all of a sudden, we'll hit about .900 against left-handers. It's just one of those things. Early in the season, it's a little more magnified."

Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo doesn't know what to make of the stat.

"I don't understand why we don't hit left-handers better," Perlozzo said. "We should. We're built to hit them, I think. I was kind of hoping that it is an early season funk-type thing, that we'll break out of it."

They'll get more chances this week. Detroit will send out two lefties in the three-game series at Camden Yards: Nate Robertson tomorrow and Kenny Rogers on Thursday.

Little relief for Chen

His scheduled start on Wednesday skipped because of his ineffectiveness, left-hander Bruce Chen pitched an inning of relief yesterday and encountered many of the same problems he has had during his starts.

Chen (0-4) allowed two hits, two walks and one earned run, his ERA expanding to 8.42. He is still expected to start Saturday against the Kansas City Royals.

"I didn't think he was great, but he battled," Perlozzo said. "He got out of a jam that he could've let get away from him. At least we got him in there again. He minimized the damage, and hopefully that will be a step for him."

Birkins impresses

The Orioles weren't sure what they were getting when they purchased the contract of 25-year-old left-hander Kurt Birkins last week. But after two appearances in mostly mop-up duty, Perlozzo said that he's seen enough to possibly entrust Birkins with a larger role.

"It's like we said before, the better you do, the more responsibility you get," Perlozzo said. "The biggest thing we need to find out with him is how fast he can bounce back, because he basically was a starter."

Birkins has struck out five in 4 1/3 innings and given up no runs on two hits and three walks. He opened some eyes Saturday when he struck out David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez swinging in consecutive at-bats.

Around the horn

Perlozzo gave Brandon Fahey the day off against a lefty, and inserted Luis Matos into the leadoff role. Matos, who went 0-for-5 and is now hitless in his past 17 at-bats, is the sixth player Perlozzo has used in that role this season. ... Tejada was 2-for-21 on the road trip.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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