Gibbons' strain adds injury to insult in O's loss

Angels 5 Orioles 2

Friday night's game

May 28, 2006|By JEFF ZREBIEC | JEFF ZREBIEC,SUN REPORTER

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Orioles right fielder Jay Gibbons lay on the ground deep in the right-field corner, as fireworks shot out from beyond the center-field wall at Angels Stadium.

Vladimir Guerrero's inside-the-park home run had just given the Los Angeles Angels a two-run eighth-inning lead, but the scene in right field made the score almost an afterthought. After a clearly hobbled Gibbons overthrew the cutoff man, he dropped to the ground.

And the player who has served as an inspiration to his teammates and coaches this week because of his insistence on playing while he grieves Tuesday's unexpected death of his mother, stayed there as head trainer Richie Bancells and manager Sam Perlozzo rushed out of the visiting dugout.

Gibbons' strained shoulder added to the pain of a 5-2 loss to the Angels Friday night.

Todd Williams (1-2) surrendered Guerrero's first inside-the-park home run, which also brought home Orlando Cabrera and gave the Angels a 4-2 lead. Guerrero sliced a shot down the right-field line that Gibbons dove to stop and slammed shoulder first into the wall in foul territory.

"I hit the wall really hard," said Gibbons, who also injured his left hip on the play. "I didn't realize there was so little foul territory and I didn't have time to brace myself. I didn't know where I was for a second."

Perlozzo lauded Gibbons for his effort.

"He hit the wall at full force. We'll have to wait to tomorrow to see how he feels," Perlozzo said. "He was trying to cut [the ball] off. He made a great effort trying to get it. We're all in this with him. We appreciate his effort in this tough time."

The Orioles threatened to take the lead in the top of the eighth when Ervin Santana opened the inning with walks to Brian Roberts and Melvin Mora.

But reliever Scot Shields came in and after Miguel Tejada's fielder's choice put runners on first and third with one out, Shields struck out Gibbons looking and catcher Ramon Hernandez swinging.

Held down by Santana for the first five innings, the Orioles tied the game at 2 in the sixth inning. They had only two hits all night before Roberts dumped a one-out double into left-center field. Mora ripped a single up the middle to score Roberts, and cut the Orioles' deficit to 2-1.

Santana balked and then threw a wild pitch, allowing Tejada to head to third with two outs. Gibbons then lined a single to tie the game.

Bruce Chen summoned all his pitching acumen to keep it that way for an inning. He desperately wanted to get out of the sixth inning Friday night if only because he had done it just once all season and that was on April 13.

There was a full count on catcher Mike Napoli and Chen wanted to avoid facing Dallas McPherson, who had already homered off him earlier, at all costs. Chen got Napoli to swing through a pitch, pumping his fist and hopping off the mound.

He allowed five hits, two walks and two earned runs while striking out six and retiring seven of the last eight Angels he faced after McPherson's third home run.

"We lost today, but I am encouraged by this outing," Chen said. "I was able to throw all my pitches for strikes and get ahead of counts. I am progressing."

Opponents entered Friday night hitting .358 off Chen, which would be the second highest mark in the American League if the Orioles starter had logged enough innings to qualify. Orioles pitching coach Leo Mazzone said a couple of days ago that Chen is having problems with his mechanics, which has made throwing strikes a struggle.

"He needs to pound the strike zone early in the count," Perlozzo said. "He needs to get ahead."

That's what Chen did last year, but his ability to keep hitters off-balance vanished some time after the Orioles left Fort Lauderdale. He did do enough to escape a jam in the first Friday night, getting Tim Salmon to fly out to Gibbons and strand two runners.

Angels second baseman Adam Kennedy led off the bottom of the third with a deep drive to right field. Gibbons leaped for it at the wall, but the ball hit his glove and rolled away. Kennedy wound up at third and then scored the game's first run on Chone Figgins' sacrifice fly.

Chen got out of the inning with only the one run, then surrendered a long home run to McPherson in the fourth.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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