Toronto -- In fairness to Adam Loewen, he hasn't exactly enjoyed a semi-charmed baseball life in his first three weeks as a major leaguer.
In his first start, he opposed Randy Johnson and the New York Yankees. Roy Halladay and the Toronto Blue Jays were his next two matchups, and the 22-year-old is tentatively scheduled to go up against another likely future Hall of Famer, New York Mets left-hander Tom Glavine, on Sunday.
Loewen, of course, would have to remain in the Orioles' rotation, which now appears to be anything but a sure thing. The rookie's performance in the Orioles' 7-1 loss to Halladay and the Blue Jays before 20,766 last night at the Rogers Centre left plenty of doubts, but it wasn't even manager Sam Perlozzo's chief concern after the game.
Hobbled by a slight tear of the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, Jay Gibbons, in just his second game back from the disabled list, was forced to leave the game after his at-bat in the third inning and will again return to the disabled list. The Orioles didn't announce a corresponding roster move last night.
"It's very frustrating." said Gibbons, who hurt his knee attempting to tag up from second in the second inning last night. "I feel great hitting, but you can't play this game at 70 percent. I am getting to learn that. It's stating the obvious that I really need to get this thing better."
Gibbons said the likely plan is to stay off the leg for about two weeks. "There's no sense rushing it." he said. "I've already done that and you saw what happened."
Gibbons had one of the Orioles' six hits off Halladay (8-1), who pitched his third complete game, allowing only a third-inning home run to Miguel Tejada.
"Nothing was straight." said Orioles center fielder Corey Patterson, who had two of the other hits off Halladay. "His fastball was either cutting in or going out. Tonight, you had a better chance of hitting something off-speed because his fastball never was straight."
Loewen allowed four runs in the first two innings, but two of those runs were unearned and he was just one pitch from getting out of a bases-loaded jam. He then retired 11 straight Blue Jays and got into the sixth inning before faltering again.
He was saddled with his first career loss, lasting 5 2/3 innings. Five of the seven runs on his line were earned and he also walked four and gave up five hits. His ERA now stands at 7.84 after five appearances and he still has yet to go six complete innings in any of his three starts.
"He could have had a better fate tonight." said Perlozzo. "We make one more play in the second inning and he gets out of it. He's certainly not embarrassing himself out there."
Perlozzo said that he and Orioles executive vice president Mike Flanagan, who is in Toronto, would sit down and discuss if Loewen will make another start. The rookie from British Columbia, who was pitching in Canada for the first time since being a member of the Canadian national team, said that he is aware that every outing could be his last.
"It's kind of like pitching on eggshells, but I like it." Loewen said. "I'm extremely blessed to get the opportunity to pitch for the Orioles. I am only going to get better."
Loewen allowed a two-run homer to Vernon Wells in the first inning, the Toronto center fielder's 16th of the season.
He then surrendered consecutive no-out singles to start the second. Blue Jays second baseman Russ Adams tried to sacrifice the runners over, popping up a bunt right in front of home plate. Orioles catcher Ramon Hernandez fielded it and then fired to third base toward a retreating Melvin Mora. The Orioles third baseman couldn't handle the throw and Toronto had the bases loaded and nobody out.
Loewen appeared to shrug off Hernandez's error quickly. He struck out Reed Johnson and got Alex Rios to bounce into a field er's choice with first baseman Kevin Millar throwing home to cut off the lead runner. Loewen then went up 0-2 on Wells and was one pitch from pulling a great escape and getting out of the inning with no damage.
However, the rookie couldn't finish off Wells, walking him and bringing in a run for a 3-0 Toronto lead. With slugger Troy Glaus at the plate, Loewen then uncorked a wild pitch, allowing Adams to score.
"They were unearned runs, but I had a chance to keep those runs off the board." Loewen said. "I had a chance to minimize the damage and I didn't."
Loewen rebounded to retire 11 straight Blue Jays before walking Bengie Molina with one out in the sixth. Adams hit a two-run single off Loewen and then Johnson connected for an RBI double off Orioles reliever Sendy Rleal.
"The sixth inning." said Loewen, "I just let things get away from me."