Chance for sweep eludes O's grasp

Wright's grand slam in fifth, mistakes in seventh prove costly

Mets 9 Orioles 4


NEW YORK -- The Orioles' chances of sweeping the New York Mets ended yesterday afternoon in a three-inning span that left an already tired team frustrated, stunned and even a little confused.

Adam Loewen surrendered a grand slam to David Wright in the fifth, one pitch ruining what was shaping up as a breakout performance. Mets right fielder Eli Marrero made a running catch, preventing Melvin Mora from getting a game-tying extra-base hit in the top of the seventh, before things turned wacky in the bottom half of the inning.

Mora got hit in the left knee on a liner by Jose Reyes. Left fielder Ed Rogers had a ball trickle up his sleeve and settle underneath his jersey and third base umpire Doug Eddings took away an Orioles out at home when he ruled that Miguel Tejada had interfered with Wright at third base. The Mets' four-run seventh put away the Orioles, who fell, 9-4, before 43,393 on a humid afternoon at Shea Stadium and had to settle for taking two of three games in the series.

"I thought we played great," Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said. "It got out of hand at the end there, but I thought we came in here and played great baseball against a great team."

The Orioles (32-39) returned home last night, looking forward to their first day off this month, with their first road series victory in interleague play since June 21-23, 2002. They finished a 10-game trip at 4-6, but they felt better after their body of work in New York, where they cooled off the National League's best team.

There are concerns, however. Mora suffered a left knee contusion and limped out of the clubhouse. Loewen's future in the rotation is again in doubt after proving once again that he is plenty capable of getting major league hitters out, but prone to mistakes and lapses in control.

"It seems like every time I go out there, I'm one pitch away from having a good outing," said the 22-year-old left-hander, clearly frustrated by his second straight loss. "It's always one pitch late in the game. It's been getting me into trouble and it's a very fine margin of error."

Trying to protect a one-run lead, Loewen took a two-hit shutout into the fifth inning and retired the first two Mets. After a single by Reyes, Loewen hit Marrero and Carlos Beltran, loading the bases. Perlozzo admitted that he considered taking Loewen out, but decided that the Mets still hadn't made much solid contact off his pitcher.

"I don't know which way I would've felt worse, bringing in someone else to give up his runs in a shutout. I was hoping, first of all, that he could get the next hitter out," Perlozzo said.

"If he didn't, it [would be] a single, and we could keep it close after that. It wasn't like he had given up 10 hits. He hadn't given up any runs yet. You're not sitting there thinking, `This guy's going to hit a ball out of the ballpark on you.'"

Wright jumped on Loewen's first pitch, a cutter that caught too much of the plate, and drove it over the left-field wall for his 15th home run.

"I was one out away for four batters," Loewen said. "It was really frustrating that I ended up loading the bases up, and then I had to throw a strike. I thought I put it in a good spot, but that was just the pitch he was expecting, because I got him out with it before."

Perlozzo admitted that Loewen's outing was "difficult to assess," and said it was much too early to determine if the rookie will get a fourth start. He is 0-2 with a 7.82 ERA and still hasn't pitched six innings in any start.

"I don't know if he ran out of gas. I thought he was losing some command, but his command was in and out all game," Perlozzo said.

Javy Lopez and Corey Patterson had RBI singles off Tom Glavine (10-2), who became the first 10-game winner in the major leagues, in the sixth, cutting the Mets' lead to 4-3. Chris Britton surrendered a bases-empty home run to Ramon Castro in the bottom of the inning, expanding New York's lead to 5-3.

Brian Roberts' groundout drove in Nick Markakis in the seventh and the Orioles thought that they had scored the game-tying run on Mora's liner, which was caught by Marrero, an Oriole last year, to end the top of the seventh.

That's when everything finally unraveled for the Orioles, who had played so well the previous two nights. Two batters after getting hit in the knee, Mora committed a throwing error, putting men on first and third with one out. Perlozzo brought in Todd Williams, who gave up an RBI single to Wright. Rogers, in the game after Luis Matos was ejected for arguing a called third strike, tried to short-hop the ball, but it bounced up his shirt sleeve.

Rogers reached inside his uniform and finally pulled the ball out while a runner scored. "It was unbelievable. I don't have any excuses. I [messed] it up," he said.

Julio Franco then drove in a run with a single, and the Mets scored another when Eddings called interference on Tejada, allowing Wright, who was actually thrown out on the play trying to come home on Rogers' errant throw, to score. Perlozzo argued, but Eddings told him that the base runner had actually made contact with Tejada.

"He felt that without that happening," Perlozzo said, "the runner at third would've made home."

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