Tigers keep Penn reeling

Pitcher's ERA is 27.00 as Orioles suffer worst loss of season

Tigers 17 Orioles 2

Friday night's game

September 17, 2006|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,Sun reporter

DETROIT -- If Hayden Penn could just get through a couple of consecutive scoreless innings, Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo thinks things could be different. But with each big inning by the opposition, each slow walk off the mound to the backdrop of a lopsided scoreboard, Penn's confidence takes another hit.

Does it behoove the Orioles to keep sending their 21-year-old pitching prospect to the mound? That will be a question Perlozzo and pitching coach Leo Mazzone will answer in the coming days. But at this point, Penn has shown no ability in his three starts this season to get major league hitters out. And Friday night, he had plenty of company in that regard.

Comerica Park was the sight of the latest drubbing administered to Penn and the Orioles, who were beaten by the Tigers, 17-2, in front of 38,261.

It was the most runs allowed and the largest margin of defeat for the Orioles this season, leading Perlozzo to say after the game, "It wasn't pretty."

He may have understated things slightly.

Penn (0-3) tenuously held things together until the fourth inning when Detroit scored eight runs, six of them credited to the starter, who allowed seven runs, seven hits and three walks in 3 2/3 innings. In his three starts, Penn has allowed 22 earned runs. He has given up 24 hits, two more than outs that he has recorded this season.

"I don't know if they get any easier, but I felt good. I felt, for the first time, strong, confident on the mound," Penn said. "I think I had a different mind-set and just started to try to make perfect pitches instead of good pitches. And you know what happened."

Looking for progress? There was none to speak of unless you consider that Penn's ERA dropped from 36.82 to 27.00 after Friday night's outing.

"I think Hayden is a little overanxious out there," said Perlozzo, who said that the pitcher's future in the rotation will be discussed in the next couple of days. "He is still trying to overthrow a little. His breaking ball, he either doesn't get it over or he lays it right over the middle of the plate. I think it is obvious that he has better stuff than this. But the breaking ball that we've seen and the command that we've seen, it's not going to get him by up here."

With three games left against the Tigers (88-59) after Friday night and three remaining with the Minnesota Twins, the Orioles (63-84) will play a role in deciding the winner of the American League Central. Friday night, they played the part of pushovers, allowing a reeling Tigers team to do whatever it wanted.

Against Penn and a host of overmatched relievers that followed, the Tigers, losers of seven of 10 coming in, got 19 hits, following up their eight-run fourth inning with six in the sixth.

"Those are no fun, that's for sure," Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts said. "September is a battle as it is, but when you're down 14-2, it makes it a lot tougher. At this time of year, we'd like to play some more competitive games than that."

Russ Ortiz kept the Tigers' fourth-inning rally going, allowing a two-run homer to Magglio Ordonez and a run-scoring double to Sean Casey. The Tigers sent 12 runners to the plate in the fourth, eight of whom had hits.

Winston Abreu entered in the sixth and he was charged with four earned runs in one-third of an inning, though Melvin Mora contributed to his misery with a play that symbolized the Orioles' embarrassing evening. Mora dropped Craig Monroe's routine infield popup, the ball smacking off his glove and onto the ground after the Orioles' third baseman took his eye off the ball. Later that inning, Sendy Rleal allowed a grand slam to Brandon Inge that made the score 15-2.

Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis was one of the lone bright spots, going 2-for-3 with a homer and a walk. He also made a leaping catch at the wall, possibly denying Ivan Rodriguez of a home run. Markakis' fifth-inning home run, his 15th of the season, ended Detroit starter Jeremy Bonderman's shutout bid.

Bonderman (12-8), who allowed a bases-empty homer to David Newhan in the sixth, coasted to his first victory since July 24. Penn and his manager, meanwhile, bemoaned how things had gotten away so fast.

"He threw a little bit better the first three innings and then in the fourth inning with two outs, he just disintegrated," Perlozzo said. "It happened so darn fast."

Penn acknowledged that his mindset changed on the mound, somewhere around the fourth inning.

"I am trying to be too perfect, not just make that pitch and move on to the next pitch," said Penn, who missed two months earlier in the season after having an appendectomy. "I feel like I have the stuff and I am still very confident on the mound. I am not going to let three starts turn around what I did all year and what I have done in the past."

Penn exhaled loudly after finishing his post-game interviews. He then walked out of the clubhouse after getting a pat on the back from fellow rookie Jim Hoey. Roberts also offered support for the Orioles young pitcher, who he said needs to be given an opportunity if only so the Orioles know what they have for the future.

"It's hard for us, obviously, as players, when you want to win," Roberts said. "It gets very frustrating, but going into a new season, this is the time of year that you do that. You make those tests. We're not going to base everything on three starts, that's for sure."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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