On last day, O's hit only finish line

Boston rookie holds Orioles without hit

game called after 5

Red Sox 9 Orioles 0

October 02, 2006|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,Sun reporter

BOSTON -- They packed up their stuff and said their good-byes, headed for different parts of the country, or in some cases, the world. But before they could go, the Orioles swallowed one more dose of indignity.

First, they had to wait out the rain for more than three hours to play a meaningless baseball game against the Boston Red Sox. Then, the Orioles acted like Fenway Park was absolutely the last place they wanted to spend a rainy afternoon and night.

Finally, after a series of half-hearted swings against 28-year-old rookie Devern Hansack, several powerful hacks by Boston hitters against rookie Hayden Penn and yet one more rain delay, the Orioles got to go home.

As they filtered out of the clubhouse into a cold and damp night, a rain-shortened 9-0 loss to the Red Sox and the finale of a ninth straight losing season already appeared to be forgotten. The fact that the Orioles hadn't managed a hit when the game was called after the fifth inning didn't appear to be overly bothersome.

It won't be recorded as an official no-hitter, but Hansack (1-1), a Nicaraguan pitching in his second major league game, became the ninth player in the American League to pitch a no-hitter of fewer than nine innings and the first to do it since 1992. Against a makeshift Orioles lineup, Hansack struck out six and walked just one.

"I mean, yeah, I'd rather not get no-hit, but I am not going to lose any sleep over it," said Orioles first baseman Chris Gomez, who was 0-for-2, his career-high 19-game hitting streak ending. "It was five innings [and] the game was a blowout."

The Orioles finished the season with a 70-92 record, 27 games behind the American League East champion New York Yankees and nine ahead of the last-place Tampa Bay Devil Rays. It is the Orioles' worst season since 2002, when they went 67-95.

They lost 15 of 18 games to the Red Sox, the first time the franchise dropped that many games to a team since the Detroit Tigers won the season series over the Orioles, 15-3, in 1967. The Orioles hadn't lost that many games to Boston since going 6-16 against the Red Sox in 1956.

The Orioles, of course, would have much preferred to head into the four-plus-month offseason with the comeback victory on Saturday night. When they arrived in the clubhouse yesterday morning and the tarp was still on the field, several players said they fully expected the game to be rained out, allowing for an earlier departure.

As it was, there was a tenuous atmosphere in the clubhouse with a pack of reporters bigger than usual awaiting many of the Orioles' arrival. The attention was in response to the Los Angeles Times report that three Orioles - Miguel Tejada, Brian Roberts and Jay Gibbons - were accused of using anabolic steroids by former teammate Jason Grimsley in a federal affidavit earlier this year.

"I don't think anyone in here thought we would play," Gomez said. "Mentally, we weren't prepared to play a game, but like I said, once you realize that you have to play, it's not that tough to flip a switch and get into that game mode."

Extending their consecutive sellout streak to 307 games and picking up one more gate, the Red Sox had reason to make sure the game went on, getting play started after a 3-hour, 23-minute delay. The Orioles probably wish it hadn't.

"Both teams have to do it," Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said. "We can sit here and make excuses and everything, but there's two teams out on the field. It didn't bother them. We're in the same boat they are."

The game may have been mostly inconsequential to the Orioles, but it was a chance for Penn to pick up some good sentiment heading into the offseason. However, as the rookie had all September, he faltered badly, surrendering a three-run home run to Boston third baseman Mike Lowell in the first and then being touched for four more runs in the third.

A bases-loaded walk and a three-run double by Gabe Kapler sent the Orioles pitcher to the showers after getting just eight outs. Unfortunately for him, an 0-4 record and a 15.10 ERA in six starts was not going to get scrubbed away easily.

"My back is fine," said Penn, who was removed from his previous start in New York with a lower back sprain. "It's just been a frustrating month. There's not much to say. It's just get ready for next year."

It's been a frustrating year for the 21-year-old Penn, who held his own in eight starts last year but looked decidedly overmatched when he was recalled from Triple-A Ottawa. In 19 2/3 innings this season with the Orioles, he allowed 38 hits and 33 earned runs. He didn't make it through four innings in five of his six starts.

"His command of all his pitches just isn't there yet," Perlozzo said. "I saw Hayden Penn last year and I thought he was a lot better. We've got to give the kid the benefit of the doubt. ... I just think he felt a sense of urgency and didn't put it together for us, but he got a little more experience, and he'll be better for it next year."

Penn refused to blame fatigue or his appendicitis earlier this season, which clearly set him back.

"I know what I'm capable of and how I usually pitch," he said. "I didn't show it once when I was here, so until I am on and go out there and get beat around a few times in a row, then I'll really start to worry. But right now, I am not. I know it's frustrating, but I don't think it will carry over."

With that, Penn turned his attention to next year, which many of his teammates had already done hours earlier.

"Now's the time to start setting our sights for next year and getting excited about the chances we may have [to improve] over the winter," Perlozzo said. "There was a lot of pain during the season. You can either dwell on that or you can put it in your mind that that's not going to happen - get rid of it and move forward. It's over."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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