Trachsel steps back

O's starter allows 6 runs in 4th as team's 4-game winning streak ends

Devil Rays 6 Orioles 4

April 18, 2007|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,Sun reporter

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Orioles saw the good Steve Trachsel in his first two starts. He changed speeds, kept hitters off balance and threw strikes, easily pitching well enough to win both games.

He won neither, a victim of some tough luck. Last night, Trachsel was in fine form for the first three innings, before the bad Trachsel surfaced. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays knocked the veteran right-hander out of the game in a six-run fourth inning and then held on to secure a 6-4 victory over the Orioles before 9,575 at Tropicana Field.

A night after coming back from a six-run deficit after five innings, the Orioles saw their four-game winning streak come to an end, but not before they mounted another late rally started by pinch hitter Jon Knott's first career home run in his first at-bat with the team.

Knott's mammoth three-run shot with no outs in the eighth landed about 10 rows into the left-field seats, cutting the Devil Rays' lead to two runs. But Brian Stokes retired Miguel Tejada, the potential tying run, in the eighth, and then Al Reyes retired pinch hitter Paul Bako with a runner on in the ninth to record his fifth save in as many chances.

The Orioles (7-7) will send Erik Bedard to the mound this afternoon opposite Tampa Bay ace Scott Kazmir to try to salvage a series win heading into tomorrow's day off.

"If I execute the pitches, it's a completely different ballgame and the way it ended up there, we probably end up winning the game," said Trachsel, who fell to 0-3 with a 6.48 ERA against his former club. "I just didn't execute."

Trachsel (0-1) took a one-hit shutout into the fourth before surrendering six earned runs and five hits in the inning. He was removed in favor of long reliever Brian Burres after Rocco Baldelli's two-run, bases-loaded single gave the Devil Rays (6-8) a 6-1 lead. In the process, his ERA jumped from 2.63 to 5.19.

"I just couldn't stop the bleeding," said Trachsel, who became the second straight Orioles starter to go only 3 2/3 innings. He threw 36 of his 72 pitches in the decisive fourth inning. "I was really happy with the first three innings. [The] last one was just horrible."

Like in his previous start, against the Kansas City Royals, Trachsel was making things look easy, but things started to spiral downhill after he walked Baldelli to lead off the fourth.

Trachsel, who was signed a couple of days before pitchers and catchers reported to spring training after the Orioles learned the extent of Kris Benson's injury, is at his best when he is changing speeds and making hitters swing at pitches out of the strike zone.

His fastball is frequently in the high 80s, so if he's unable to locate it, the results are often ugly. The proof came in the fourth inning last night.

Brendan Harris doubled down the left-field line, easily scoring Baldelli from first and tying the game at 1. Carl Crawford followed with a single and then Ty Wigginton plated Harris with a base hit. Rookie Delmon Young got the Devil Rays' fourth straight hit, extending their lead to 3-1.

"I think his pitches just kind of leaked into the strike zone a little too much," Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said. "It was a tough inning."

That was an understatement. The Devil Rays' lead grew to 4-1 on Carlos Pena's sacrifice fly. Trachsel walked No. 9 hitter B.J. Upton to load the bases and then allowed the two-run single to Baldelli, which ended his evening.

"You do everything you can to stay away from big innings, and I wasn't able to do that," Trachsel said. "That fourth inning it fell apart."

Burres entered the game and got Harris to line out to right field, ending the inning. But for the second straight night, the Orioles faced a big deficit and needed their bullpen to assume a heavy load.

Through seven innings, the Orioles mounted little offense against Tampa Bay veteran left-hander Casey Fossum, who came into the game with a 7.59 ERA. An RBI first-inning groundout by Nick Markakis that scored Brian Roberts, who led off the game with a single and then stole second and third, gave them a 1-0 lead.

But the offense wasn't heard from again until Jay Gibbons doubled and Alberto Castillo walked to start the eighth. Perlozzo sent up Knott, whose contract was picked up a day earlier to give the manager some right-handed power off the bench, to face Stokes, and the Oriole crushed the reliever's second pitch.

"I was just trying to go up there and have a good at-bat," said Knott, who lives in Florida and had many of his family members in attendance last night. "It was nice to get the team right back in it."

Perlozzo started getting flashbacks from his team's comeback a night earlier, but this time, the Orioles came up two runs short.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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