New swing set, same play

Shuffled lineup doesn't improve scoring as O's lose ninth of past 10

Tigers 3 Orioles 2

May 03, 2007|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN REPORTER

DETROIT -- Even after another loss, the Orioles continued to talk about how it is still early, how nothing that has happened in the past 10 days will wreck a season that looked promising such a short time ago. There are, after all, still 134 games left to play.

Their viewpoint would be much easier to accept if the Orioles didn't continue to lose games in predictable and frustrating fashion. Trying to salvage one game in the series and a road trip that went horribly wrong, the Orioles actually got seven innings out of a starting pitcher.

That could have been cause for a great celebration, with streamers, party hats and all. However, the Orioles' lineup, juggled aggressively before yesterday's game by manager Sam Perlozzo, showed for only one inning of a 3-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers before 29,278 at Comerica Park.

"Losing is losing. It doesn't matter, one inning or nine innings. That's the frustrating part," said Steve Trachsel, who turned in the seven solid innings but was beaten on Craig Monroe's tie-breaking home run in the sixth inning. "To lose and get swept and have a plane ride after this, it's not any fun."

The club did get one victory yesterday, when Major League Baseball denied the Cleveland Indians' protest of their loss to the Orioles on Saturday. That was the team's only victory on this six-game trip, where they also lost starter Jaret Wright and possibly Adam Loewen to injuries.

When you have lost nine of 10 games and are now a season-high four games below .500, you take your victories where you can get them. The Orioles (12-16) have been swept three of their past four series and haven't won a series since sweeping the Toronto Blue Jays from April 20 to 22.

"Right now, it's a really tough time," said shortstop Miguel Tejada, fighting to stay upbeat. "We just try as much as we can to get through everything that's going wrong. [Today] is a day off, and I hope [tomorrow] we start a different season."

The team knows that won't happen until it starts scoring some runs. During this brutal 10-game stretch, the Orioles have scored a total of 32 runs, just more than three per game. In the nine losses, they averaged 2.8 runs. During the past two days, the Orioles went 1-for-21 with runners in scoring position and left 17 on base.

Throughout the series, they had chances to break games open and make their lives a little easier. That moment came yesterday in the third inning, when they pushed two runs across on Tigers starter Nate Robertson, thanks to an RBI double by Jay Payton and a bases-loaded walk to Melvin Mora.

They led 2-1 and the bases remained loaded. But Kevin Millar, one of several Orioles fighting slumps, bounced into a double play. The Orioles had four base runners the rest of the way, and only one of them reached second base.

"I take the blame for that," Millar said. "We had a lead 2-1, but we really could have done something to put that game in our favor. ... We just keep coming up on the short end of the stick."

Perlozzo is running out of things to try. Yesterday, he reworked his batting order, moving Mora from second to fifth, Nick Markakis from third to seventh and Miguel Tejada from fourth to third. Ramon Hernandez hit cleanup and Payton batted second.

"You can shuffle your lineup all you want," Perlozzo said. "Someone's still got to step up somewhere along the line. You can hide guys here and hide them there and switch them around. They're still going to have to come up to the plate and get some hits.

"We need to get it going. You can talk about it all you want, but we're losing games in the meantime, and those games count. So we got to get that thing going."

The Orioles manager and club officials will spend the open date trying to think of ways to energize a club that was four games over .500 just 11 days ago. Perlozzo said they will consider lineup changes and perhaps a few roster moves.

It's a possibility they will add a right-handed bat with two left-handed pitchers looming in the Cleveland series. Jon Knott, who hit a homer in an earlier stint with the club, is an option, but he entered yesterday hitting .186 at Triple-A Norfolk.

The bitterest part about yesterday was that Trachsel gave the Orioles exactly the effort that Perlozzo has been begging for during the past 2 1/2 weeks. He became the first Orioles starter to go seven innings since he did it April 12, a span of 18 games.

Trachsel gave up three earned runs and eight hits. Aside from hanging a 2-0 curveball that Monroe hit over the left-field wall and the three times he faced Sheffield, he appeared in control.

Sheffield continued to show signs of breaking out of his early slump, going 4-for-4 with a bases-empty homer in the first and a game-tying RBI single in the fifth. It was not lost on Trachsel that Sheffield appeared to wake up after the near brawl in Monday's series opener.

"He got hot after that little bench-clearing thing," Trachsel said. "You should just let sleeping dogs lie, but it didn't happen."

Very few positives on this road trip did.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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