Same tired questions

Oft-scrutinized Perlozzo pulls weary Bedard after 98 pitches

Baez takes loss

Nationals 4 Orioles 3

May 21, 2007|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,Sun Reporter

WASHINGTON -- Rather than go on a weekend retreat in the wilderness to heal their battered minds and bodies, to rebuild spirits that had been crushed in the wake of all those losses and the growing suspicions that jobs were on the line, the Orioles piled into a bus the past three days and headed down the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, where they hoped salvation awaited them in a decrepit football stadium.

This is where the Orioles found the Washington Nationals, a team already in the early stages of demolition with so many injuries to its starting rotation. And for the first two games, this is also where the Orioles got healthy. But all it took was one inning yesterday to open more wounds and again bring their manager's job status under intense scrutiny.

Little has changed after a three-city road trip. It's fair to wonder if it ever will.

The Orioles finally stood up to an emergency starter, disposing of left-hander Micah Bowie in the fourth inning, and Erik Bedard neared his first victory in a month. But the bullpen faltered again, with setup man Danys Baez the primary offender, and the Nationals rallied for three runs in the eighth and a 4-3 win before an announced 29,281 at RFK Stadium.

Rather than complete their first series sweep on the road since the end of the 2005 season, the Orioles (20-24) headed to Cooperstown, N.Y., frustrated by their commitment to play in an exhibition game and their inability to hold a slim lead against a last-place team.

Bedard allowed a run and three hits in seven innings, but failed to register his first victory since April 18. He also singled twice and delivered an RBI in the sixth that increased the Orioles' lead to 3-1.

As fatigue set in, Bedard told manager Sam Perlozzo he was finished after 98 pitches. Chad Bradford got the first out in the eighth before Ryan Zimmerman doubled, and Baez gave up three singles - the last by Nook Logan with the bases loaded and two outs to drive in two runs. He also hit a batter.

"[Bedard] said he was done," Perlozzo said. "He's pretty honest with you. When he says he's done, he's usually done.

"When someone says they're done, it's pretty hard to say, `No, you're going back out there,' because then you're not going to get what you're supposed to get. It's a different situation when a guy's teetering. Erik didn't do anything wrong here. He pitched an outstanding game. We needed to get three outs in the eighth and close it with Chris [Ray] in the ninth. We just didn't get that done."

Bedard tied his career high with 12 strikeouts but again had nothing to show for the effort. He has exceeded 100 pitches in five of his 10 starts and totaled 95, 97 and 99 on three other occasions before yesterday.

"The first thing that goes is legs from throwing the ball," Bedard said. "If you're tired and you go back out there, bad things might happen. So when I'm tired, I'm out and I leave it to the bullpen."

Not always a wise choice.

Baez (0-3) has allowed 10 runs in 8 1/3 innings this month, and his overall ERA jumped to 6.10. He also surrendered a two-run homer to Zimmerman on Friday.

"We might have to think about doing something until we get him straightened out a little bit," Perlozzo said. "Today, he just didn't have his command, and when I talked to [catcher Paul Bako], his movement wasn't real good, either. We just need to get him back on track."

Exposed to second-guessing since the trip began in Boston, Perlozzo summoned Baez to face left-handed-hitting Ryan Langerhans with left-hander Jamie Walker ready in the bullpen. Langerhans, batting .132 before yesterday, singled to score Zimmerman and reduce the lead to 3-2.

Perlozzo reasoned that if he had brought in Walker, Nationals manager Manny Acta would have countered with right-handed Tony Batista, forcing Baez into the game anyway.

Walker said he expected to be used at that moment, "but I can't make that decision. I just worry about when I get the call," he said.

Perlozzo stuck with Baez until Logan, a switch-hitter who's 3-for-7 from the left side and 3-for-14 from the right side this season, ran the count full and punched a single into right field. Walker replaced him and struck out Robert Fick.

"I've been trying to do the best I can out there," Baez said. "I've got to keep working harder."

Jay Payton had three hits, including a run-scoring single in the fourth inning that tied the game and knocked out Bowie, who was plucked from the bullpen to make the start. Melvin Mora greeted reliever Billy Traber with a sacrifice fly that provided a 2-1 lead, and Bedard looped a two-out RBI single into left field in the sixth.

Bowie hasn't won a major league game in five years. He hadn't started since September 1999, a span of 2,791 days, and he received this opportunity only after Jerome Williams went back on the disabled list.

The Orioles got rid of Bowie yesterday, but not the issues that continue to hound them.

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