O's tough run continues

Missed chances, base-running woes contribute to 11th loss in past 12 games

Red Sox 3 Orioles 2

September 03, 2007|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,Sun reporter

BOSTON -- For the Orioles, the feeling of helplessness that arose from Clay Buchholz's dominance Saturday night was replaced by frustration yesterday afternoon, stemming from missed opportunities and base-running errors that again left them one run short.

A night after being no-hit by Buchholz in his second major league start and managing only four base runners, the Orioles had plenty of scoring chances against Boston Red Sox pitching, but squandered most of them in a 3-2 loss before an announced 36,340 at sun-splashed Fenway Park.

The Orioles loaded the bases in the fourth inning with no outs and couldn't score. Then, in a one-run game in the eighth inning, they had a runner at third with one out and again came up empty.

More than anything Daniel Cabrera did in six solid innings, that was the primary reason the Orioles left Boston with another loss - their 11th in the past 12 games - and another dropped series. The Orioles (59-76) fell to 11-26 in one-run games.

"This was a big game for us," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "I don't care what the standings are and I don't care how many we lost or anything like that. Today was an opportunity to win a series and do it in Fenway Park. We had the opportunity and didn't make the most of it."

That cost Cabrera (9-14), who allowed three runs in six innings. He has exceeded his career high in losses with a month left.

"It's difficult, because every time I go out there I'm trying to win the game for my team," said Cabrera, who gave up five hits, walked four and struck out seven. "This year, I've got a lot more losses than I've ever had [at this point of the season]. There's nothing I can do - just pitch."

As good as Buchholz was Saturday, the 22-game gap in the American League East standings between the first-place Red Sox and the fourth-place Orioles is more reflected on days like yesterday.

While not doing much against Cabrera, who allowed three runs in six innings, the Red Sox were opportunistic, scoring the winning run on Mike Lowell's sacrifice fly in the fifth inning. They spent the rest of the afternoon making standout defensive plays while their opponent fumbled away scoring chances with poor decisions and equally poor execution.

The top of the fourth inning featured both. The Orioles loaded the bases with no outs against Boston starter Jon Lester (3-0), who issued consecutive walks to Miguel Tejada and Kevin Millar to start the inning and a single to Aubrey Huff. Melvin Mora made the first out with a soft liner to second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Ramon Hernandez then lofted a shallow pop-up to J.D. Drew in right field. Drew caught it on the run and easily threw out Tejada, who had tagged up, at the plate.

"I thought that was the biggest opportunity that we had," Trembley said. "We had a chance to knock Lester out of the ballgame and we didn't. He was walking a tightrope, walking people, giving us scoring opportunities. We got his pitch count up. We had everything going for us. We had the table set, and we got nothing with the bases loaded and nobody out. That came back to haunt us late in the game."

Asked about Tejada trying to score on the play, Trembley said, "It's not a good play if he gets thrown out because the No. 9 hitter is leading off the next inning. It's a good play if he's safe. You can interpret that as understanding where I'm coming from."

The Orioles got on the board in the sixth inning when Mora hit a two-out single to left field with two on to score Tejada. On the play, third baseman Lowell cut off left fielder Brandon Moss' throw and threw behind Millar, who was tagged out at second after taking too wide a turn. Millar slammed his hand on the infield dirt, knowing he had just eliminated another scoring opportunity.

Millar again figured prominently in the eighth. Nick Markakis hit a leadoff double against Boston reliever Hideki Okajima and advanced to third on a groundout by Tejada. However, Okajima struck out Millar and Huff back-to-back to end the inning and keep the score at 3-2.

"I didn't get the job done in the eighth inning. I take full blame for that," said Millar, who stared blankly into his locker. "I didn't do a very good job of making the ball get up in the zone. I swung at a bad pitch. That runner has got to be in. That's a big at-bat at a big time of the game. I have to do a better job."

Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon pitched a perfect ninth for his 31st save, getting a little help from center fielder Coco Crisp, who made a diving catch on Hernandez's blooper. It was one of several key defensive plays that Boston made.

"It's not like we're swinging really bad," Huff said. "Even [Saturday], we smoked some balls and they just happened to go to guys. Even when we're not hitting balls good, you think they're going to fall in, and someone comes out of left field and catches it. It's just bad luck right now."

Huff got the Orioles' first hit with a second-inning single, ending any anxiety that built up after being no-hit Saturday night.

The Orioles' clubhouse was surprisingly upbeat before yesterday's game. Freddie Bynum, who started at second base in place of Brian Roberts, entertained several players by mimicking some of his teammates' batting stances. Tejada held court in another corner of the clubhouse.

Outfielder Jay Payton said the no-hitter was emblematic of the Orioles' season.

"That was probably icing on the cake for our season," Payton said. "It's been tough. I don't think anybody here would say any different. Some weird things have happened."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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