Power outage

Loewen survives 3-run 1st, but gets little help

White Sox 3 Orioles 1

April 17, 2008|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN REPORTER

There were some rocky moments. Adam Loewen's 14th pitch last night was pounded into the right-center-field seats by Jim Thome, the three-run homer coming before the Orioles had recorded an out.

Loewen also walked five and went to three-ball counts on 11 of the 27 Chicago White Sox that he faced. However, at the end of the day, he gave Orioles manager Dave Trembley what he needed with six innings, but not necessarily what he wanted. Trembley's offense did neither.

The Orioles managed just one run and four hits off White Sox starter Jose Contreras in seven innings as they fell, 3-1, before an announced 12,080 at Camden Yards. It was the team's sixth loss in eight games.

The Orioles (8-7) managed a season-low five hits -- all singles, with two of them the infield variety -- and didn't have a runner reach scoring position outside the fourth inning. Overall, 17 of their last 18 hitters were retired by Contreras and relievers Scott Linebrink and Bobby Jenks.

"They're throwing great games at us," said first baseman Kevin Millar. "Sometimes you run through those stretches but we're not going to quit fighting right now."

Trailing 3-0 in the bottom of the fourth, the Orioles had their only sustained rally, stringing together three straight singles, the last by Aubrey Huff, which scored Nick Markakis to cut the deficit to two runs. White Sox third baseman Joe Crede's throwing error on the play put runners on first and third with one out.

Contreras struck out left fielder Luke Scott on a 3-2 pitch and then retired Adam Jones on a groundout to end the threat. The Orioles had one base runner the rest of the game.

Contreras entered the game with a 6.17 ERA and a .340 average-against through two starts. He was also coming off a season in which he lost 17 games and had a 5.57 ERA, including a 9.00 mark in two starts against the Orioles.

"He didn't struggle tonight," said Trembley. "Doesn't matter what you've done before; doesn't matter what you've done after. Tonight, he pitched a heck of a game -- threw all his pitches for strikes, changed speeds well, got the benefit of some calls."

Meanwhile, Loewen was more gritty than good. He allowed 11 base runners in his season-high six innings, salvaging his outing somewhat with five straight scoreless innings after the poor first.

He had such poor fastball command that he basically stopped throwing the pitch by the fifth inning, getting by with his off-speed stuff. He also benefited from good defense. Markakis threw out Thome at third base on Paul Konerko's single in the third inning. In the fifth, Scott threw out Orlando Cabrera trying to score on A.J. Pierzynski's single.

However, the Orioles could do nothing but watch and admire Thome's three-run first-inning shot that went 400 feet.

"I wanted to get up and in on him, and he made a good swing at it," said Loewen, who has now allowed four home runs and walked 12 in 15 2/3 innings.

Before the game, Trembley called Loewen's start the most important of the season, largely because the bullpen was needed to cover 6 2/3 innings a night earlier and needed a rest. If nothing else, Loewen and Jim Johnson, who turned in two more scoreless innings, accomplished that.

"He didn't give in," Trembley said. "He found a way to pitch out of it. When he left, there were only three runs on the board. But obviously, when you walk five guys, it's not the command that you want. ... But we'll remember where Loewen's been and where he's come from. We'll win a lot of games with him pitching the way he did tonight."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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