Thrown for loss

Burres a scratch

Albers leaves hurt in first

Cubs 7 Orioles 4

June 26, 2008|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN REPORTER

CHICAGO -- It took all of five batters last night for one of Orioles manager Dave Trembley's worst fears to be realized.

Already a pitcher short after starter Brian Burres was scratched because of a stomach illness, Trembley was forced to go to his bullpen with just one out in the first inning. Matt Albers, who learned less than three hours before the game that he'd get the emergency start, couldn't continue after feeling some discomfort in his right shoulder while throwing a curveball to Chicago Cubs leadoff hitter Eric Patterson.

Albers will be reevaluated today, his potential loss stinging far more than the Orioles' 7-4 loss before an announced 40,754 at Wrigley Field.

"I threw him a breaking ball and just felt a little discomfort. I tried to get through it a little bit and felt like it was best to just stop," said Albers, who said he's never experienced shoulder discomfort like this before.

The Orioles (39-37) were never given a chance to build off their victory here in the series opener as they trailed by four runs after the first inning. A day after having their 14-game home winning streak ended, the Cubs took advantage of shaky Orioles' pitching and fielding to score six times and send 17 batters to the plate over the first two innings.

Jay Payton had two-run homers in both the second and fourth innings to cut the Cubs' lead to two runs on both occasions. However, the Orioles' bullpen, already undermanned, allowed runs in the bottom half of the inning each time the visitors scored.

"Tonight was out of the ordinary," said Payton, who improved to 10-for-20 with three home runs in his career against Cubs starter Ted Lilly.

Lance Cormier, who relieved Albers with the bases loaded and one out in the first, allowed two earned runs in 2 2/3 innings. He didn't get much help defensively as shortstop Alex Cintron failed to field Geovany Soto's hard grounder with the bases loaded and one out in the first.

Instead of resulting in an inning-ending double play, the ball hit off Cintron's glove and trickled into the outfield, scoring two runs.

"If we make a play in the first inning, it's probably two runs, not four," Trembley said.

Ryan Bukvich entered in the fourth and allowed a homer to Jim Edmonds, the first batter he faced. The Orioles' long-relief struggles underscored the importance of Albers, who for much of the season has been the guy entering the game when a starter has been knocked out early.

Albers has been used to make spot starts, in long relief and more recently, to get key outs late in games. His abbreviated outing last night put an enormous strain on the Orioles' bullpen, but his long-term absence would create even bigger problems.

"It's just an unfortunate situation," Trembley said.

It was Albers' third spot start this season, but the first one where he was notified just hours before the game. Burres arrived at Wrigley Field to talk to the Orioles' athletic trainers; however, he was sent back to the team hotel before the game started.

Albers struck out Patterson to start the game, but that would be the only out he would get. He gave up three straight hits and walked Jim Edmonds on four straight pitches, bringing pitching coach Rick Kranitz to the mound. After consulting with Albers, Kranitz looked down to the Orioles' bullpen and that brought Trembley and assistant athletic trainer Brian Ebel out of the dugout.

Albers' night was over. The Orioles are hopeful that they don't lose him for much longer.

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