Sunday best

O's end slump behind Olson's strong start

Orioles 5, Angels 2

July 28, 2008|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,Sun reporter

They met at Kevin Millar's locker 30 minutes before yesterday's first pitch, a players-only gathering that was aimed at ending a confounding 15-game losing streak on Sunday, and avoiding the tiresome questions that would surely follow after another defeat.

Millar offered precious few details of what happened, acknowledging only that he called on his experience as one of the clubhouse leaders of the 2004 Boston Red Sox, who won the World Series.

"I can't talk about that," a grinning Millar said. "We met at my locker at 1:05, and the boys broke something. It's a fluky thing, 15 straight Sundays. We don't have to hear about the streak [anymore]."

Relying on six strong innings from Garrett Olson and a career-high three RBIs from backup catcher Guillermo Quiroz, the Orioles downed the Los Angeles Angels, 5-2, before 23,365 at Camden Yards, denying the visitors a three-game sweep, avoiding a season-high six-game skid and giving Dave Trembley's club its first Sunday victory since April 6.

Trembley, who didn't have much else to feel good about during the team's 4-7 homestand, entered his post-game news conference puffing away at a victory cigar. "It's done. It's dead," he said. "Put it to rest. I will not take one question on it."

With a defeat yesterday, the Orioles would have been the holders of the longest streak of losses on any specific day since the 1939 St. Louis Browns dropped 21 straight Tuesday games, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Instead, an Orioles lineup that didn't include struggling second baseman Brian Roberts, ailing third baseman Melvin Mora or catcher Ramon Hernandez jumped on Angels starter Ervin Santana for five runs over five-plus innings, and the team got a rare quality start from one of its pitchers.

Olson (7-5) allowed two earned runs over six innings, and Chad Bradford, Jim Johnson and closer George Sherrill combined to get the final nine outs.

"It makes a difference when you get a quality start," Trembley said.

Olson, who hadn't won since June 28, became the first Orioles starter to work six complete innings since Jeremy Guthrie did it July 18, and registered the first quality start by an Oriole since Brian Burres contained the Red Sox over 6 1/3 innings on July 11.

"I was thinking about it," Olson said of the team's Sunday skid. "It's definitely awesome. Last Sunday, we were all kind of fed up. It was definitely a goal of mine, and I think everybody here just wanted to end it finally. Fortunately for us, we did, and now we can move on."

The previous time they won on a Sunday, shortstop Luis Hernandez, now with Triple-A Norfolk, was the hero with a game-winning single to help the Orioles erase a two-run, ninth-inning deficit and beat the Seattle Mariners, 3-2. The Orioles have tried five starting shortstops since that day, their failure to find one almost as head-scratching as their inability to win on Sundays.

"To be honest, when you're out there, you don't really think about what day it is," said Sherrill, who pitched a perfect ninth for his 30th save. "It's just a big win for us, heading on the road. Hopefully we can win a couple series and start getting back on the winning track. It's good that we don't have to answer questions about it, now, I guess."

Eight of the Orioles' 15 consecutive Sunday defeats were by one run as the team found new - and often gut-wrenching - ways to lose games. That's why many of the players decided to do something different before yesterday's game.

During Boston's 2004 title run, Millar and several teammates starting taking pre-game swigs of Jack Daniels after falling behind 3-0 to the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series. The Red Sox never lost again that year.

When the players met yesterday, they were aiming for one Sunday victory - and the reality that they won't have to talk about the freaky streak again.

"We did a couple of different things," said Quiroz, whose broken-bat two-run single in the third gave the Orioles a 4-0 lead. "[It's] just Millar, you know him, his personality."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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