OAKLAND, Calif. - -Just a week ago, the Orioles were feeling pretty good about themselves. They had won seven of eight games thanks to solid starting pitching, timely hitting and the contributions of several young players who injected enthusiasm and hope into a clubhouse in need of both.
Now, after another blowout loss at the hands of the Oakland Athletics - this one by a 9-4 score Saturday at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum - they appear to be a team in total disarray.
Their starters have given up 15 earned runs and gotten just 12 outs over the past two nights, with Jason Berken becoming the latest to falter as he allowed nine earned runs and a franchise-record tying seven doubles in just 3 1/3 innings. The A's totaled eight doubles, tying a franchise record.
The Orioles' lineup, reshuffled Saturday by manager Dave Trembley, continues to make each starter it faces look like a Cy Young Award candidate. Shut out for six innings by young right-hander Trevor Cahill, the offense finally showed signs of life, scoring four times in the seventh inning, three of those runs coming on rookie Nolan Reimold's sixth home run. But by then, the Orioles (24-32) already trailed by nine runs.
The Orioles, who have scored only seven runs in the past six games against the opposition's starter, also drew their first walk in a span of 27 2/3 innings when Melvin Mora drew a free pass to load the bases in the eighth. The next batter, Gregg Zaun, struck out on three pitches.
And their roster, already without shortstop Cesar Izturis after his emergency appendectomy Friday night, continues to be hit by injuries as Felix Pie was forced out of Saturday's game after his own foul bouncer came up and hit him in the throat in the third inning.
The Orioles, losers of four straight and six of seven, will try to avoid a three-game sweep this afternoon in a series in which they've been outscored 18-5 and trailed after all 18 innings. Oakland (24-30) has won five straight and beaten the Orioles seven consecutive times.
A night after they knocked Jeremy Guthrie out of the game in the first inning, scoring six times against the Orioles ace, the A's scored one run in the first inning, four in the third and four more in the fourth to send the rookie right-hander to an early shower. All seven hits Berken surrendered were doubles as he tied Mike Mussina's record for the most two-base hits allowed by an Orioles pitcher, set July 16, 1996 against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Jason Giambi broke the game open with a three-run double in the third inning, and Orlando Cabrera gave the A's a 7-0 lead with a two-run double in the fourth. Making his first road start, Berken was finally removed in favor of David Hernandez after Adam Kennedy's RBI double. With the nine earned runs, his ERA jumped from 2.25 to 7.04.
Because the Orioles were down nine runs by the middle innings, it was hard to evaluate the effectiveness of Trembley's lineup changes, meant to jump-start a team that had scored just six runs in its previous five games
Adam Jones and Nick Markakis were flip-flopped in the order, with Markakis moving up to the second spot for the first time this season and Jones transitioning into the No. 3 hole. Luke Scott, the team's hottest hitter with eight homers in his past eight games, slid into the cleanup spot for the first time with Aubrey Huff moving to fifth in the order, one spot ahead of Melvin Mora.
Catcher Matt Wieters was out of the lineup for the first time since his promotion to the big leagues May 29. Reimold was held out of the starting lineup for the second straight game and Pie got his first start since May 27.
Today, 4:05 p.m.
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