ANAHEIM, Calif. - -The Orioles officially hit the midpoint of the 2009 season Saturday night with a defeat that could serve as a microcosm of a first half filled with frustrating losses.
There was the blown four-run lead, the failure of a rookie starter to get deep into the game and a slew of defensive miscues that simply cannot happen for a team expecting to win anywhere, nevermind in the home ballpark of one of baseball's better teams.
Orioles veteran second baseman Brian Roberts contributed to the Los Angeles Angels' three-run fifth inning with a key error. Roberts and right fielder Nick Markakis then inexcusably allowed Juan Rivera's high popup to drop in between them in right field, allowing the go-ahead run to score in the seventh inning of the Angels' eventual 11-4 victory before an announced holiday crowd of 41,764 at Angel Stadium.
The Orioles (36-45) actually led the game 4-0 after the top of the fifth, but Jason Berken couldn't get an out in the bottom of the inning. Danys Baez then was asked to protect a 4-3 lead in the seventh and he loaded the bases without getting an out. Vladimir Guerrero tied the game by hitting into a double play and Baez thought he had gotten out of the inning when Rivera lofted a high fly to right field.
Roberts tracked back and appeared to have a bead on the ball, while Markakis jogged in from deep right-center. At the last instant, Roberts looked at Markakis and the ball fell between them as Bobby Abreu jogged in from the third.
The Angels (44-35) then officially blew a one-run game open, scoring six times in the eighth off Brian Bass. Guerrero had the big swing in the inning with a tape-measure three-run homer over the Orioles' bullpen in left field. But that he even got up was testament to more poor Orioles' defense. Bass' fired an errant pickoff attempt at first base and Robert Andino and Melvin Mora failed to get the lead runner at third on a groundball by Mike Napoli.
It marked a serious reversal of fortune for the Orioles, who had jumped on the Angels for a second straight night. Berken hadn't had much experience protecting 4-0 leads. In his six previous starts, the Orioles had scored only four runs while he was in the game. The rookie right-hander had given up plenty of hard-hit balls, but he escaped any trouble through the first four innings.
That changed in the fifth when the Angels took advantage of an error by Roberts to send Berken to an early exit and cut the Orioles' once four-run lead to 4-3. Napoli and Howie Kendrick, the Angels' Nos. 8 and 9 hitters, started the inning with sharp singles. Chone Figgins then hit a roller at Roberts whose flip to second base to try to get the forceout pulled Andino off the bag, loading the bass with no outs.
When Abreu singled to cut the Orioles' lead to 4-1, manager Dave Trembley pulled Berken, who had thrown 85 pitches and given up seven hits and a walk through four-plus innings. Matt Albers entered with the bases loaded and still no outs and got Torii Hunter to ground out, the Angels' second run scoring on the play. Guerrero made it 4-3 with an RBI single up the middle before Albers got Juan Rivera to hit into the inning-ending double play.
Berken entered Saturday's start having given up 23 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings over his past five outings, and having dropped five straight decisions. But the Orioles did their best to make things easier on him, scoring three runs in the third inning off Angels rookie right-hander Sean O'Sullivan.
The rally started with a leadoff double by Gregg Zaun and an infield single by Andino. Roberts then doubled in a run with a shot just over the head of right fielder Abreu and off the wall.
Adam Jones then drove in a run with an infield single of his own and Markakis made it 3-0 with a sacrifice fly to deep right field that Abreu did well to catch.
The Orioles then added on another run in the top of the fifth when Roberts doubled and scored on Jones' line single to right, his third hit of the game.
Today, 3:35 p.m.