Orioles Can't Knock Them In

They Leave 11 Men On As Royals' Buck Drives In Game-winner In 11th

July 29, 2009|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

When he failed to get a run in with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth, Orioles first baseman Aubrey Huff crouched down and threatened to pound his fist into the ground.

Two innings later, after his bid for a three-run homer died on the right-field warning track, the normally stoic Nick Markakis angrily kicked at the dirt. And after Adam Jones grounded out to end a game the Orioles probably should have never lost, the center fielder exchanged words with first base umpire Wally Bell and tossed his helmet toward the dugout.

In a game in which rookie right-hander Jason Berken delivered a solid performance to justify his spot in the rotation, the Orioles were completely inept with runners in scoring position, and the result was a 4-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals in 11 innings before an announced 21,545 at Camden Yards on Tuesday night.

The Royals' Mark Teahen, who led off the 11th by reaching on a swinging bunt that stayed just inside the first-base line, scored from second on John Buck's single to right field off Danys Baez. Markakis' throw home bounced off the pitcher's mound and landed behind home plate as the Royals, who evened the score in the eighth on Willie Bloomquist's solo homer off Jim Johnson, broke the tie at 3.

"Things are not happening the way they are supposed to," Baez said. "The game is sometimes that way."

Royals closer Joakim Soria pitched a scoreless bottom of the 11th despite Matt Wieters' leadoff single - his career-high fourth hit of the night - to complete five shutout innings from the Royals' normally vulnerable bullpen. The Orioles (42-57) left 11 men on base and were just 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. They are 3-for-18 in such situations during the series and have left 19 men on base.

It was the Orioles' ninth loss in the past 11 games after the All-Star break, and it dropped them to a season-worst 15 games under .500.

"We've got two months left, and we're probably not going to make a run at the playoff race, but we've got to kind of grind it out and play good baseball," said Huff, who went 0-for-4 and is 7-for-42 after the All-Star break. "Right now, there is a lot of pressing going on."

Coming off a rigorous nine-game road trip against three of the best teams in the American League, the Orioles have dropped the first two games against the Royals, who have the worst record in the AL. Kansas City (40-59) hadn't won two straight games since they claimed three in a row from July 4 to July 6, and they had only 15 road wins all year before arriving at Camden Yards.

But the Orioles have dropped the first two games, and their struggling offense has to face Zack Greinke, the major league ERA leader, tonight in Orioles prospect Chris Tillman's major league debut.

In the two games in the series, the Royals bullpen has pitched nine scoreless innings after it allowed 27 earned runs in 26 innings on their recent nine-game homestand.

"We certainly had a lot of guys up tonight in situations where we could have broke through, but it didn't happen," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "They got out of it and made a little bit better pitches. That's all."

Said Jones, who hit a two-run first-inning homer: "Situational, we didn't do good. Hands down. We had 10 hits or 11 hits, so I wouldn't say the hits were hard to come by. I'd just say the big hit was terribly hard to come by."

Berken, at least, provided a bright spot. Three batters into an outing that was going to help determine whether he would make his next start for the Orioles or the Triple-A Norfolk Tides, he put his team in a two-run hole as Billy Butler slugged a two-run homer.

However, showing the poise and perseverance that has led to the Orioles' sticking with the rookie right-hander even though his statistics suggest that they shouldn't, Berken settled down and allowed no more runs in six innings. It was an effort good enough to salvage his spot in the rotation, and it is Rich Hill who is now expected to go on the disabled list to accommodate Tillman.

"Obviously the numbers haven't been great, but I feel like I am getting better," said Berken, who allowed two runs on six hits and two walks over six innings. "By no means am I done working. It's still a process."

His bid at winning his second game was halted in the eighth when Johnson surrendered the game-tying homer to Bloomquist on the second pitch of his outing.

"It wasn't a very good pitch," Johnson said.

"I've been making a lot of those lately."

Box score

for Tuesday's game PG 4

ROYALS @ORIOLES

Tonight, 7:05

TV: MASN2

Radio: 105.7. FM

INSIDE

Sherrill is Orioles' only high-profile trade possibility PG 5

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