Good Reasons To Be Angry

Despite Trembley's Talk, Orioles Waste Scoring Chances, Pitch Ineffectively

August 13, 2009|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

Less than two hours before Wednesday's game, manager Dave Trembley summoned the Orioles' 13 position players into his office for a quick talk. Fed up with his team's recent play, Trembley gave a brief and stern lecture that focused on playing hard and smart, but most importantly, playing team baseball.

The Orioles then went out and proved why such a talk was needed. Finding different ways to squander scoring chances and getting another uneven start from rookie Jason Berken, the Orioles were beaten, 6-3, by the Oakland Athletics in front of an announced 19,128 Wednesday at Camden Yards.

"We just didn't do enough things to win the game. That's all," said a dejected Trembley, whose team was outscored 38-12 in losing five of six games this season to the A's, who are in last place in the American League West. "They did [score]. That's what it usually boils down to."

The Orioles, 47-67 overall and 7-19 in the second half, have not won a series after the All-Star break. Their play in Wednesday's series finale indicated a team in the midst of a serious slide.

One of Oakland's runs scored on a wild pitch and another was aided by a throwing error by rookie catcher Matt Wieters. The Orioles, meanwhile, went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and are 8-for-49 in such situations over the past five games.

"It's tough," said outfielder Nick Markakis, who had three hits but made a key base-running gaffe in the seventh inning. "This game is not easy, especially when you get in pressure situations and you got guys in scoring position. For the most part, I think guys are pressing too much with runners in scoring position, even myself lately. We're trying to scrounge up runs any way we can."

While their pitching problems have been well documented and continued Wednesday with Berken allowing four runs (three earned) over five innings, statistics show that the Orioles' offense has been in deep decline during the past three months.

Since May 15, the Orioles are third to last in the AL in runs per game (4.26), and second to last in homers (68), in OPS, the statistic that measure slugging plus on-base percentage (.722), and in pitchers per plate appearance (3.76). They've also hit into a league-high 77 double plays during that span.

"I think this team obviously took a lot of pride in our hitting from spring training on," third baseman Ty Wigginton said. "You'd expect us to be better. You can talk about luck, but over time, a stat like that sticks out and you have to find a way to right that ship."

The Orioles have been held to three runs or fewer seven times in the past eight games and in 14 of their 26 games since the All-Star break. The A's three starters in the series - Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Vin Mazzaro - entered their respective outings with ERAs over 5.00. They combined to pitch 18 1/3 innings in the series, allowing five earned runs.

Shut out for the first five innings by Mazzaro, who had allowed six runs or more in four of his previous five starts and had won just one of his previous nine decisions, the Orioles finally got on the board in the sixth. Markakis hit a leadoff single and then jogged home on Aubrey Huff's two-run homer.

Luke Scott connected for a one-out double and scored to cut Oakland's lead to 4-3 when center fielder Rajai Davis played Wieters' single into a triple. However, the Orioles couldn't bring in Wieters from third with the tying run as reliever Craig Breslow got Wigginton to fly out to shallow right and struck out Cesar Izturis. When he returned to the dugout, Wigginton kicked over the water cooler, sending ice flying onto the field.

"I wouldn't say I'm pressing," Wigginton said. "I felt like I had a good pitch to hit and any time you get a guy in scoring position with one out, especially a guy on third with less than [two] outs, that's got to find a way to be automatic. In my opinion, there is no excuse for not driving that guy in."

Still trailing by a run in the seventh, the Orioles had Brian Roberts on second and Markakis on first with one out, and Huff at the plate. Roberts, who has the green light, broke for third and Markakis, having the choice to either run behind Roberts or stay at first, decided to try to steal second. Markakis got a late break and was thrown out at second by a wide margin. Huff then struck out to end the Orioles' last threat.

"I should have known better," Markakis said.

"I should have known that they were going to throw to second. The way Brian steals bags, it's tough to read. That's why he's one of the better base stealers in the game. I should have stayed put and given Aubrey a chance to get a sac fly or drive in a run there. I took a gamble and came up on the short end."

As the A's tacked on two more runs against an overworked bullpen, the Orioles didn't get a base runner during the final two innings.

Inside

O's pull offer to draft pick Givens PG 5

Box score

for Wednesday's game PG 4

ANGELS @ORIOLES

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