Aging Guerrero Leads Angels' Power Display

August 18, 2009|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,

Aubrey Huff, the Orioles' cleanup hitter over the last season and a half, had already cleaned out his locker and packed his bags after his trade to the Detroit Tigers when Vladimir Guerrero gave the latest demonstration on the importance of having a slugger in the middle of the lineup.

Guerrero slammed two home runs and drove in five runs and the Los Angeles Angels scored all their runs via four long balls in an 8-5 victory over the Orioles in front of an announced 18,460 on Monday night at Camden Yards.

"He's still dangerous. For me, he's still Vladimir Guerrero," said shortstop Cesar Izturis, the latest Oriole to suggest that reports of the demise of the Angels' No. 4 hitter are way off base. "You're not going to get away with a mistake with a guy like Vladi."

With their third straight loss to the Angels, the Orioles (48-70) ended another discouraging homestand with a 2-5 record and dropped to a season-worst 22 games under .500. They finished the season series with the Angels with two wins in 10 games, and they're now just 8-22 since the All-Star break.

With the team needing a quality and extended start to rest a bullpen that logged 7 1/3 innings on Sunday, Orioles rookie David Hernandez delivered just a 5 1/3 -inning outing in which he surrendered three home runs and walked five. The Angels' Maicer Izturis, Cesar's half-brother, broke a 3-3 tie with a solo home run in the sixth. Later in the inning, Guerrero slammed Hernandez's first pitch over the left-field wall for a two-run homer.

Hernandez has allowed eight homers in his past four starts.

"I thought I threw well going into the sixth inning, but a couple of pitches got away and I didn't get a ball in enough to Vlad there and he did what he's done 400-plus times," Hernandez said. "I knew our bullpen was tired. I tried to battle out there. I knew I had enough in the gas tank to get out of the sixth. It was just a couple of bad pitches."

Cla Meredith relieved Hernandez (4-5) and surrendered a three-run shot to Guerrero in the seventh after Orioles manager Dave Trembley had walked Bobby Abreu intentionally. Guerrero's two home runs in back-to-back innings traveled a combined 810 feet.

"Abreu is pretty dominant," Trembley said. "I would say Meredith's strength is right against right. It's not facing left-handed hitters. His strength is sinker-ball right against right, and he made a bad pitch. I walked the guy, so it doesn't look good on all fronts, but that's the right thing to do."

Orioles pitchers have allowed a league-high 151 homers after the Angels' four last night. The Orioles answered with two of their own as Nick Markakis hit a solo shot in the sixth off Angels starter Ervin Santana and Melvin Mora connected for a two-run blast in the ninth. But that wasn't enough for the Orioles, who played the game short-handed after Huff's pre-game trade to the Tigers for Class-A reliever Brett Jacobson.

In Huff's place, Luke Scott got his first career start at first base and handled one slow grounder with ease, but really wasn't tested. Markakis batted in the cleanup spot and went 2-for-4 with two RBIs. On his RBI double in the third inning that tied the game at two, Markakis extended his consecutive-games on-base streak to 37.

Markakis could find significantly less to hit in coming games because even in a down year, Huff still was a proven power bat in the middle of the order.

"It's always tough to lose somebody in the middle of the lineup, but you understand that's part of the game and you do the very best you can, which I think I would do no matter what," said Trembley, who had other concerns: specifically, the state of the team's bullpen.

Every member of the team's relief corps pitched in Sunday's 13-inning loss except Meredith. Jim Johnson and Mark Hendrickson had also pitched on two consecutive days, meaning Trembley had to stay off them at least for a night.

That, of course, put even more pressure than usual on Hernandez to get deep into the game. The right-hander had gone at least six innings in five of his past seven starts, but his pitch count had reached 54 by the end of the Angels' two-run second inning. Guerrero then accelerated his exit with the two-run homer in the sixth.

"He's missed a lot of time, he doesn't run near as well as he used to, he doesn't move near as well as he used to," Trembley said of Guerrero. "But he knows what to do when that bat's in his hands."

Box score

for Monday

PG 4





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