Late-inning collapse dooms Orioles in 5-2 loss

Tejada error opens door for Blue Jays, who sweep series

April 11, 2010|By Dan Connolly | dan.connolly@baltsun.com

Six games into a season that is supposed to be more about wins and losses than development, the Orioles are creating a how-to guide on giving victories away.

Instead of the now familiar late-inning bullpen implosion, the Orioles' 5-2 loss Sunday to the Toronto Blue Jays was spurred by an eighth-inning error by third baseman Miguel Tejada, the first at his new position and the first by an Oriole in 2010.

"When things aren't going right for you and you give the other team a four-out inning, that's what happens," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "And certainly that's what happened today. We gave them a four-out inning with a guy that pitched a tremendous game."

The Orioles (1-5) are off to their worst start since 2002 and were swept at home by the Blue Jays (5-1), a rebuilding club many expected to finish last in the American League East for the first time since 2004.

As with almost everything else so far this month, the timing of Tejada's miscue -- two outs in the eighth with the club clinging to a 2-1 lead and No. 1 starter Kevin Millwood pitching a masterpiece -- was devastating for the Orioles.

"If we make the play to end the eighth inning, [Millwood] finishes it and completes the game and we're on our way," Trembley said.

But Tejada couldn't snag the hard bouncer off the bat of John McDonald, which took a quick, high hop just before it clanked off Tejada's glove.

Millwood, who had allowed only three hits and retired 23 of 26 Blue Jays to that point, then hung a 1-2 curveball to Jose Bautista, who deposited it into the left-field seats for a 3-2 lead. Alex Gonzalez followed with a solo homer, his second of the game and fourth of the week, to chase Millwood and put the contest out of reach.

Edwin Encarnacion homered against reliever Cla Meredith in the ninth for the Blue Jays' fourth home run of the game on only seven hits. "We're going to make errors; that's just the way it is," said Millwood (0-1), who was charged with four runs (one earned) to drop his ERA to 2.13. "I don't think any team's ever gone the season without making errors. Sometimes you got to pick those guys up, and I wasn't able to do it."

Tejada, who is making the switch from shortstop to third, said after the game that he was "sorry this happened."

"I wish I could catch that ball. Everybody watching the game [saw] what happened with that ball. I'm trying my best," Tejada said. "Everyone makes errors; why can't I make an error? That's the same error anybody can make. I don't worry about it. Tomorrow [is] another day, and I'll come back to work."

At least one interested spectator thought it should have been ruled a hit.

"I know they gave Tejada an error on that ball, but the ball took a bad hop," Toronto manager Cito Gaston said. "He's going to be the guy to wear it today, but it certainly took a bad hop."

The Orioles might have not needed a good break had the offense not struggled again to hit in the clutch. With his RBI double in the first against starter Shaun Marcum, Tejada was the only Oriole to get a hit with runners in scoring position.

On Sunday, the club was 1-for-8 in that category (including a RBI groundout by Luke Scott in the first that gave the Orioles a 2-0 lead) and are now an abysmal 9-for-54 (.167 average) with runners in scoring position this season. They finished third in the AL in the category in 2009 with a .284 average.

"It's part of the game. They are making good pitches, and we are missing some good pitches," center fielder Adam Jones said. "By saying the numbers, the only way we can go is up."

The worst example came in the third, when Jones tripled to lead off the inning with the middle of the order heading to the plate. Nick Markakis struck out, Tejada grounded out and Scott flied out to end the threat.

The Orioles didn't get a runner to third after that against Marcum or Toronto's trio of relievers, Casey Janssen (3-0), Scott Downs and Kevin Gregg (second save). Meanwhile, the Orioles have allowed a run in the eighth or ninth innings in each of their six games this season.

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