Orioles starting pitcher Brad Bergesen sits in the dugout after… (Baltimore Sun photo by Gene…)
With one out in the top of Wednesday's first inning in a game the Orioles absolutely, positively needed to win to make a cross-country flight to the West Coast bearable, shortstop Cesar Izturis lost the flight of a pop fly on the left side of the infield.
He cried, "I can't see it, I can't see it," but Orioles third baseman Miguel Tejada thought Izturis was calling for the pop-up, and by the time he figured out what was happening and lunged to make the catch, the ball had nicked Tejada's glove and bounced to the ground for an error.
Three batters later, Carlos Pena hit a two-out, three-run homer to give the Tampa Bay Rays an early lead on their way to a 9-1 victory and three-game sweep that dropped the Orioles to 1-8 this season and kept them winless at home.
One dropped pop-up, the floodgates open and the Orioles again struggle to stay afloat.
"It's a different ballgame right there if we catch that," Izturis said. "This is the first time in my career that stuff like that has happened, that you have to do everything right to get a W. But we have to keep playing and, hopefully, we can get over that stuff."
The Orioles are off to their worst start since beginning 1988 with an 0-21 record. They've lost leadoff hitter and second baseman Brian Roberts to a herniated disk in his back, and they learned Wednesday that closer Michael Gonzalez has a strained left shoulder that has forced him to the disabled list.
Fan backlash toward the team and, specifically, toward manager Dave Trembley, is surging, but club president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said he is not concerning himself with anything but turning around the season.
"That's just not the way I operate," MacPhail said. "We are going to do everything we can to try and make personnel decisions to try and help the team, and that is what we are going to focus on, making things better and not looking for scapegoats."
The problem, he said, isn't the number of games the club has lost, but the nature of those defeats. Six of the eight losses were by three runs or fewer.
"What makes this start really hard on all of us, the fans, ourselves, the players, is that you are 1-8 and everybody knows in the room you could easily be 5-4," MacPhail said. "Other than today, we haven't been whupped in any game. In any given season, you are going have four to eight games that are really body blows to the stomach that you are going to remember, and we have already had four."
Wednesday's defeat, however, was an old-fashioned beating, with starter Brad Bergesen (0-1) giving up eight runs (five earned) in three-plus innings. With his sinker staying up in the strike zone, Bergesen has been battered in his first two starts, allowing 10 earned runs in 7 2/3 innings (11.74 ERA).
"Something just felt a little off these last two outings," said Bergesen, the team's most consistent starter in 2009. "But I am not worried about it."
Conversely, Tampa Bay left-hander David Price (2-0) allowed just four hits and one run, a homer by Miguel Tejada, in seven innings. The Orioles are batting .232 as a team and .152 with runners in scoring position.
Life doesn't get any easier for the Orioles. They left Camden Yards on Wednesday afternoon for a 10-game road trip, which includes a West Coast swing to play the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners before heading back east to face the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
The Orioles start the trip with a four-game series at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, where the Orioles have been swept each of the past two seasons.
"Our work's cut out for us even more so after losing the amount of games that we've lost. We haven't started out any way like we expected. Everybody's disappointed. No one's happy with it; no one's accepting it," Trembley said.
"When it snowballs like this, maybe this is the final purge. Maybe we got it all out of our system. Maybe this is the last of it. Let's hope. It can't go on forever."