Funk continues as O's lose 4-2 to A's

April 17, 2010|By Jeff Zrebiec | The Baltimore Sun

Oakland, Calif. — They spoke through gritted teeth in an eerily quiet clubhouse, repeating the same things that they've said for the last week.

Balls will start finding holes. The hits with runners in scoring position will start to come. The runs will start piling up.

"It's very cliched and it's getting old me saying it, and I'm tired of saying that we're going to come out tomorrow and do it," said Orioles center fielder Adam Jones. "But that's really the only option that we have."

Each day, the Orioles' offensive futility deepens, and as a result, a frustrating and embarrassing losing streak grows. The Orioles made another opposing starter look like a Cy Young candidate last night, managing just three hits over seven innings against Dallas Braden in a 4-2 loss to the Oakland Athletics before an announced 12,225 at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

The Orioles have now lost eight consecutive games to fall to a league-worst 1-10 on the season. In six of those losses, they've been held to two runs or fewer.

"It's a situation that I can't explain or put my finger on," said Orioles manager Dave Trembley. "We're a much better ballclub than we've played. We have experienced, proven hitters that are right now going through a difficult time. But sooner or later they will break out."

Asked how hard it was to keep having to say that, Trembley said, "I get tired of answering the same question in a very positive way, but that's the way I will be. And I will deal with it as professionally and as upfront as I possibly can and none of us will let this get the best of us."

Last night, the Orioles' lone offense was provided by second baseman Ty Wigginton, who sent a Braden pitch off the face of the second deck in left field for a two-run homer. That cut the A's lead to 4-2, but the Orioles botched numerous chances to pull closer, hitting into inning-ending double plays in both the seventh and eighth innings.

In the ninth, Nick Markakis hit a one-out double against Oakland closer and reigning American League Rookie of the Year Andrew Bailey, but Miguel Tejada grounded out and Matt Wieters flied out to end it. The Orioles finished the game 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position and are now 10-for-78 (.128) in such situations this season.

"It's the story of the beginning of the year so far," said Wieters, who is 0-for-10 over his last three games. "Our pitchers have pitched well enough to get wins and battled to get deep into games and we aren't able to put up enough runs on the board."

Braden retired the first 10 Orioles that he faced before Markakis' one-out double in the fourth. With his seventh-inning performance, Braden is now 5-1 with a 1.57 ERA in six career starts against the Orioles. He also became the ninth opposing starter in 11 games to pitch at least six innings and the sixth starter to go at least seven.

"It's just frustrating," said Orioles starter Kevin Millwood. "We're not getting blown out, we're just not winning. It's definitely frustrating, but we have another game tomorrow so you can't let it beat you down too much."

Millwood could serve as a symbol of the team's offensive struggles as he is 0-2 in three starts having a 2.89 ERA. He clearly wasn't at his best last night, especially in a shaky second inning, but he allowed three earned runs, managed to get through six innings and fanned nine, the most strikeouts for an Orioles pitcher this season.

"I just couldn't throw the ball where I wanted to," Millwood said. "My fastball command, I felt I didn't locate it at all. My slider stunk all day. I kind of got in survival mode early and it's hard to pitch like that."

The A's offense did what the Orioles' group has been unable to do all season move runners, make quality outs and get runners home. Oakland's lone run in the second inning scored on a Jake Fox sacrifice fly. The A's then scored another run in the third on Ryan Sweeney's groundout after a Wieters throwing error put Rajai Davis on third.

They then added two more on Cliff Pennington's two-out triple in the fourth. It was a 4-0 deficit at that point, but with the way the Orioles are swinging the bats, it felt much greater.

"[Millwood] gave us a great chance," Jones said. "I was yelling on the dugout and on the bench, 'Let's get him some runs.' He battled his tail off. We weren't able to get anything going. We've got to string more hits together. We have to string two, three hits together and then get a big hit. That's what we're missing right now."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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