Bullpen fails O's in loss to Rangers

Rangers 4, Orioles 1

Guthrie gives up 1 run in 6 innings, but relievers can't get job done

May 20, 2010|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

ARLINGTON, Texas — — As soon as the door swung open in the visiting bullpen before the bottom of the seventh inning Wednesday night, the Orioles' fortunes changed.

For six innings, Jeremy Guthrie gamely protected a one-run lead, escaping one jam after another by retiring the best the Texas Rangers had to offer. But after he ran out of gas on a typical hot and humid night here, six Orioles relievers were used and all but Will Ohman played a role in a 4-3 loss in front of an announced 22,321 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

"It seemed like it was every inning they put the pressure on us, and they ended up getting the win," Guthrie said. "We battled and battled and battled. At the end, I thought we had a real shot to win the game."

Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz ended the game with a ninth-inning sacrifice fly to center field that scored Michael Young as Adam Jones' throw sailed wide, but it probably wouldn't have gotten Young even if it had been perfect. It was the Orioles' fourth loss in the past five games and it dropped them to 13-28 on the season.

Jason Berken gave up the game-winning sacrifice fly, but he was thrust into a near-impossible situation — the bases loaded and one out — and doesn't share the culpability of several other Orioles relievers.

Trying to protect a one-run lead in the seventh, Matt Albers mishandled Julio Borbon's sacrifice bunt attempt, leading to the Rangers' two-run inning. Koji Uehara visibly tired in a 30-pitch eighth and needed Cla Meredith to bail him out and strand two base runners in the inning after the Orioles tied the score in the top half on Cesar Izturis' two-out single.

Meredith then gave up a leadoff double to Young in the ninth inning before giving way to Alberto Castillo, who walked Josh Hamilton after getting ahead 0-2 to load the bases and set the stage for Cruz.

"There were two key plays in the game," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "One, we didn't get an out on the bunt. Albers made an error on it. And Castillo wound up walking Hamilton after getting ahead 0-2. Those were the two key things."

Castillo threw all sliders in the six-pitch at-bat to Hamilton, who fouled off the first two and then watched the next four dart out of the strike zone.

"I was going to go after him," Castillo said. "I felt comfortable with my stuff. I know he's hot, but I wanted to go with my slider. That's my best pitch against lefties, and I thought I threw a couple of good ones and he didn't swing. They were good pitches at the moment. He just didn't bite on them."

Before the walk, Hamilton had hit a solo homer in the second inning — and what should have a solo homer in the fourth but was incorrectly ruled a double by second base umpire Doug Eddings.

The ball hit what appeared to hit the guard rail over the left-field wall and bounced back on the field. The umpiring crew opted not to review the play and later admitted it erred.

That was just one of several things that went in the Orioles' favor for the first half of the game. Izturis gave the Orioles a 2-0 lead in the top of the second with a bases-loaded, two-run bloop single off Rangers starter Rich Harden.

The Orioles would get plenty of chances the rest of the way to build on that, but they went 4-for-13 with runners in scoring position, stranded 10 base runners, and didn't score again until Izturis' game-tying RBI single in the eighth off former teammate Chris Ray.

"It was one of those games where we had opportunities to score runs and we just didn't score enough," said Izturis, who had three hits and three RBIs after entering the game with just four hits and two RBIs in 13 games this month.

Guthrie, meanwhile, had a perfect first inning but found outs much tougher to come by over the next five frames. The Rangers had a man on second and one out and couldn't get another run in the second inning.

They had men on second and third with one out and didn't score in the third, and a man on third with one out and couldn't bring him home in the fourth. They also had two men on with two outs in the fifth, and Guthrie again got out of the jam by retiring the dangerous Vladimir Guerrero.

"That's the hardest I've worked all season," said Guthrie, who failed in his bid to win his third straight start but watched his ERA drop to 3.86. "I just remember looking up there after the third inning to see where I'm at and it just felt like I had thrown much more than I had. It was taxing. Those guys are good hitters, and you get people on base and have to struggle out there and be in the stretch all those pitches. It was a taxing game, for sure."

Guthrie had thrown 90 pitches, the fewest in any outing this season, when Trembley conferred with pitching coach Rick Kranitz, who had talked to Guthrie, and decided to go to the bullpen. The Orioles' lead didn't even make it through one inning.

"Kranny told me that he wasn't doing real well, wasn't feeling real well," Trembley said. "I know he pitched very well when he was in there. He just said that he couldn't go anymore."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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