Millwood let down again in loss to Blue Jays

Hitting, defense hurt Orioles starter in 5-0 loss to Toronto

  • Brian Matusz walks back to the mound after giving up a three-run homer to Adam Rosales, who rounds the bases in the background.
Brian Matusz walks back to the mound after giving up a three-run… (Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth…)
May 28, 2010|By Jeff Zrebiec | The Baltimore Sun

TORONTO — It's bad enough that the Orioles cannot score any runs for Kevin Millwood, who likely goes to the mound every five days knowing that one or two misplaced pitches will cost him another opportunity for a victory.

But when they play the kind of defense that they put forth in the first inning Friday night, when four different miscues were made, leading to three Toronto Blue Jays' runs, it's impossible to not at least feel a little sorry for the 35-year-old pitcher, who is doing even more than what the Orioles acquired him to do, and getting let down by his teammates in almost every start.

Of course, Millwood, who took his fifth loss in the Orioles' 5-0 defeat to the Toronto Blue Jays before an announced 16,360 Friday night at the Rogers Centre, wouldn't want anybody's pity. He's much too proud and has already accomplished far too much in this game for that.

What he really could use, however, is his team to get a couple of clutch hits and make all the plays behind him, two things that these Orioles consistently fail to do, especially on nights where Millwood takes the mound.

Shut out for six innings by Toronto ace Shaun Marcum, the Orioles extended their league-worst record to 15-34, and they've now lost three straight and dropped 10 of their past 13 contests. They are now 0-4 against the Blue Jays this season and have lost six straight and 15 of their last 17 at the Rogers Centre.

Millwood has now tied the longest losing skid of his career, which had been set from Sept. 8, 2003 to April 11, 2004. He certainly has to shoulder his share of the blame for Friday night's loss as he gave up two extra-base hits in the Orioles' ugly bottom of the first inning, and then allowed Toronto to add on runs in the sixth on solo homers from Aaron Hill and Vernon Wells. He's allowed 12 homers this season, five of them against the Blue Jays.

Overall, he was touched up for five runs (four earned) on six hits and a walk over six innings, his shortest start since April 27. The outing left him with a 3.89 ERA, the lowest for a starter who opened the season with 11 straight winless decisions since Rick Langford had a 2.62 ERA after 11 winless starts to open the 1978 season for Oakland.

And what can't be measured is the pressure the rest of the Orioles are putting on him by failing to make the plays defensively or put up any sort of sustained offense. In his last start, Millwood allowed only three runs against the Washington Nationals, all coming on a bases-clearing, three-run triple that should have been caught by center fielder Adam Jones.

Friday night's mistakes that added up to the Blue Jays' three-run first were numerous. Getting just his second start at second base, Scott Moore played Fred Lewis' grounder passively and his throw was too late to get the Blue Jays leadoff man. Lewis then swiped second base when Moore dropped catcher Matt Wieters' throw that if handled, would have had the runner easily.

Hill followed with an RBI double that probably should have been a single, but left fielder Corey Patterson didn't throw it directly toward second base.

Still, Millwood got two quick outs and nearly was out of the first without any further damage. However, former Oriole and the American League's surprise home run leader in Jose Bautista drove a pitch to deep right field. Thinking he could make the catch, Nick Markakis went after it rather than playing it off the wall.

The ball bounced away and Bautista made the turn for third. Moore's relay throw was off line, forcing third baseman Miguel Tejada to make a diving attempt at stopping it. However, it rolled away and Bautista scored Toronto's third run of the inning.

The Orioles had chances to get back in the game, but they again were allergic to a clutch hitting, going 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. The first two Orioles (Tejada and Luke Scott) reached in the second, but Marcum fanned Matt Wieters, lucked out when Jones' hard liner was snagged by leaping shortstop Alex Gonzalez, and then struck out Moore to end the inning.

Tejada and Scott again got on to start the fourth, only to watch Wieters line out to left field and Jones bounce into a double play.

In the fifth, they again had men on first and second, this time with two outs. Markakis was retired on soft liner to the pitcher.

Marcum then culminated his outing by striking out the side in the sixth and the Orioles got only two baserunners in the final four innings, and one of them -- Markakis -- was inexplicably thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double in a 5-0 game in the eighth.

It was the fourth time this season that the Orioles have been shut out. In Millwood's 11 starts, the Orioles have scored an appalling 17 runs while he was in the game.

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