The Orioles' Brian Roberts reacts after teammate Nick… (Baltimore Sun photo by Lloyd…)
After losing Thursday against the Cleveland Indians despite allowing three runs over seven innings, Orioles pitcher Kevin Millwood remarked, "I guess I just got to pick a better night to pitch, when we score more runs."
Tuesday night wasn't it either, as Millwood again reprised his role as hard-luck loser while matching up against another unheralded young left-hander. Millwood allowed just one run in eight innings, but Seattle Mariners starter Luke French was even better, holding the Orioles scoreless for 7 2/3 innings in the visitors' 4-0 victory in front of an announced 14,739 at Camden Yards.
"I worry about things I can control, and scoring runs is obviously not something I can control," said Millwood, whose team has scored just 2.1 runs per game during his 24 starts. "I feel like if I go out and pitch well, give us a chance, then I've done my job. If I felt like guys weren't trying, it'd be a different story. Everybody is going up there trying to put the ball in play, trying to get hits, trying to score runs. It just didn't happen for us today."
Matt Tuiasosopo, a late entry into the Mariners' lineup, drove in the only run off Millwood with an RBI double in the fifth. He then broke the game open with a three-run homer off Armando Gabino in the ninth inning.
The Orioles (42-78) lost for the third time in four games and for just the second time in nine home contests under manager Buck Showalter. In doing so, they fell to 12-25 against left-handed starters this season. Of the eight times they've been shut out in 2010, three have been in games started by a left-hander.
"I expect Kevin to pitch well when he pitches. He gives us a chance to win. He did it again tonight. We just didn't do much with French," said Showalter, who is 10-5 as Orioles manager. "He was sharp. That wasn't some fluky thing. He drove the ball in the inner half — that changeup, threw a small slider. He was good. He was really good."
French, who entered the game with a 4.96 ERA, allowed just three hits, two of them by Josh Bell. The rookie third baseman broke up the starter's no-hit bid with a one-out single in the sixth. The Orioles' other two hits off him came in the eighth when Bell hit a two-out double and Brian Roberts followed with a single.
On Roberts' single, Mariners shortstop Josh Wilson made a diving play to stop the ball and keep it from going into center field, which almost certainly would have scored pinch runner Julio Lugo and tied the score at 1. Instead, Lugo stopped at third, and then reliever Brandon League retired Nick Markakis on a fielder's choice to end the threat.
The Orioles had just two men in scoring position all night. They've been held to five hits or fewer three times in the past four games. They've also scored three total runs in Millwood's past three starts.
In his previous outing against the Indians, the Orioles were held to one run in six innings by Jeanmar Gomez, a 22-year-old making just his fourth big league start. On Tuesday night, it was French, a 24-year-old who was making just his 17th career start and fifth this season.
No Orioles hitter had ever faced him in a big league game, and that was readily apparent.
"We haven't seen him, but he pumped the zone," said Ty Wigginton, who had a particularly rough night, striking out twice, grounding into a double play and flying out with two men on in the sixth. "He used his fastball, mixed in enough changeups and a couple of sliders. It's a shame because Millwood definitely deserves better."
Said Bell: "I think it was his location and his changeup. You were kind of sitting on something off-speed, and then he throws a fastball by you. I think just the change of speeds was the best thing."
It was the fourth time this season Millwood exited a game with the Orioles scoreless. He has dropped five straight decisions and is winless since June 24. With his 13th loss, he overtook teammate Brian Matusz for the American League lead in that category.
While they couldn't score, the Orioles did give the veteran plenty of defensive support. Left fielder Felix Pie made a great running catch on Ichiro Suzuki's foul liner for the first out of the game. Center fielder Adam Jones made a running catch in deep center to deny Suzuki an extra-base hit in the third. Right fielder Nick Markakis made a diving catch to take away a hit from Wilson with a man on the fifth.
Shortstop Cesar Izturis made perhaps the prettiest play of them all in the sixth when he ranged deep into the hole to field Casey Kotchman's grounder and made a jumping throw to first.
"Pretty impressive," Showalter said.
Some runs would have been even better.
"We would have liked to win tonight," Showalter said. "We wasted a pretty good pitching effort, and that's disappointing for the guys in that clubhouse, I know."
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