O's frustration on display in 2-0 loss to Rangers

August 20, 2010|By Jeff Zrebiec | Baltimore Sun reporter

It was felt by Adam Jones, who angrily whipped his helmet up the tunnel after he was robbed of an extra-base hit by diving Texas Rangers center fielder Julio Borbon, and by Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who repeatedly chirped at home plate umpire Jeff Nelson from the dugout before he was finally ejected in the ninth inning.

But the ultimate sign of frustration on a night where the home team was simply overwhelmed by Rangers starter C.J. Wilson and incensed by Nelson was delivered by normally the Orioles' most even-keeled player. Nick Markakis was tossed from the game for the first time in his career after exchanging words with Nelson in the sixth inning after his third strikeout of the night.

Wilson struck out a career-high 12 and allowed just three hits in 82/3 innings as the Rangers ended a five-game losing streak against the Orioles with a 2-0 victory in front of an announced 18,751 on Friday night at Camden Yards.

"It was just an accumulation of a lot of things," Showalter said. "It's unfortunate. Obviously, [Markakis] was having a tough night, and you're just looking for a sense of fairness and emotions take over. That's one thing that can't happen. You can't get emotionally involved as an umpire. Ninety-nine times out of 100, I come in here and tell you we had a chance to make it not matter. It was really tough tonight."

Wilson gave up two of his three hits to Julio Lugo, who made his first start in left field only because Showalter wanted to get another right-handed bat against the left-handed Rangers starter. After Lugo's two-out double in the third, Wilson retired 18 of the final 19 batters he faced, nine of those outs coming on strikeouts.

The exception was Brian Roberts' leadoff double in the ninth. Wilson responded by striking out Lugo and retiring Felix Pie on a groundout. Rangers manager Ron Washington then brought in closer Neftali Feliz, who retired pinch hitter Luke Scott.

Markakis, the only true left-handed hitter in the Orioles' lineup, struck out looking in his first two at-bats. Each of those at-bats passed with little interaction between he and Nelson. However, in his third at-bat, he turned around and had words with Nelson after two straight called strikes to make the count 1-2. Nelson then punched him out on the next pitch, a fastball that, like the two previous pitches, appeared to be outside.

Markakis stared at Nelson and then said, "That's terrible, Jeff." He continued to bark at Nelson, who starting walking toward third base. Markakis kept talking and was finally ejected. Markakis threw down his bat and continued to yell before third base coach Gary Allenson pushed him toward the dugout.

"Yeah, I was frustrated," Markakis said. "That's a one-run game there. I'm up there looking to get in scoring position or tie the game. I'm looking for a good pitch to hit, and it didn't go my way. The first two at-bats, I saw he made good pitches. It just built up and built up, and I feel in that last at-bat I didn't get one strike thrown to me, and I was on my way back to the dugout.

"I didn't use any words against him; I didn't use any profanity. He may not have liked the tone in my voice, but I didn't like the strike zone in the last at-bat. I knew it was coming. It was building up and building up, and one thing led to another and I'm on my way to the dugout."

Though he's historically struggled against the Orioles, going 1-3 with a 7.15 ERA in 18 career games, Wilson entered the start on the best run of his career. He was 4-0 in his previous six starts with a 2.72 ERA. He had also held opponents to three earned runs or less in 13 of his past 14 outings.

The numbers hardly surprise Buck Showalter, who managed Wilson in Texas and was instrumental in expanding his role from just a left-handed specialist.

"He's impressive," Showalter said. "I like C.J. a lot. He has a lot of things in his arsenal."

One of the biggest is his ability to dominate left-handed hitters. Wilson entered Friday night having held left-handers to a .106 average, .185 on-base percentage and a .133 slugging percentage -- all league lows. He also has a chance to have the second-lowest average versus lefties for someone with 20 starts or more in a season since 1974 -- Randy Johnson had a .103 average against lefties for Arizona in 1999.

Those numbers prompted Showalter to sit all his left-handed hitters except Markakis. With Luke Scott, Felix Pie and Corey Patterson all on the bench, Julio Lugo got his first start in left field this season.

It was also just the third start there in his career, the previous one coming in 2006 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He did play left field for one inning for the Boston Red Sox in 2008.

Thus, it was no surprise that the ball found Lugo almost immediately. Josh Hamilton hit a liner out to left with one out in the first, and Lugo misplayed it into a double. However, it didn't hurt the Orioles; starter Jake Arrieta got Vladimir Guerrero to fly out and end the inning.

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