Orioles' frustrations on display in 2-0 loss to Rangers

Frustrated by calls and Wilson, Markakis receives 1st ejection

August 21, 2010|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

The emotions built throughout the night, both from being overwhelmed by Texas Rangers starter C.J. Wilson and incensed by the strike zone that he was afforded by plate umpire Jeff Nelson. Finally, the Orioles' most mild-mannered player vented.

Nick Markakis was ejected in the sixth inning for the first time in 747 career big league games, and his manager, Buck Showalter, was given the hook three innings later in the Orioles' 2-0 loss to the Rangers before an announced 18,751 on Friday night at Camden Yards.

Wilson struck out a career-high 12 and allowed just three hits in 8 2/3 innings, but his performance, at least in the home clubhouse, was overshadowed by a rare display of frustration by Markakis, and the Orioles' feeling that Nelson allowed his anger toward the right fielder to affect his calls.

The umpiring crew declined to comment after the game, but the Orioles (43-80) said plenty after watching their five game-winning streak against the Rangers end.

"It was just an accumulation of a lot of things. It's unfortunate," said Showalter, who was ejected in the top of the ninth after Nelson had words with catcher Matt Wieters over a pitch by Matt Albers that was called a ball. "Obviously, he 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."

Markakis, who struck out looking in his first two at-bats, turned around and questioned a 1-0 pitch in the sixth inning that Nelson called a strike. Replays showed that the pitch was off the plate. Wilson, who hit his spots all night, then threw virtually the same pitch with a 1-1 count and it was again called a strike, prompting the Orioles' right fielder to again have words with the umpire.

When he was punched out by Nelson on the next pitch, which appeared to be in virtually the same location as the previous two, Markakis stared at the veteran umpire and said, "That's terrible, Jeff." The conversation continued until Markakis was finally tossed, leading the Oriole to spike his bat near home plate. Both Showalter and third base coach Gary Allenson then got between Markakis and Nelson.

"I didn't use any words against him. I didn't use any profanity," Markakis said. "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.

"The first two at-bats, I saw [on video], he made good pitches. Â I feel in that last at-bat, I didn't get one strike thrown to me."

Asked whether he feels that his questioning of the 1-0 call led to the next two strikes, Markakis said: "Yeah, I was frustrated. 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 Orioles rallied around Markakis, noting how he had never been ejected before and how he rarely even questions a call.

"You see him complaining, you might want to consider the source," Showalter said before tossing a barb at his former employer, the New York Yankees. "Sometimes the people who seem to be a little more squawky get some of the benefits. That's unfortunate in our game, but we see it a lot when we head up toward the Bronx."

Said center fielder Adam Jones: "When Markakis says something -- a guy with an eye like that -- go to the tape. He's one of the most mild-mannered guys you will find. If he says something, you know it's got to be something. He has one of the best eyes in baseball. He was frustrated. He said something, and he should have."

Nelson wasn't the only source of the Orioles' frustration; they simply could do nothing with Wilson, who outdueled an also effective Jake Arrieta. The Orioles rookie allowed two runs (one earned) in 6 2/3 innings, giving up a solo homer to Mitch Moreland in the second.

Meanwhile, Julio Lugo, who made his first start this season in left field just so the Orioles could get another right-handed bat in there against the left-handed Wilson, had two of the three hits against the Rangers starter.

After Lugo's two-out double in the third, Wilson retired 16 straight Orioles, eight of them on strikeouts. He struck out the side in the fifth on just 12 pitches, and that started a stretch where he fanned six of nine batters.

His streak ended when Brian Roberts doubled to start the ninth. But Wilson fanned Lugo and then retired Felix Pie on a groundout. Rangers manager Ron Washington then brought in closer Neftali Feliz, who retired pinch hitter Luke Scott to end the game.

It was the ninth time this season that the Orioles have been shut out, and this one left them particularly frustrated.

"C.J.'s really having a great year, and he has a chance to be as good as you want to see, and he can help himself," said Showalter, who managed Wilson in Texas. "He's capable of doing what he did tonight, regardless of borderline pitches. It's hard for me to say borderline with some of them."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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