Orioles' five-game winning streak ends with loss to Athletics

Athletics 6, Orioles 2

Simon gives up four hits and three runs in two innings for first defeat of season

May 28, 2011|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

OAKLAND, Calif. — The Orioles' five-game winning streak came to an abrupt halt Friday night as they played like they always seem to at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

They got a much-too-brief outing from their starting pitcher, their bullpen didn't throw enough strikes and their lineup marred a solid team-wide approach by hitting into four inning-ending double plays.

After getting out of a bases loaded and one-out jam in the fifth, Alfredo Simon allowed three runs in the bottom of the sixth as the Oakland Athletics beat the Orioles 6-2 in front of an announced 12,110.

The Orioles (24-25) fell to 1-10 at the Coliseum since the 2008 season, and dropped under the .500 mark a day after they reached that plateau for the first time since May 1.

"We had a lot of opportunities," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter, whose team went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and didn't take full advantage of Oakland starter Gio Gonzalez's five walks and a hit batter. "It was very frustrating for us."

Simon, making just his second appearance since he was activated from Major League Baseball's restricted list, officially got the loss, surrendering three straight two-out, run-scoring hits, the first one by Ryan Sweeney breaking a 2-2 tie in the sixth. Josh Willingham also connected for an RBI double, and Kurt Suzuki lined an RBI single to complete the three-run inning.

Simon -- who admitted that he was a little tired after he had warmed up or pitched for three consecutive days -- was in the game at that point because Chris Tillman needed 102 pitches to log just 4 1/3 innings, the fifth time in his past six starts when the young right-hander went five innings or less.

In one of the more deceiving stat lines of the season, Tillman allowed just two runs (one earned) despite giving up six hits, walking three batters and hitting one, and surrendering a series of hard-hit balls.

"I was more frustrated that I got out of my delivery tonight," Tillman said. "It's been there for me pretty much when I needed it, and tonight I got away from myself. A lot of hard work [I put in], and tonight I got away from it and I've got to get back to it."

Tillman didn't have one easy inning and continued his struggles to put away hitters. He got two quick outs in the first before a double by Sweeney and an error by third baseman Mark Reynolds on Willingham's ground ball prolonged the inning for Hideki Matsui to line an RBI single into left.

The A's got their second run with two outs in the second when David DeJesus' single brought home Mark Ellis, who had led off the inning with a single and then stole second base. By the end of the third inning, Tillman's pitch count was already at 69.

After back-to-back walks to Willingham and Matsui loaded the bases with one out in the fifth, Showalter removed Tillman and brought in Simon, who cleaned up the mess with strikeouts of Suzuki and Ellis. However, going to his bullpen that early in the game following a 12-inning game on Thursday was about the last thing that Showalter wanted to do.

"He's got that same challenge that we've had with some of our young starting pitching," Showalter said. "They go 0-2 to 3-2 real quick. In fairness to him, he struck out Willingham a couple of times and didn't get the call. That turned some innings around. It was a challenge for him. It's disappointing that he didn't pitch better."

Simon and Michael Gonzalez took the brunt of Tillman's short outing as Simon threw 55 pitches over two innings and Gonzalez threw 41 over 1 2/3 innings.

Meanwhile, the Orioles did what they wanted to do against the talented Gio Gonzalez, getting people on base and making the left-hander throw a lot of pitches. But that didn't translate into as many runs as it should have because of the Orioles' futility with runners in scoring position.

The Orioles loaded the bases with no outs in the second inning, and Gonzalez walked Reynolds to bring in a run and tie the game at one. However, Gonzalez struck out J.J. Hardy for the first out and got former teammate Jake Fox to hit into a double play to end the inning.

"Jake had a tough at-bat," Showalter said. "We had him on the ropes and he swings at two balls in the dirt, and we had a chance to really open him up there. We had some disciplined at-bats, and you don't get him in that situation very often and it's unfortunate. It's frustrating because you've got a chance to beat a really good pitcher tonight."

The Orioles had two men on again in the third and Matt Wieters struck out, and another guy on in the fourth before Hardy bounced into an inning-ending double play.

They got another run in the fifth, but it took a throwing error on Oakland shortstop Cliff Pennington to do it. With runners on first and second and no outs, Adam Jones hit a hard grounder to first base. Daric Barton fielded it cleanly to get the out at second, but Gonzalez, who ran over to cover first, fell down as Pennington's throw flew past him.

Fox scored on the error to tie the game at two. But after Gonzalez walked Nick Markakis, Vladimir Guerrero bounced into a double play. That's how the sixth ended, as well as with Mark Reynolds grounding into the twin killing.

"It's just one of those nights where they were better than us," Hardy said.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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