Kevin Cowherd: O's falling short versus AL East big boys

July 20, 2011|By Kevin Cowherd

One of Buck Showalter's mantras since he took over as Orioles manager is this: We have to beat the big boys in our division.

Forget the size of their payrolls. Forget their star-studded lineups. Forget their championship banners and World Series rings.

Until the O's can beat the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays, he says, they won't be relevant in the AL East.

Wondering how that's working out so far?

Um, not so well.

Especially not after the Orioles lost 4-0 to the Red Sox Wednesday in the simmering heat of Camden Yards, which again turned into Fenway Park South with the usual invasion of raucous Red Sox fans.

If you're scoring at home, that gives the Orioles a 3-8 record in the series with the Red Sox so far this season.

This, of course, does not sit well with Showalter, who was probably banging his head against the dugout wall when Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon got Nolan Reimold to fly out to left for the game's final out with thousands of Red Sox fans on their feet and cheering.

"They're good," Showalter said of the Red Sox after the game. "They're very good. Maybe it's professional jealousy. We want to get to that level one day. At times we do. On a given night."

But not on this given day.

Not with Red Sox lefty Andrew Miller holding the Orioles to two hits over 5 2/3 innings. Not when the Orioles managed six walks off him and did nothing with them.

Not when they wasted a decent performance from their starter, Jake Arrieta, who battled the 95-degree heat and the fearsome Red Sox lineup — Jacoby Ellsbury's two homers gave them a major-league-leading 67 on the road this year — to turn in a quality start.

You don't beat the Red Sox and Yankees and Rays swinging the bats the way the Orioles did.

"They're the best three teams in baseball," said O's third baseman Mark Reynolds. "And for us to turn the corner, we've got to beat these guys consistently. We can't have a good series against them and then lose six straight against them.

"We've got to be consistent against these guys, and then we'll eventually turn the corner."

Well, maybe.

Orioles fans can only wonder when that time will come as the team slogs through another dreary losing season, its 14th in a row barring another miracle finish like last year's.

This is how bad things got Wednesday: The high point for me was seeing new Orioles reliever Mark Worrell pitch in person for the first time after being called up from Triple-A Norfolk Monday.

Have you seen this guy's delivery yet? I'm not quite sure how to describe it.

OK, let's try this: it's side-arm, it's herky-jerky and then he tumbles off the mound with all the grace of a drunk falling off a stage.

Former Orioles pitching coach Ray Miller once described Hall of Famer Jim Palmer's delivery as a "symphony of movement." In Worrell's case, it's a symphony where everyone in the orchestra is tone deaf.

The guy must down a pot of coffee in the bullpen before he comes into games, too. Because he appears to be super-wired and after every pitch, he stomps four or five feet toward the plate to get the catcher's throw before stomping back to the rubber.

But guess what? Whatever he was doing Wednesday, it worked. He came on in relief of Mark Hendrickson in the eighth inning with the bases loaded and used that goofy delivery to strike out Marco Scutaro and Jason Varitek before getting Yamaico Navarro to fly out to center field.

This, of course, was a lot better than his first outing for the Orioles, when he was lit up by the Red Sox Monday and allowed three inherited runners to score without retiring a batter.

"The other day left a bad taste in my mouth," Worrell said. "This is what I'm capable of and I'm ready to go forward from here."

I sure hope so. And I hope the guy stays up here with the Orioles for a while, because he sure is fun to watch. Plus I love his enthusiasm and energy, even if it comes from slamming back four or five Red Bulls.

Unfortunately, there didn't seem to be a whole lot of energy from the rest of the Orioles Wednesday. Reynolds admitted the team looked flat.

And as another loss to one of the big boys in the AL East sunk in, the Orioles clubhouse was not exactly a happy place. Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, for one, seemed disgusted with the loss.

"It's not the first time we've lost a series to these guys," he muttered. "They're a very good team. Of course they're a very good team. But they can be beaten."

He paused for a moment, then began to walk away.

"It's probably smarter that I don't continue," he said.

And it probably was.

After all, what else was there to say?

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