Thursday, April 17, 2008

After Early Deficit, Orioles Can't Rally

BALTIMORE -- Adam Loewen knew what he wanted to throw Chicago's Jim Thome on a 1-2 count with two on and none out in the first inning Wednesday night. Loewen had easily blown a fastball past Thome moments before, and went for it again.

But Loewen got the fastball too far out over the plate this time, and Thome blasted it for a three-run homer.

Loewen settled down after that and didn't allow another run through his six-inning stint, but the Orioles couldn't do much offensively as the White Sox pulled out a 3-1 victory before a crowd of 12,080 at Camden Yards.

The three-run homer put the Orioles in a hole they never recovered from. The White Sox didn't do much after the first inning -- Baltimore pitchers retired the final 12 Chicago batters -- but that was enough.

Loewen said he wanted to get the pitch more inside instead of leaving it out over the plate, where Thome was able to get a good look.

"[Thome] actually swung through the same pitch two pitches before that, so I wanted to get up and in on him, and he made a good swing," Loewen said. "It just kind of shocked me because he did swing through it two pitches before that. It is a pitch I'd like to have back."

Orioles manager Dave Trembley liked how Loewen (0-1) maintained his composure and gave the bullpen some rest by getting through six innings. He allowed three runs on six hits but struggled with his control at times, walking five and striking out three. Loewen finished with 60 strikes on 109 pitches.

"I like the way Loewen competed," Trembley said. "I like the way he pitched. He pitched well enough, and he improved. We'll win a lot of games if he pitches like he did tonight."

By not letting the 27-pitch first inning ruin his focus, Loewen stayed tough. He also got some help from his defense on several occasions.

Right fielder Nick Markakis threw Thome out at third in the third, and left fielder Luke Scott nailed Orlando Cabrera at home in the fifth to keep the Orioles close.

"The defense was outstanding today," Loewen said. "They bailed me out of a lot of trouble. It could have been a lot worse. They made it easier on me."

The bullpen pitched well once again as Jim Johnson threw two perfect innings before Chad Bradford retired the White Sox in order in the ninth.

The Orioles couldn't do much offensively against Chicago starter Jose Contreras (1-1). The right-hander gave up one run on four hits in seven innings, striking out six and not walking a batter.

Contreras kept the Orioles off-balance and did a good job of staying ahead in the count throughout.

"He threw a good game," said Orioles first baseman Kevin Millar, who went 1-for-4. "He threw a bunch of splits, a bunch of sliders. And he threw a good game with two strikes. Sometimes with him, you can get a high pitch count and you try to get him right there and work him. But he worked ahead of the count all night, so you tip your cap to him, because we could never get after him."

The Orioles' biggest threat came in the fourth when Markakis and Millar got back-to-back one-out singles. Markakis then scored on an Aubrey Huff infield single to cut the White Sox lead to 3-1.

But on that play, Chicago third baseman Joe Crede's long throw from by the bag got past first baseman Paul Konerko, and that throwing error let Millar advance to third. Huff stole second base as Scott struck out. Contreras then got Adam Jones to ground out to end the inning.

The Orioles didn't do much after that. Only one batter reached base in the final five innings. Scott Linebrink threw a scoreless eighth, and closer Bobby Jenks earned his sixth save with a perfect ninth.

Millar said he's not worried about the fact that the Orioles have had problems at the plate in the last few games. He said that's just baseball.

"They're throwing great games at us," Millar said. "Last night, [Toronto's Shaun] Marcum threw a great game. We battled [Toronto's Dustin] McGowan; we came back and tonight Contreras threw a great game. Sometimes you run through those stretches but we're not going to quit fighting right now."


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