Sunday, April 27, 2008

O's Settle for Doubleheader Split

CHICAGO -- The Orioles fell just shy of a doubleheader sweep on Saturday, when they wasted a bases-loaded opportunity in the ninth inning of the finale and watched their opponent convert on a similar chance. Rookie reliever Randor Bierd walked two batters and allowed a run-scoring single in the bottom half that gave the White Sox a 6-5 win.

Prior to Bierd's misstep, the Orioles had scored three unanswered runs and gotten four scoreless innings from their bullpen. Baltimore won the opener by a 5-1 score and saw its record in one-run games fall to 7-2 in the nightcap.

"I thought our bullpen was outstanding," said Orioles manager Dave Trembley. "We kept the game close [and] we got big outs. We got some clutch hits and came back in a game that probably had all the earmarks of getting away from us real early -- and it didn't."

Baltimore had a chance to break things open in the top of the ninth against Chicago closer Bobby Jenks (2-0), but the effort fell short. The Orioles (14-10) loaded the bases with one out on two singles and a walk, but cleanup hitter Kevin Millar bounced into a 5-2 force play and designated hitter Aubrey Huff grounded out to the mound.

Millar, who had homered earlier in the game, took responsibility for not pushing home the go-ahead run.

"I had a chance to put us up there, and we battled to get the bases loaded," he said. "It's just disappointing to not get that run in. I take full credit for that. That's a bad at-bat in that situation. You have to find a way to get that run in.

"He made a good pitch, down and away, but in that situation you've got to remember that the pressure's on him. I let him off the hook by going up there and swinging at an 0-0 pitch that wasn't my pitch. I couldn't do much with that pitch."

Trembley made an unorthodox decision in the ninth, when he brought veteran southpaw Jamie Walker in to face Jim Thome and then lifted him in favor of Bierd, who had never pitched the final inning of a big league game. Bierd (0-1) walked the first batter he faced and then allowed a single. One out later, he pitched around Joe Crede to get to Brian Anderson.

Anderson, who hadn't driven in a run since last September, punched a single through the left side of the infield to win the game. Baltimore catcher Ramon Hernandez said he wanted Bierd to be careful with Crede, who went 0-for-7 on Saturday. The White Sox (13-10) and Orioles have split four games this season and have two remaining in this series.

"You've got a guy behind him hitting .150, so you let the guy take his chances," Hernandez said. "To me, I'd be looking stupid if I let [Crede] beat me. You've got two guys on and you've got a guy hitting .150 behind him. Nothing against the other guy, but if you've got a guy that's very hot and a guy on deck that's struggling, most of the time you've got to play for that."

"He let the guy off the hook," added Trembley, speaking of Bierd's confrontation with Anderson. "He had the last guy 0-2, but it was a good learning experience for him. I'm not going to say anything about what I did see or what I didn't see. It's for other people to second-guess or whatever, but the kid's done a great job. If he gets the guy out, nobody says anything."

The Orioles trailed early and began their comeback in the sixth inning on Millar's fourth home run of the year. That shot brought Baltimore within two runs, and rookie infielder Eider Torres started the next rally with a one-out single in the seventh. Brian Roberts followed with a triple to deep center field, and Melvin Mora drove him in with a game-tying double.

"We're not going to give at-bats away," Trembley said of his team's resilience. "We're going to play hard and do what we can do to get ourselves back in the game. We got some big two-out hits. Both teams squandered opportunities with runners in scoring position. That was a big one for us in the ninth inning, and we didn't get done. That's just baseball."

Baltimore starter Steve Trachsel was knocked out early for the second time in three starts, lasting just three-plus innings. The right-hander allowed five hits and five runs, with four of them earned. Chicago right fielder Nick Swisher took Trachsel deep for a two-run home run in the top of the fourth, and Baltimore elected to go directly to the bullpen.

Rookie reliever Jim Johnson continued his strong work by recording seven outs and getting the game into the middle innings. Johnson has worked 11 innings this season and has yet to allow a run. Dennis Sarfate took the ball from Johnson in the sixth and stranded two inherited runners with a 1-2-3 double play, setting the stage for Baltimore's tying rally.

"What Johnson did was turn the momentum and the tempo of the game around," said Trembley. "I think he got our hitters back in the game. Trax didn't throw too many first-pitch strikes. He pitched behind, a lot of three-ball counts and walks. I really didn't think at that point in time we had any momentum going for us, and Johnson came in and got the momentum back on our side."


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