Friday, April 25, 2008

O's Storm Back to Win, but Lose Loewen

SEATTLE -- The Orioles won a thrilling game and may have lost a key arm Thursday night, when Adam Loewen worked the second shortest start of his career and admitted a case of left forearm pain later in the evening. Baltimore overcame Loewen's brief outing to earn an 8-7 win, but now it must contemplate its rotation without the former first-round pick.

"I've been watching him, and I've seen him as much as anybody here," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "I had him in Instructional League and I had him in the Minor Leagues, and I've watched him. To me, it just looks like there's something that's not right with him. Finally, when I took him out, he said he was sore. ... We're going to get it checked out [Friday]."

The injury takes on added significance when considering the southpaw's recent history. Loewen missed virtually all of last season with a stress fracture in his left elbow and spent the winter rehabbing and working back to full strength. The Orioles pushed his latest start back two days, but initially said that it had nothing to do with an injury.

Loewen came clean after the game, meeting the media in a clearly disheartened state. The 24-year-old said that the injury has affected him nearly every time he takes the ball, but it hasn't kept him from reaching his peak velocity. Loewen has had to alter his delivery to find a pain-free release point, a process that has eroded the command of his fastball.

"There's been a couple things that were bothering me before and started to go away," he said. "When that starts to happen, something else comes up. I might be overcompensating for something. That's why I'm getting all these different types of pains. I really don't think it's anything serious but it would be nice to step on the mound and feel 100 percent."

Trembley had said several times in recent days that he was keeping a 13-man pitching staff with the express purpose of covering for Loewen, who had struggled to make it deep in the game in each of his three previous starts.

Seattle (11-12) got on the board with a home run by Adrian Beltre in the second inning, and Loewen loaded the bases on two hits and a walk in the third. The Mariners lengthened their lead with a pair of sacrifice flies, and Jose Vidro made it 5-0 with a monster double to left-center. Loewen came out at that point, marking his shortest start since August 2006.

After the game, he spoke of his injury and how it may affect the Orioles going forward.

"It's starting to get worse in the general area of my forearm. It just starts off as a dull pain and gets sharper as I go on," he said. "Hopefully it's nothing serious, and I don't think it is. There's two guys in the bullpen that are deserving to get the ball every fifth day. They deserve a shot, so it's not like a huge blow right now. We've got guys who can step in.

"It's something I have to take care of and hopefully come back and be healthy so nothing's bothering me."

Once Loewen exited the game, the Orioles calmly went about eroding the home team's five-run advantage. Baltimore scored single runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings to chip away and finally took a lead in the seventh. Seattle tied things in the bottom half, and second baseman Brian Roberts put the O's ahead again with a solo homer in the eighth.

"This team amazes me. It really does," Roberts said after the game. "I know it's early, but we're down, 5-0, and it wasn't like we knew we were going to win or anything. There was just no panic and we just kind of chipped away one at a time. I think we realize that everything stays calm and you can't get five at a time.

"You get one here and there and the next thing you know, it's a two- or three-run game."

That mantra served Baltimore well Thursday night, especially after wasting a few early opportunities. The Orioles (13-11) ran themselves out of a rally in the first inning on a strikeout and a caught-stealing double play. They also popped up twice with runners in scoring position in the third and hit into a double play and a nubber to the mound in the fifth.

Their luck turned in the seventh, when they loaded the bases on two hits and a walk. Trailing by two runs, Baltimore got a sacrifice fly from Kevin Millar and a game-tying single from designated hitter Aubrey Huff. Two batters later, former Mariner Adam Jones drilled a two-run double high off the left-field wall to give the road team its first lead.

That advantage only lasted two batters, though, as Ichiro Suzuki homered off southpaw specialist Jamie Walker in the bottom of the seventh. Three outs later, Roberts put Baltimore back in the driver's seat with a solo homer to right field. The Orioles wound up using five of their eight relievers, and George Sherrill locked down the ninth for his eighth save.

"We play hard. I've seen it since Day 1," said Trembley. "We felt that we were going to win tonight. We just needed to get the tying run up to the plate. We felt it all night, even [though] we stranded some runners early in the game and didn't take advantage of some scoring opportunities. But the guys kept battling and the bats came alive."


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