Friday, April 11, 2008

Pitching Sinks O's in Second Outing

ARLINGTON -- The Orioles tripled their loss total in a matter of hours on Thursday, when they fell to a doubleheader sweep against the Rangers. Baltimore stayed close in both games and even tied the score in the eighth inning of the nightcap, but the Rangers answered immediately to take a 5-4 win and chase the Orioles out of Texas.

"In both games we had opportunities to have big innings and we didn't," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "We didn't hit with men on base [and] didn't really break it open. I think on the road you've got to do that."

Baltimore trailed from the first inning of the second game, thanks to an early home run by Josh Hamilton. Texas maintained that lead all the way until the eighth inning, when the Orioles briefly tied the game. The Rangers (5-4) came roaring back in the bottom of the eighth, using three hits off setup man Chad Bradford to take a one-run lead.

It all started with pinch-hitter Ben Broussard, who singled with one out and moved to third on a hit by catcher Adam Melhuse. That brought up Ian Kinsler, who drilled a ball past diving shortstop Luis Hernandez to put the home team ahead for good. After that, Kinsler made a highlight reel defensive play in the ninth to help seal the game.

Baltimore (6-3) had won six consecutive games before dropping both ends of the twin bill. The doubleheader sweep was the first for Texas since beating the Orioles twice on Aug. 22 of last season.

"I thought really the difference in the [second] game is that they got some real good at-bats, some real good production out of the guys in the eight- and nine-hole," said Trembley. "Sometimes that happens. That's just baseball."

Adam Loewen, who took the ball for the road team, had an erratic performance. The southpaw gave up a homer to Michael Young in the first inning and stranded two runners in the second before falling apart in the third. Loewen walked three batters in that inning, and the Rangers made him pay with a pair of clutch hits.

Right fielder Milton Bradley came up with the first hit, a two-run double to right field that gave the Rangers a 3-1 lead. Left fielder David Murphy drilled a one-run single moments later, pushing Loewen further behind. The former first-round pick rebounded to throw scoreless innings in both the fourth and fifth, but the damage was already done.

"I think I was rushing," said Loewen, who made just six starts in 2007 before an injury ended his year. "I just really didn't have a feel for my release point. It could've been a lot of things. I felt like I figured it out as the game went on, and it was just that one spot of three our four hitters where I couldn't figure out my release point and I wasn't throwing downhill."

"I thought the first two innings that Loewen pitched were the best I've seen him pitch," added Trembley, "As far as his extension is concerned, as far as staying back. ... And then the walks hurt him. The two walks cashed in runs."

Loewen took solace in the fact that he threw better as the game wore on, saying that the start gave him a foundation to move forward. Still, the left-hander felt he could've done a little bit better to aid his teammates.

"I felt as strong on my first pitch as I did on my last pitch. That's a positive sign," he said. "I really felt like everybody did their job today but me. We're a solid team all the way around. I think we're gonna rebound from this pretty quickly."

Baltimore battled back against Texas starter Kason Gabbard, getting one run in the third inning and two more in the sixth. Left fielder Jay Payton accounted for the second rally with a two-run blast over the 14-foot wall in left field. Gabbard left immediately after the home run, and the home team's bullpen let the Orioles get right back in the game.

Third baseman Melvin Mora keyed the tying rally by hitting a leadoff double high off the left-field wall in the eighth inning. Nick Markakis singled to push Mora up a base, and Kevin Millar drove him home on a fielder's choice. Texas reliever Jamey Wright rebounded to strike out Payton and coax an inning-ending ground ball from Adam Jones.

"We just have to go to Tampa and play good baseball," said Millar of the team's outlook. "Get back to swinging the bats and stuff and try to get a series out of it. It was just a dogfight that first game to see for both sides. You saw some swings in that game that were just tough. ... Gabbard, you know, just kept us off balance. He's a typical lefty."

The Rangers earned a 3-1 win in the first game, thanks to a seventh-inning rally against Baltimore starter Steve Trachsel. Michael Young keyed the win, knocking in the go-ahead run and scoring an insurance run shortly thereafter.

"[When] you play a doubleheader on the road, you'd like to win the first," said Trembley. "You don't win the first one, and you're trying to do everything you can to win the second one. It didn't happen for us. It was a long day on both ends. It's much shorter when you win, much longer when you lose. That's just the way it is. That's baseball."


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