Saturday, May 31, 2008

Extra-inning errors cost Orioles game

BALTIMORE -- As the night grew longer, the game got sloppier.

The Orioles slogged through their longest game of the season on Friday night, a 13-inning affair that lasted nearly five hours and was decided by two errors in the final frame. Baltimore's bullpen had thrown five scoreless innings when the key rally began, but third baseman Melvin Mora made a throwing error that opened the floodgates for Boston's 5-2 win.

Mora threw high to first base with one out in the 13th, and Manny Ramirez coasted easily into second base. The next batter, Mike Lowell, delivered a clean single to left field to give the Red Sox a late lead. Shortstop Freddie Bynum made another error to push two more runs across, and closer Jonathan Papelbon sealed the game with a scoreless inning.

"We could've come back and won the game, but I didn't play good defense," said Mora, who also made an error earlier in the game. "If I don't play defense, we can't win the game -- especially at the hot corner."

"Any time you lose, it doesn't sit with you very well," added Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "But, obviously, if you're going to get beat in this game, you'd rather have them beat you and not have it happen the way it did."

Baltimore finished with a season-high four errors, but it could just as easily lament missing a few opportunities on offense. The Orioles (26-27) struck out 17 times and left 14 men on base, with seven of them coming in the ninth inning or later. Baltimore stranded two runners in the 10th and left the bases loaded in the 12th before the defense caught up.

"Tough game, man," said first baseman Kevin Millar, who jumped and couldn't corral Mora's errant throw. "We had some opportunities there in extra innings and we just couldn't get the hit. We had guys on base, and they come in throwing some tough guys. [Manny] Delcarmen, [Craig] Hansen -- they're as good as [Josh] Beckett. They're throwing 97 mph with movement."

"When you play more than four hours, you expect to win the game," said Mora. "They made pretty good pitches. I should've crushed one ball, but I didn't. I guess [Boston catcher] Jason Varitek got me tonight. I'll get him tomorrow."

Boston (33-24) scored the game's first two runs in the first inning, and two bunts figured heavily into the early action. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia pushed a runner over to third in the first, and David Ortiz drove the run in with a hit. Ortiz wound up scoring on a sacrifice fly, and the Red Sox ran out of a rally with a botched squeeze play in the second.

Daniel Cabrera settled down after that, but he never worked into an unhittable groove. The right-hander gave up five doubles on the night and wound up stranding runners in scoring position in five of his seven innings. Cabrera also overcame an error in the seventh and left a runner on third base, winding up with his ninth quality start in his last 10 outings.

"We played a long game today. We missed a couple plays, gave them a chance and they won," said Cabrera. "There's nothing we can do -- just come back tomorrow, play good baseball and try to win the game."

"Both teams pitched outstanding," said Trembley of the pitching duel. "I thought Cabrera was up somewhat early in the game and made some adjustments, got the ball down later in the game. I thought it was real good for him."

Baltimore cut into the gap in the second inning and tied the game in the fourth. Millar scored the first one, courtesy of a throwing error by Varitek. Designated hitter Aubrey Huff pulled things even in the fourth, when he took advantage of a wayward pitch from Beckett and pulled it for his ninth home run.

The Orioles had their best chance to take control in the sixth, when Beckett got two quick outs and proceeded to load the bases on three straight walks. That brought Adam Jones to the plate, and Beckett struck him out. The right-hander, who finished second in the American League's Cy Young balloting last season, struck out 10 batters.

"We were one hit from winning the game," said Trembley. "I would've liked to have that run earlier in the game that I really thought was coming to us. And it didn't happen. But that's not sour grapes. That's just the way the game is."

Baltimore got some yeoman's work from its bullpen, which allowed just one hit in its first four innings -- and that baserunner was erased on a double play. Jim Johnson and George Sherrill worked the eighth and ninth, respectively, and Matt Albers worked three innings after that. Three relievers -- Jamie Walker, Chad Bradford and Dennis Sarfate -- split the final inning.

Walker retired the only batter he faced, and Bradford (2-2) coaxed the ground ball from Ramirez that turned into the game-changing error. Lowell and Kevin Youkilis both got to Bradford for hits and scored on Bynum's error.

"Albers was outstanding," Trembley said of his right-handed reliever. "Everybody in the bullpen pitched very well for us, as they did on their side. We had plenty of opportunities to score and it didn't happen.

"They had some chances and it didn't happen, until we gave them more than three outs in the inning."

Friday, May 30, 2008

Orioles get breather before facing Sox

BALTIMORE -- It doesn't get any easier. The Orioles get a day off on Thursday to catch their breath after taking a series from the Yankees, but they'll open up a four-game series with the defending World Series champions on Friday. Baltimore is 11-13 against American League East opponents this season, a mark that includes a 2-0 record against the Red Sox.

Baltimore manager Dave Trembley has been pleased with his team's play, but knows that it's still very early.

"Every game's been a war. You'd better bring your 'A' Game," he said of playing against his team's division rivals. "You'd better be ready. Don't show disrespect to your opponent by taking for granted that they're a pushover -- because they're not. I think in some cases, to be honest with you, we've had the benefit of that from other clubs."

Boston didn't have too many speed bumps against the American League East last season, but it's started off with an 8-11 record against division rivals this season. The Orioles have lost this season series nine times in the last 11 years, but Trembley knows there's only one way that his team can hope to earn respect -- and that's by winning on the field.

"They don't give it to you. You earn it," he said. "And in this division, people beat up on each other. Right now, because there's a lot of young players, there's a lot of unheralded clubs. There's a lot of guys getting opportunities that they never got before and they're making the most of it. ... That's great for baseball. I think that's going on everywhere -- not just in our division."

Pitching matchup
BAL: RHP Daniel Cabrera (5-1, 3.70 ERA)
Cabrera lost his last outing, but fired eight straight quality starts prior to that result.

BOS: RHP Josh Beckett (5-4, 4.43 ERA)
Beckett is 3-0 with a 5.40 ERA at home and 2-4 with a 3.89 mark on the road.

Bird bites
The Orioles are 16-8 at home and 2-8 in games decided by two runs. Baltimore is also 12-8 in one-run games. ... The Orioles had two bunt hits on Wednesday night and only had four all year prior to that. ... Third baseman Melvin Mora provided all of Baltimore's offense with a two-run homer on Wednesday and has had two straight three-hit games.

Disappointing outcome for solid Guthrie

BALTIMORE -- Somewhere in his subconscious, and perhaps even someplace shallow, Jeremy Guthrie has to be begging for a blowout. The right-hander turned in another one of his trademarked performances on Wednesday night, when he held the Yankees to a modest run total and still saw the Orioles fall to a narrow 4-2 defeat.

Somehow, that's become the norm for Guthrie. Baltimore's Opening Day starter has allowed three earned runs or less in 10 of his 12 starts, but the Orioles have managed a grand total of eight runs in his six losses. Nine of Guthrie's 12 outings have been decided by two runs or less, and he's racked up a 2-4 record with three no-decisions in those games.

"It seems like every game Guthrie pitches is a well-pitched game on the other side," said manager Dave Trembley. "It's just worked out that way. All the games are close for him. He takes you late into every ballgame, but for whatever reason, we're just not scoring any runs when he's out there. But he certainly gives you everything he's got."

"I thought about that for the last five days," added Guthrie. "You enjoy the opportunity to be in a scuffle, to be in a fight. Personally, I'm able to be in one of those -- it seems like -- every five days, where every pitch matters, where every at-bat is big. You enjoy that and that's what makes this game fun. Unfortunately, for me, it's not going the right way."

His latest start was fairly typical as far as those evenings go. Guthrie (2-6) fell behind on a Jason Giambi single in the second inning, but the Orioles (26-26) managed to push ahead in the third. Giambi tied the game in the fourth inning on a monstrous home run over the right-field fence, and the Yankees (26-27) went ahead for good on a sacrifice fly in the fifth.

The Orioles got all of their offense in the third inning, courtesy of a two-run home run by third baseman Melvin Mora. The home team had another strong chance in the fifth inning, but wound up stranding two runners in scoring position. Andy Pettitte, who started for the Yankees, worked into the seventh inning and handed his bullpen a one-run advantage.

"Both pitchers threw pretty good today," Mora said. "I was just thinking, 'OK, we've got the lead. Let's see if we can score some more runs.' With the Yankees lineup, you cannot wait until the end. Anybody can crush the ball."

"[Guthrie] pitched well again," said Trembley. "It just so happened that Pettitte pitched better. They took advantage of the opportunities they had, and we didn't do enough things that we should have done to win the game."

Guthrie endured a similar stretch in 2007, when he closed out his year by going nine starts without a win. He allowed three earned runs or less in 21 of his 26 starts during his rookie season, but Baltimore went 4-11 when he pitched in a game decided by two runs or less. And Guthrie, staked to little or no support, went 2-4 with 11 no-decisions in those games.

"Last year, I got no-decisions for the most part," Guthrie said. "This year I feel like I'm throwing the ball very similar. Consistent. This year, I'm taking losses instead of no-decisions. It compares somewhat to last year, to a stretch I had in May and June."

Second baseman Brian Roberts was involved in a key play for the Orioles during the fifth inning. The fleet-footed leadoff man doubled with one out in the fifth, but he was caught leaning off base and charged with a caught stealing. The Orioles went on to draw a walk and notch a double in that inning, but Pettitte kept them from tying the game.

"It was a pivotal part of the game," said Trembley, breaking it down. "We felt we could steal third. The game is such that after those things happen, you get the hits. I've been in situations before, you put a hit-and-run on and the guy gets thrown out. You know what's going to happen next. The next pitch, the guy gets a base hit. That's how the game is."

"We don't want to stop Brian Roberts from being aggressive," Mora said. "We want him to be aggressive, because when he gets on base, that's when pitchers make a mistake to us. He has to continue to do what he does."

New York's final run scored in the ninth inning, giving the road team an extra bit of insurance. The run scored on an infield single where relief pitcher Jamie Walker was slow to cover first base, but Baltimore went quietly in the ninth.

Pettitte (5-5) improved to 24-6 against the Orioles -- the most wins against Baltimore of any active pitcher -- and helped New York avoid a series sweep. Baltimore hasn't swept the Yankees in a three-game series at Camden Yards since 2005 and hasn't won the season series since 1997, but the O's are currently up 5-4 this year.

"You've got to do an awful lot of things right to come in and win three in a row," said Trembley. "We just didn't do enough things right to do it. We had some opportunities early and it just didn't happen. That's part of the game. You've got to tip your cap to Pettitte. He's pitched awfully well against us, it seems like forever. And that's just the way the game goes."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Orioles Team Report May 28, 2008

If the Orioles would go with their regular rotation, Steve Trachsel would be on the mound Thursday. But Thursday is an off day for the Orioles. That allows manager Dave Trembley to skip Trachsel’s next turn in the rotation.

Trachsel pitched Saturday after having two of his turns skipped, a total of 15 days between that game and his previous start. He gave up nine runs in 2 2/3 innings.

The reason for the lack of activity prior to Saturday was that Trachsel had been struggling. However, the diplomatic Trembley said it was to keep the younger pitchers on schedule at a time when the Orioles had three days off in an eight-day span.

Now, Trembley is using the same reason for skipping Trachsel, though the fact that Trachsel had not pitched well again remains a glaring reality.

“Whenever I need another fifth starter, that’s the possibility that Steve Trachsel will pitch. I will keep all of the guys on their regular turn as best I can,” Trembley said. “That’s the way I’ve done it all year; when there’s an off day, I try to keep as many guys as I possibly can on their regular day. Trachsel’s day would come the first day we’re in Minnesota, I guess.”

The 37-year-old Trachsel, who is in his 15th major league season, accepted Trembley’s judgment in a dignified manner.

“It’s part of the game, and I’ll do what I have to do to contribute. You know when you’re going to pitch and you prepare for that. You do what you have to do to stay prepared, whether it’s on the side or throwing simulated games,” he said when told of the manager’s decision.

ORIOLES 10, YANKEES 9 (11 innings): Pinch hitter Alex Cintron singled home in the winning run in the 11th inning after Aubrey Huff doubled in Melvin Mora with the tying run. The Yankees took a 9-8 lead on Hideki Matsui’s RBI single in the top of the inning. The win went to the Orioles’ sixth pitcher, Matt Albers.

In regulation, the teams twice traded four-run innings as both starters were gone before four innings were completed in a game that featured the most combined home runs this season. Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon hit home runs in the Yankees’ second, only to be countered by blasts by Kevin Millar and Ramon Hernandez. Alex Rodriguez and Bobby Abreu hit homers in the fourth, and the Orioles came back with home runs off the bats of Melvin Mora, Luke Scott and Millar.

Notes, Quotes

• 1B Kevin Millar hit his seventh and eighth homers of the season and added a double. It was his first multi-homer game of the year. It was a virtual repeat of his three-hit, three-RBI game of May 10 at Kansas City.

• LF Luke Scott has a total of five hits—four homers and a double—since May 16. The last of the home runs came Tuesday. He has five homers since May 13, but prior to this stretch he had batted in 28 games since April 8 without hitting a home run.

• SS Freddie Bynum is presently getting the opportunity from manager Dave Trembley to be the everyday starter at shortstop, but he is 0 for his last 13, including 0-for-3 on Tuesday. Bynum has only two RBIs for the season.

• RF Nick Markakis reverted to his “0-for” mode on Tuesday when he was 0-for-6. He had an outstanding game Monday, going 3-for-4, but had been 0-for-11 in his three starts before that and is now 3-for-21 in his last five games.

• LHP Brian Burres, who allowed only one run in eight innings in his previous start against the Yankees, was battered Tuesday for four homers and a total of eight runs in 3 2/3 innings. He got a no-decision because of the Orioles’ two four-run innings.

• RHP Steve Trachsel will again have his turn to start skipped because the Orioles have an off day Thursday. The decision was announced by manager Dave Trembley, who refused to comment further on Trachsel’s future beyond that.

By The Numbers: 3—Times the Orioles were shut out in a recent 10-game span.

Quote To Note: “There’s a pattern going here where if I miss a spot, the ball’s getting hit very hard, and there’s no reason for that. At some point, you’re going to have a point where the guys are at least fouling them off, and that’s not really happening. So we’ve got to figure out exactly what is going on.”—RHP Steve Trachsel on his May 24 performance.

Trembley Hopes Big Win Galvanizes O's

BALTIMORE -- The game is over, but the adrenaline remains. The Orioles played one of their most stirring games of the season on Tuesday night, a comeback victory that inspired hyperbole from mild-mannered manager Dave Trembley. Moments after his team overcame an 11th-inning deficit to earn a victory, Trembley met the media and admitted that he was a little overcome.

"This is the best game I've ever been a part of to win," Trembley. "I've never seen anything like that. That's a real credit to our team. That's probably the biggest understatement I can say. That's just incredible."

Trembley will need to see more of the same in Wednesday's series finale, but he'll have his staff ace on the hill. Baltimore will send Jeremy Guthrie to the mound on Wednesday, and he'll be matched up against New York's Andy Pettitte. The Orioles haven't won a season series against New York since 1997, but they currently hold a 5-3 edge.

Baltimore has been quite a different team at home, notching a 16-7 record at Camden Yards and a 10-18 record on the road. They'll have five more games -- all against division rivals -- before they wrap up their current homestand. The Orioles have won two straight games, a modest streak that comes hot on the heels of a five-game losing skid.

The Orioles are 23-7 when they score four runs or more and just 3-18 when they score three or less. Baltimore's offense has shown signs of stirring lately, but the O's have scored two runs or less in four of their last six defeats.

Pitching matchup
BAL: RHP Jeremy Guthrie (2-5, 3.62 ERA)
Guthrie is 1-2 with a 3.73 ERA in home games and 1-3 with a 3.52 mark on the road.

NYY: LHP Andy Pettitte (4-5, 4.27 ERA)
Pettitte is 23-6 with a 3.77 ERA in 35 career appearances against the Orioles.

Bird bites
The Orioles hit back-to-back home runs for the first time all season on Tuesday night, and they repeated the feat later in the game. ... Kevin Millar had Baltimore's first multi-homer game of the season on Tuesday. ... The Orioles overcame a pair of four-run deficits on Tuesday and earned an 11th-inning victory to pull even at 2-2 in extra-inning games.

O's Pull out Improbable Win over Yanks

BALTIMORE -- For five hours, it was a game that defied a conventional ending. The Orioles erased two four-run deficits, braved a 67-minute rain delay in the ninth inning and overcame an ambush in the 11th to earn a 10-9 win over the Yankees on Tuesday.

Baltimore never led until the game ended, giving manager Dave Trembley a new personal highlight.

"This is the best game I've ever been a part of to win," Trembley said of his team's effort. "I've never seen anything like that. That's a real credit to our team. That's probably the biggest understatement I can say. That's just incredible."

New York and Baltimore combined for 16 runs in the first five innings and three over the next seven, but the teams still provided a hectic endgame. The Yankees stranded two runners in scoring position before the rains came, and the Orioles left two runners on base against closer Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the 10th.

The Yankees briefly forged ahead in the 11th, but Orioles' defense nearly stopped the rally. Second baseman Brian Roberts made a tough stop of a hard-hit grounder by Alex Rodriguez with no outs and the bases loaded, firing home to start a 4-2-5 double play. New York pushed ahead on a two-out hit by left fielder Hideki Matsui, but the Orioles nullified that rally with one of their own.

Third baseman Melvin Mora -- who had made a key error in the top half of the inning -- led off with a single in the 11th. Aubrey Huff doubled him in, and after two intentional walks, Alex Cintron won the game with a single to deep right field off LaTroy Hawkins. Cintron, who started the game on the bench, reveled in the Orioles' victory.

"This is the best game I've ever watched," Cintron said. "And I was watching it for three or four hours. I think it was pretty cool to see with the way we came back. Everybody did a great job. The bullpen did a great job, our hitters did an outstanding job and Brian Roberts made a play that was amazing. That was one of the keys to the ballgame."

"Man, that was a great team effort," said first baseman Kevin Millar, who hit two home runs. "Bottom line, the full 25-man roster contributed. ... But what a great game. We had two four-run deficits and came back to tie the game both times. Obviously, in the 11th inning we get behind a run, and once again we just show the character of the club."

Virtually all of New York's runs came via the long ball, but Baltimore kept resolutely battling back. The Yankees (25-27) got four runs in the second inning on the strength of a solo homer by Jason Giambi and a three-run shot from Johnny Damon, and they scored four more in the fourth with help from home runs by Bobby Abreu and Rodriguez.

Baltimore (26-25) never went away, answering both of New York's rallies with flair. The Orioles got back-to-back homers from Millar and Ramon Hernandez in the second -- the team's first back-to-back long balls since August of last season -- and tied the game again in the fifth on the strength of three deep shots from veterans Mora, Luke Scott and Millar.

"It's such a great 'W' because we had two four-run deficits," said Millar. "To go down, 4-0, to the Yankees and to tie it right back up, 4-4, to go down, 8-4, and tie it right back up, 8-8. And then to go down in the 11th ... that's not easy. You don't want to make a living doing that, but it was a great team effort and a big win."

"That was a fun game -- especially to come out on top," added Huff, who scored twice. "That's a heartbreaker to lose. That's why you play baseball, for games like this. Everybody contributed. ... Everybody stepped up."

Perhaps the only player in the Baltimore clubhouse who didn't contribute was starting pitcher Brian Burres, who wasn't available for comment after the game. The southpaw tied his career high in earned runs allowed (eight) and gave up a career-high four home runs. His ERA rose by nearly a full run (from 3.16 to 4.15) in the process.

Burres had given up just three home runs all season prior to Tuesday's outing, and his overall numbers show a wild disparity. The southpaw has allowed two earned runs or less four times, notching a 4-0 record and a 1.05 ERA in those circumstances. On the other hand, he's posted an 0-4 record with a no-decision and an 8.18 ERA in his other five starts.

"I'll replay this one for a long time," Trembley said. "That was tremendous. Burres did the things that we talked about before we came out on the field today. He didn't get left-handed hitters out [and] he didn't get the bottom of the lineup out. He pitched up in the zone and they whacked it. ... There were just so many things that happened in the game."

Millar held forth on some of those things, raving about the play Roberts made in the top of the 11th.

"I've never seen that," Millar said of the double play. "First of all, I've never seen a guy catch a ball that hard off the bat. And then to go home, to third -- phenomenal. I thought for sure that was just going to be our night."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Orioles Team Report May 27, 2008

Even though left-hander Garrett Olson was 3-0 before losing last week to the Yankees, there were whispers that he might not be effective against the better teams. He silenced any critics on Monday when he improved his record to 4-1 by beating those same Yankees.

“I think the last start helped him pitch better today. The last time he pitched he was throwing mostly breaking balls and changeups. He didn’t use his fastball. Today, he pitched with his fastball; he needed to do it,” said manager Dave Trembley.

Olson gave up only three hits while blanking the Yankees for seven innings. And even though he walked four, he struck out seven. He knew he had something to prove after his previous start at Yankee Stadium.

“Last game was kind of unfortunate, the outcome,” Olson said. “Nobody likes to have that kind of an outing when you don’t even get out of the third inning. But you just try to shake it off and forget it and try to learn from your mistakes. Just go out there and try to make pitches the next time. You just try to rebound from that.”

Orioles 6, Yankees 1: The Orioles ended their five-game losing streak as Nick Markakis cut down a Yankee runner at the plate in the third inning, then broke a scoreless tie with a home run in the sixth. Left-hander Garrett Olson shut out the Yankees for seven innings, and Aubrey Huff made it easier for the rookie by hitting a three-run home run in the seventh inning, when Markakis had his second RBI and Melvin Mora got one of his own.

Notes, Quotes

• LHP Garrett Olson, who lost last week in his first career game against the Yankees, got even when he shut out the New Yorkers on three hits in seven innings of work. There had been whispers that Olson could not pitch effectively against the upper-echelon teams.

• RF Nick Markakis broke a scoreless tie with his ninth HR of the season in the sixth inning. He also had a double and single, all after entering the game in an 0-for-12 drought. He posted his eighth outfield assist to keep the Yankees from scoring in the third inning.

• DH Aubrey Huff hit his ninth home run, a three-run blast that came a day after his eighth home run of the season. The three RBI boosted his season total to a team-high 28, and the run he scored meant he has touched the plate in each of his last three games.

• LHP Jamie Walker continued to have problems when he pitched the ninth inning on Monday. The reliever, who had been dominant in 2007, gave up the Yankees’ only run of the game. His ERA climbed to 4.20.

• LHP Brian Burres, who will start on Tuesday against New York, is 1-0 with an 0.68 ERA in his first two starts against the Yankees this season.

By The Numbers: 3—Times the Orioles were shut out in a 10-game span.

Quote To Note: “There’s a pattern going here where if I miss a spot, the ball’s getting hit very hard, and there’s no reason for that. At some point, you’re going to have a point where the guys are at least fouling them off, and that’s not really happening. So we’ve got to figure out exactly what is going on.”—RHP Steve Trachsel on his Saturday performance.

Not the Same Olsen You Saw Before

Garrett Olson may not have made a statement in his first start against New York, but he used his Memorial Day outing to issue a fitting rebuttal. Olson shut down the Yankees for seven innings on Monday, leading the Orioles to a 6-1 win and waving aside the suspicion that he can't pitch against the league's better batting orders.

Olson had stumbled mightily against the Yankees on Wednesday, when he was knocked out before the end of the third inning. The southpaw seemed like a different pitcher on Monday, holding the road team to just three hits.

"Last time against the Yankees, I thought we let the game get a little out of control for him," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "Maybe it was pitching in Yankee Stadium in front of 50,000 people, but he certainly showed a lot more poise today. In the first three innings, he had guys on base every inning. He had to come up with some good pitches."

Olson (4-1) never got a chance to rebound in his last start, thanks to some relentless pressure from New York's offense. The Yankees (25-26) scored three runs in the second inning and three more in the third last week, chasing Olson early. This time, he used that experience to recast his mind-set and to better tailor his approach to fit his opponent.

"Last game, it was kind of unfortunate, the outcome," said Olson of his previous start. "Nobody likes to have that kind of an outing when you don't even get out of the third inning. But you just try to shake it and forget it and try to learn from your mistakes. Just go out there and try to make pitches the next time. You just try to rebound from that."

"I think the last start helped him pitch better today," added Trembley. "The last time he pitched, he was throwing mostly breaking balls and changeups. He didn't use his fastball. Today, he pitched with his fastball [and] he needed to do it."

Olson stranded runners in scoring position in each of the first two innings, setting the tone for an eventful day. New York's best scoring chance came with two outs in the third, but right fielder Nick Markakis doused the rally with a strong throw to the plate. That relay represented his eighth assist, a total that leads all American League outfielders.

"With the way both pitchers were pitching early, it definitely was a big play in the game," Markakis said. "It was just a ground ball hit to me. I charged it as hard as I could, and I just tried to make a good, accurate throw. That's all you can do."

"We've been having such a tough time scoring runs," said Trembley of the throw to the plate. "The one run they get to open the game up is probably going to get them going, and their offense has really been running on all cylinders."

Markakis came back for a bigger role in the sixth, when he broke open a twin shutout with a home run. The former first-round Draft pick took Yankees starter Darrell Rasner to straightaway center field, snapping the right-hander's scoreless streak at 12 1/3 innings. Markakis went into the game with an 0-for-12 slump and is now 9-for-11 in his career against Rasner.

"It's about equal," he said of his two-sided effort. "It always feels good to hit the ball out of the park, but it's not all about hitting. You have to play defense, too. Good teams play good defense. That's what I try to do -- both."

"I think it gave the team a lift," said Olson. "We kept going out there and battling every inning, and also his home run late in the game, I think that jump-started the offense. I think the guys just battled behind me the whole game."

Rasner (3-1) had shut out the Orioles (25-25) for seven innings on Wednesday and added another five scoreless frames on Monday. The right-hander got one out in the sixth before Markakis gave the home team a lead. Baltimore added five insurance runs in the seventh off New York's bullpen, and a three-run blast from Aubrey Huff stood as the back-breaking blow.

"I was looking fastball, and I got one," Huff said of his eighth homer. "We needed to start off on a good note at home. We definitely didn't play well on the road at all. To come here in the first game of the series, this was big."

Baltimore had lost five straight games prior to Monday's skid-snapper, a victory that pushed the Orioles back to the break-even mark. The Yankees, meanwhile, broke a five-game winning streak, and they only pushed one runner to scoring position after the third inning. Baltimore's bullpen locked down the eighth and ninth to seal the one-sided win.

"From where they've come, it's kind of like a 'Tale of Two Cities,'" Trembley said. "They'd won five in a row coming in, and we'd lost five in a row coming in. It's almost like the first team that's going to score, it might get you going. If they score first and throw a whole lot of numbers on the board, you're probably going to be saying to yourself, 'Here we go again.'"

Monday, May 26, 2008

Unlike the Road, O's Feel Right at home

BALTIMORE -- They don't understand it any more than you do. The Orioles returned home on Monday and snapped a five-game losing skid by submitting to one of the season's most perplexing trends. Baltimore is 15-7 at home and 10-18 on the road this season, a glaring set of circumstances that manager Dave Trembley really isn't sure how to explain.

"We seem to get the timely hit at home. We seem to get the timely out at home," Trembley said on Monday. "We seem to find a way to get it done at home. On the road, we haven't. I don't think the energy level is any more or any less playing on the road or at home. I don't think the approach has been any different. ... Things have fallen our way at home, for whatever reason.

"But it certainly has helped us to be in position to know we're going to have the last at-bat. It's nice to have that option, knowing that you have one more opportunity in the bottom half of the inning to get something done."

The Orioles have gotten the better of the Yankees so far this season and stand a half-game ahead of them in the American League East standings. Baltimore has won four of the first seven games in this series, going into Tuesday's game with a perceived pitching mismatch. The Orioles will go with hot starter Brian Burres, while the Yankees will send rookie Ian Kennedy to the mound.

Baltimore is 5-1 in its last six home games and is 8-5 at Oriole Park against AL East rivals. By contrast, the Yankees have a losing record on the road (11-14) and against divisional rivals (12-13).

Pitching matchup
BAL: LHP Brian Burres (4-4, 3.16 ERA)
Burres is 1-0 with an 0.68 ERA in his first two starts against the Yankees this season.

NYY: RHP Ian Kennedy (0-3, 7.27 ERA)
Kennedy is 0-1 with a 7.20 ERA in two home starts and 0-2 with a 7.30 mark on the road.

The Orioles have scored five runs or more in each of their last eight wins. For the year, Baltimore is 22-7 when scoring at least four runs and just 3-18 when scoring three runs or fewer. ... Right fielder Nick Markakis had three hits on Monday, and he threw out a runner for his AL-leading eighth assist. Markakis fell a triple shy of the cycle.

Orioles Watch Rays Walk off with Sweep

ST. PETERSBURG -- Even George Sherrill, who has steered the Orioles out of some tight jams this season, couldn't help right the struggling club on Sunday afternoon. The O's dropped their season-high fifth straight game and now sit in the cellar of the American League East for the first time this season.

The O's closer got ahead of both batters he faced, but couldn't put the Rays away, as rookie Evan Longoria lifted Sherrill's fastball into center field for a game-winning RBI double, sealing a 5-4 Rays win and a sweep in front of a home crowd of 17,762 at Tropicana Field.

"It's been a real bad road trip," Sherrill said. "We started pretty good coming off not playing so hot for a while, and now we are right back in a funk. So, we just got to put pitching and hitting together."

The pitching -- which, with the exception of a few scattered starts, has kept Baltimore afloat in recent weeks -- wasn't nearly as sharp on Sunday.

After several crippling walks in the series' first two losses, free passes continued to plague the O's pitchers in Sunday's finale.

Starter Daniel Cabrera issued a one-out walk to B.J. Upton -- his first free pass since May 8 -- and got behind 3-0 to slugger Carlos Pena, who took the right-hander's next pitch over the fence for a two-run blast. All four of the Rays' runs before the ninth came in the fateful third inning, as Tampa Bay jumped on Cabrera's early struggles.

"I stayed a lot of times behind those hitters," Cabrera admitted. "They are aggressive. You go behind, they are going to hit the ball hard."

The O's hurler issued six walks and was charged with nine hits in 5 2/3 innings, Cabrera's shortest start since his first outing this season on April 2. Although the right-hander was clearly not at his best, Cabrera managed to battle through and keep the Birds within striking distance.

"Cabrera was real key," manager Dave Trembley said of the right-hander's ability to make adjustments throughout the game. "He's not a thrower anymore, he's a pitcher. He's learned how to be."

Unfortunately, the Rays made some equally impressive moves, drawing nine walks and compiling two stolen bases. Conversely, the O's drew one walk and had no steals.

"They are playing the game -- they capitalize on mistakes," reliever Jamie Walker said.

Walker got a critical strikeout from Pena to strand a runner in the sixth inning, and it looked for a moment as if the momentum had finally swung Baltimore's way.

After tacking on a second run in the fifth inning, the O's spotty offense ruffled Rays starter James Shields for another pair of runs in the sixth inning. The O's efforts were buoyed by a leadoff triple from Brian Roberts and a solo home run from ex-Ray Aubrey Huff to tie the game at 4.

Walker and Jim Johnson followed with a combined 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, and the Birds appeared poised to strike next and avoid a series sweep. But, as has been the recurring theme of the road trip, the chips fell for the home team as the game remained deadlocked until Longoria's walk-off double.

All the components -- the pitching, the defense, even the hitting -- were starting to emerge, but when the dust settled, the O's still found themselves on the wrong side of a one-run game.

"I thought we did a tremendous job today," Trembley said. "We didn't give away at-bats, we found a way to get back in the game, and like I said, Cabrera was real key. [He] maxed himself out, and once we got [Huff's] home run, we thought we were going to win the game."

Getting a win has remained elusive in the past week, as the O's have dropped six of their last seven games during what could easily be categorized as their toughest stretch this season.

"You got to do the best you can with every opportunity you have," Trembley said of the hard luck that has befallen the club. "Our outlook is, sooner or later this is going to turn in our favor."

It certainly doesn't get any easier, as the Orioles will return home to face perennial powers, the Yankees and the defending World Series champion Red Sox. The recent resurgence of the Rays, who have won 15 of their past 16 home games, only compounds the O's woes in a tough American League East.

"They are playing the game pretty [darn good]," Walker said. "And they got a little confidence now, and they are a pretty good team, so our work's cut out for us [in] the East."

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Trachsel, O's Endure Rough Night

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Orioles saw their last line of defense wither away less than an hour into Saturday night's game.

In the wake of a stagnant offense and an infield that has made its fair share of errors, the O's starting pitching hasn't just been the club's focal point, it has been its lifeline.

Unfortunately, Steve Trachsel was unable to resuscitate the struggling Orioles, who dropped their fourth straight game and second straight series, 11-4, at the hands of the Rays.

To be fair, Trachsel had an extended stay in the waiting room, as the veteran was 15 days removed from his previous start, May 9, vs. the Royals. The vacation was apparent immediately, as Trachsel was charged for four runs off three hits in his first trip to the mound.

"I didn't think his location was very good, and they jumped on him," manager Dave Trembley said.

Trachsel's counterpart, Rays starter Edwin Jackson, also struggled to find his groove, walking three of the game's first four batters. But the slumping Birds were unable to put any pressure on the young flamethrower, as Luke Scott grounded into an inning-ending double play.

"We certainly had an opportunity to [score]; it might have made for a different ballgame," Trembley said. "But that didn't happen. So, you are absolutely right, you don't want to find yourself falling behind as much as you did in the first and then again the second. It's certainly not how you draw it up."

For a fleeting moment, Trachsel looked poised to settle down, retiring the first two batters in the second inning. But the third out mercilessly eluded the hurler, who walked Akinori Iwamura and allowed a single, double, triple and home run before being pulled in favor of reliever Matt Albers.

"There's a pattern going here where if I miss a spot, the ball's getting hit very hard," Trachsel said. "And there's no reason for that. At some point, you're going to have a point where the guys are at least fouling them off, and that's not really happening. So we got to figure out exactly what is going on."

The outing tied the fourth shortest of the veteran's career, and his nine earned runs are the most allowed by an Orioles starting pitcher since Aug. 22, 2007.

"I might be tipping my pitches," Trachsel said. "That's the only thing I can come up with, and if that's not it, then we've got some serious things to try to figure out."

So does Trembley, who skipped several of Trachsel's earlier starts this season, and acknowledged a rotation switch was "definitely something [the Orioles] need to consider."

This isn't the first time the skipper has hinted at leaving Trachsel out of the rotation, as Trembley considered dropping the veteran in favor of a four-man rotation in the beginning of May, but decided otherwise.

"I threw real well in Kansas City, and I didn't get to make my next start then, so I can't worry about that," Trachsel said. "It's up to Dave to make the decision, and I'm sure we'll talk about that. Right now, I just need to figure out what is not working right and make that correction."

Although Trachsel said the rest may have played a "small part" in his struggles, pitching coach Rick Kranitz begged to differ.

"He had 15 days off. That's tough for anybody to go out there and do that," Kranitz said. "He made some nice pitches and they hit some pretty nice pitches, which really surprised me. I will look at the film tomorrow and see what we can find, and just move on."

Moving on has been the recurrent theme of the six-game road trip, as the O's have dropped four of their first five games away from Camden Yards, with Saturday night's rout being the latest in a string of disappointments.

Baltimore has dropped two straight series after winning its previous three, and has given up more than eight runs twice in the past week. Conversely, the O's have been shut out twice during the same four-game skid, with Saturday's four runs on five hits the best offensive output during that stretch.

"I would have taken the last four runs we got tonight about the last three game, and we would have won some ballgames," Trembley said.

Unfortunately, the timely hitting the skipper preached prior to Saturday's game has eluded the Orioles, who squandered an early shot to rattle Jackson and swing the momentum in their favor.

"He wasn't throwing it over the plate, and, obviously, we had him right where we wanted," Trembley said. "And it just didn't happen. It's unfortunate circumstances, and you wish you could just get a hit there and break the ice."

Unfortunately, those breaks have been just as elusive.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

O's Blanked in Duel with Rays

ST. PETERSBURG -- Perhaps Orioles manager Dave Trembley knew what was coming Friday night.

Just hours after Trembley affirmed his belief to enact instant replay in home run situations and the ability to, as in the National Football League, challenge a questionable call made on the field, the Orioles found themselves in dire need of a red challenge flag.

Down one run with a runner on first, Aubrey Huff hit a frozen rope down the right-field line that was ruled to be foul despite a replay that showed otherwise. Had Huff's eighth-inning stroke been ruled a hit, Nick Markakis would have easily reached third, and possibly even attempted to score and tie the game.

Instead, Huff grounded into an inning-ending double play, and the Orioles dropped their third straight game, losing the series opener against the Rays, 2-0.

"You guys want to talk about replay, there's a classic case right there," said a visibly frustrated Huff. "It wasn't even close."

The Orioles' designated hitter wasn't the only one to voice his immediate disagreement with first-base umpire Ed Hickox's call. Trembley ran out in support of Huff immediately following the play, and the O's manager came out again to yell at home-plate umpire Ed Rapuano, who ejected Trembley during a pitching change in the bottom of the eighth.

"Obviously, I thought it was a fair ball, and you know that's baseball, there's a difference in opinion," Trembley said.

When asked if he had seen a replay that prompted his second argument, the skipper remained mum.

"I'm not going to say that. I thought it was a fair ball right from the get-go and that's all," Trembley said.

Huff also tried multiple times to sway the decision, even asking Rapuano if he could overrule the call made by Hickox.

"Honestly, you shouldn't even need to overturn that. It was clearly fair from where I was; it wasn't even close," Huff said. "It's just a ball I've hit 1,000 times down that line -- you think it's an automatic double, game-changer right there."

It certainly was a game-changer for Tampa Bay, which took the momentum and the game, blanking Baltimore for its sixth home shutout.

"That was a close call, but I think he got it right," Rays first baseman Carlos Pena said. "It's hard for me to tell, but I was glad it was foul."

Of course the home crowd was, as well. Had Huff's hit been fair, the Orioles would have at least had runners on second and third with one out and Kevin Millar at the plate. The O's first baseman had doubled in his previous at-bat off Rays starter Matt Garza, who had just came out of the game before Huff's at-bat.

"We had Garza right there, and we had the right guys up and it just didn't happen for us," Trembley said. "So that's the tough part of the game."

What is even tougher for the club is negating another dazzling performance on the mound.

After Thursday night's starter, Brian Burres, held the Yankees to one run through 7 2/3 innings, the Orioles' offense couldn't string together enough hits for the win. Jeremy Guthrie's superb effort on Friday was also spoiled by the stagnant bats, as the right-hander tossed 114 pitches, and for his second straight start, allowed only one run to cross the plate.

Still, Guthrie's quality start -- 6 2/3 innings with five strikeouts -- ended with his fifth loss of the year.

"Guthrie pitched a tremendous ballgame," Trembley said after acknowledging that the Orioles had fallen victim to the same formula that had resulted in Thursday's 2-1 loss in New York.

"The good news is the pitching's been phenomenal all year long," Huff explained. "If we had been swinging the bats at all within the last couple weeks, we'd probably have about five more wins. We just can't get anything going, and I think everybody's just trying way too hard."

Although the effort may be there, the results clearly have not.

Friday's shutout marked the second time the Orioles were blanked in the past three games, and the third time all season. All three shutouts have come within Baltimore's past eight games; conversely, the O's weren't shut out last season until Sept. 1.

The Birds got a small taste of payback as Luke Scott made a phenomenal diving catch, running back on Pena's deep fly ball to rob the slugger of an extra-base hit.

"I couldn't tell what was going on," said an awed Pena. "He went backwards, and up without seeing it, it was like Willie Mays -- it was crazy."

The O's left fielder was more modest, saying he was simply trying to play the game hard, and catch it by all means necessary. Scott's defensive gem in the eighth inning was the lone bright spot for a team full of slumped shoulders and deep sighs following the events of the eighth inning.

"People make mistakes, and it's tough ... it's done and over with," Scott said of Huff's ball. "Especially it would have helped us out a lot, you are looking at the very least second and third and it changes the game around. But sometimes that happens, you know ... you got to overcome obstacles in this game."

Friday, May 23, 2008

O's Come out on Short End of Duel

NEW YORK -- After trading twin blowouts, the Yankees and Orioles only had one direction to go. Baltimore and New York combined for 22 runs in the first two games of the series before both struggled to score for most of Thursday's finale, but Robinson Cano gave the home team a 2-1 win with a two-out single in the ninth inning.

Reliever Jim Johnson gave up that hit, which scored Hideki Matsui from second base. Left fielder Jay Payton made a futile throw home on the final play, and Baltimore left New York with a two-game losing streak.

"You don't call it frustrating. They pitched great," said Baltimore catcher Ramon Hernandez. "It was a good pitching game, so you can't really be frustrated, because it was 2-1. It wasn't like 10-0. I think it was a good game, and you know what? As long as we keep holding teams like that ... you'll be in every game and you'll have a lot of opportunities."

"After coming off that game last night, we were ready to play," added manager Dave Trembley. "It's a learning experience for a lot of guys coming in here. This is a very tough venue to not only play in, [but to] pitch in [and] win here.

"We had our opportunities and didn't get it done. We certainly didn't give it to them. They had to earn it and Johnson has just been remarkable for us, and he'll be better because of tonight's opportunity that he got."

Johnson, who fired 18 scoreless innings this season before allowing his first earned run, came on to get a key out in the eighth. He retired Derek Jeter in that inning, but gave up a leadoff single to Matsui in the ninth. Johnson (0-2) went on to get two strikeouts -- including one on a controversial call that spurred Yankees manager Joe Girardi's ejection -- before walking Shelley Duncan.

That brought Cano to the plate, and the second baseman steered the winning hit straight through shortstop.

"The walk really killed us," said Johnson. "You can't defend a walk. It's frustrating, because [Brian] Burres pitched his butt off and we just couldn't get it done. I'll take the blame for it. I just didn't execute my pitches when I should've."

Burres kept the Orioles (24-22) in the game all night, consistently keeping the Yankees (22-25) off base and out of threatening situations. The southpaw got help from a spectacular catch by right fielder Nick Markakis in the first inning, but then he did the rest of the work. Burres pitched into the eighth inning and retired 12 of the last 13 batters he faced.

"That's probably as good as I've seen him pitch, and I've seen him pitch a lot," said Trembley. "He had a lot of guys swinging and missing over the top of his ball. I thought his changeup was good. He recovered nicely against some left-handed hitters that he didn't put away. And with guys on base, he didn't get rattled. He kept the ball in the ballpark.

"That's a difficult thing to do here -- make sure to keep the ball in the ballpark against this lineup."

The problem came with Baltimore's offense, which has scored just one run in its last two games. The road team scored the game's first run on a triple by Freddie Bynum in the third inning, but rookie starter Ian Kennedy escaped with the bases loaded. Kennedy stranded another pair of runners in the sixth, and his bullpen handled the Orioles with ease.

Baltimore only had one hit after the sixth inning, and that runner wound up stranded at first base. Trembley said that the third inning may have been the game's turning point, but he didn't use it as an excuse.

"We had an opportunity to knock a guy in and score some runs. It didn't happen," he said. "But I don't think it really has much of an effect on our club because we're very resilient. We keep battling [and] we don't let those kinds of things get to us. But when the game's over, you can look back on that and say 'Hey, we had an opportunity to do something there.'"

"We just haven't been good enough," said second baseman Brian Roberts, who went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a walk. "Our pitchers have done what they needed to do. The bad part of it is the guys that are supposed to be doing it offensively are not doing it. Guys like Freddie and [Adam Jones] and some of the younger guys are doing a good job.

"Unfortunately, it's guys like me and Nick [Markakis] and some of the other [veterans] that aren't carrying our weight. It's not from a lack of effort or preparation or trying. It's just not working out yet. We just have to do a much better job."

Johnson and the Orioles got the benefit of a tough call at home plate in the ninth inning. Designated hitter Jason Giambi appeared to watch a pitch go past him into the catcher's glove, and he stepped back a few paces before home-plate umpire Chris Guccione ruled that the ball had actually tipped the knob of his bat.

Giambi argued the call, and Girardi was ejected when he came out to support him. The resulting fireworks took several minutes, but Johnson said he wasn't really affected by it. Still, he wound up walking Duncan -- who had walked five times all season -- and giving up the game-winning hit in rapid succession.

"I think he foul tipped it," said Hernandez of the Giambi play. "He holds the bat like I do, with the knob hanging down. I heard it when it hit the bat, and he didn't react like he got hit. I kind of figured it out and I told the umpire, 'He foul tipped it.'"

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Olson, O's Roughed up by Yankees

NEW YORK -- Four starts ago, a result like this may have been viewed as a calamity. As it stands, it's more like a mulligan.

Baltimore starter Garrett Olson reverted to the hit-happy ways of his 2007 audition on Wednesday night, tying his prior marks for both the most earned runs he's allowed (six) and the shortest he's pitched (2 2/3 innings). Olson had three wins and no losses in his four previous starts this season, so Wednesday's 8-0 rout by the Yankees doesn't stand as his defining statement.

"I'd hope he learns from this," said manager Dave Trembley. "He's certainly allowed himself some opportunities to grow and show that the experiences he had last year benefited him. I think it goes to show you he's still got room for improvement."

Olson thrived for Triple-A Norfolk last year and ranked third in the International League in ERA, but then he came to the big leagues and got battered for a 1-3 record and a 7.79 ERA. It seemed that he'd pitched himself out of a job, and Trembley noted Wednesday that he "could've thrown five no-hitters" in Spring Training without making the team.

But Olson got an opportunity when Adam Loewen went down with an injury, and he quickly destroyed those year-old perceptions. The southpaw completed five innings in each of his first four starts and got through them without allowing more than three earned runs. Overnight, he seemed to have gained confidence and the ability to compete at the highest level.

If you take those starts away and substitute this outing as his season debut, Olson would be right back at square one. And he acknowledged that fact after Wednesday's game, admitting that his first four starts had propped him up.

"Absolutely," he said. "It also makes you realize that it's a long season. We haven't even started June yet. You're going to have your bad days where you just don't find your pitches and you're not making the quality pitches you need to make. I'm just going to go back, stick with my routine, keep working to improve and go out for my next one."

Olson (3-1) made it through the first inning unscathed on Wednesday, but the Yankees hit him hard in the second. Second baseman Robinson Cano doubled in one run and scored on a single, and another one came across on a groundout. The carnage continued in the third, when Alex Rodriguez led off with a home run over the left-field fence.

New York (21-25) went on to score two more runs in the third, chasing Olson and handing starter Darrell Rasner a significant advantage. The right-hander made it all stand up, stranding runners in scoring position in both the third and fourth innings and getting a double play in the fifth. The Orioles (24-21) had just four hits in the first six innings.

"Half the guys I started with a first-pitch strike," said Olson, evaluating his evening. "The other half, I started out behind. You don't want to do that in this game -- especially against a team like the Yankees. I also got ahead on other guys with two strikes and didn't put them away. I kind of left the ball up in the zone, and when you do that, they make you pay for it."

"It was their night tonight," added Trembley, speaking of the Yankees. "It's pitching. You saw what [Daniel] Cabrera did [Tuesday] night and conversely, on the opposite side, you saw Olson tonight. I just thought he never commanded his fastball.

"I just looked at his chart and almost half his pitches were breaking stuff and changeups. I just don't think he established his game plan at all. He'll learn from it and we'll get him back out there in five days."

Rasner (3-0) was rarely challenged, and he went on to set career highs in innings (seven) and strikeouts (six). Baltimore's best opportunity came in the fourth inning, when it put the first two runners on base and had the heart of the order coming up. Rasner settled down, though, and retired the side on a fly ball, a popup and a strikeout.

"He just put his pitches where he wanted, didn't leave much over the plate [and] mixed up his pitches good," said right fielder Nick Markakis. "It was one of those nights where we really couldn't do anything and he was in-and-out."

Markakis had the best perspective of a controversial play in the sixth inning. Rodriguez crushed a ball that appeared to bounce off the yellow staircase beyond the wall in right-center field, but the umpires ruled it a run-scoring double instead of a home run. Replays appeared to confirm that the ball was a home run, but Rodriguez wound up scoring anyway.

"I was just running toward the ball and saw the ball kick back," said Markakis. "I was just playing it like it was any regular ball hit and threw it back in. That's what the umpires are there for -- they're there to make that call."

Third baseman Melvin Mora had to leave the game early after being spiked on the left hand in the third inning. Mora suffered a contusion and some lacerations but said he expected to be able to play on Thursday.

"Well, we'll find out. I just talked to him and he said that he wants to play," said Trembley. "He got spiked. That's what happened. He got cut in a couple of different places on his hand. The X-rays were negative. [Head athletic trainer] Richie [Bancells] cleaned him up. He doesn't need a stitch or anything. He's just cut up pretty good."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Orioles Team Report May 21, 2008

Inside Pitch

Coming into the current season, a lot of people in the Orioles organization crossed their fingers and have virtually kept them that way every time the enigmatic Daniel Cabrera went to the mound.

The big right-hander had never reached the potential many baseball people saw in him. But manager Dave Trembley and pitching coach Rick Kranitz came out of spring training with the proclamation that this was going to be the year Cabrera came into his own.

Tuesday presented a major test for Cabrera. He passed with flying colors, leaving Trembley with the right to say, “I told you so.”

Facing the once-feared Yankees, he improved his record to 5-1 by extending his string of quality starts to eight in a row. Alex Rodriguez’s two-run homer in the sixth accounted for the only runs Cabrera allowed in seven innings. And he lowered his season ERA to 3.48. Another key statistic was that he didn’t walk a batter for the third time this season.

Cabrera took the mound in the bottom of the first inning with a 7-0 lead.

“When you have a lot of run support, it’s always good,” he told the Baltimore Sun.

Orioles 12, Yankees 2: Adam Jones keyed Baltimore’s seven-run first-inning rally with a bases-loaded double off Mike Mussina, who lasted only two-thirds of an inning. Jones finished with four hits and four RBIs. Brian Roberts had an RBI triple, and Kevin Millar and Luke Scott each hit home runs and scored three times. An up-and-in pitch from LaTroy Hawkins to Scott ignited a bench-clearing scuffle in the sixth.

Notes, Quotes

• CF Adam Jones extended his hitting streak to six games as he got a career-best four hits and a career-high four RBIs Tuesday against the Yankees. His average was boosted to .265, up from .223 on May 13.

• RHP Daniel Cabrera continued his string of outstanding starts with a five-hit, two-run, seven-inning stint against the Yankees. The team’s leader in walks for the past two years was walk-free for the third time this season as he upped his record to 5-1 and lowered his ERA to 3.48 with his eighth consecutive quality start.

• 1B Kevin Millar hit his sixth homer in the fourth inning and had two hits, giving him six multi-hit games in May. He has upped his average from .213 on May 7 to .241. He also scored three runs, equaling his season high from April 5.

• SS Freddie Bynum returned to the lineup after sitting out two games. He came through with a hit and his first RBI of the season in the Orioles’ seven-run first inning. Bynum has hit safely in six of the eight games he’s played since being activated from the disabled list.

• RHP Lance Cormier, who signed a minor league contract during the offseason, pitched the final two innings in relief of RHP Daniel Cabrera. He blanked the Yankees in those innings and has allowed just one run and one hit in 6 2/3 innings.

By The Numbers: 5—The number of different players who have started for the Orioles at shortstop. Alex Cintron, in the lineup on Saturday, the 42nd game of the season, was the fifth.

Quote To Note: “I’m trying to keep as many guys close to pitching on their regular turn as I possibly can. Until such a point where I can turn the rotation over and do that, I’m not going to mess with it. I think it’s important for routine.”—Manager Dave Trembley on his philosophy for keeping his starting pitchers on schedule.

O's Chase Mussina Early, Pound Yankees

NEW YORK -- What's one blowout between old friends?

The Yankees' Mike Mussina was an Oriole so long ago that he had only one former teammate -- Melvin Mora -- in the opposing dugout Tuesday night, but his name still carries extra resonance in Baltimore. The Orioles jumped all over their former ace in their series opener against the Yankees, knocking him out in the first inning and running to a 12-2 rout.

"It's great to do it here in Yankee Stadium, and it's great to do it against a guy who has a track record like Mussina," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "He's a great pitcher. He's done it for an awful long time."

Mussina, who's been in the Majors since 1991 and an ex-Oriole since 2001, recorded just two outs Tuesday night, matching the shortest outing of his distinguished career. The last time Mussina (6-4) had been knocked out so early was in July 1995, and he had gone 13 straight starts this year without allowing a run in the first inning.

The veteran's line was inflated by six unearned runs Tuesday night, thanks to a two-out error that opened the floodgates. Baltimore center fielder Adam Jones -- who was just 4 years old when Mussina was drafted in 1990 -- broke the game open with a three-run double in the first and wound up setting career highs with four hits and four RBIs.

"Before you know it, things open up," said Trembley, speaking of the eventful inning. "We don't chase bad pitches. We take advantage of a four-out inning. ... We made Mussina throw a lot of extra pitches."

Two players -- left fielder Luke Scott and first baseman Kevin Millar -- finished the night with three runs. Scott was even involved in some late controversy, thanks to a dusting from former Oriole LaTroy Hawkins. The right-hander appeared to throw at and miss Scott twice in the sixth inning, inciting a bench-clearing discussion between the two teams.

Scott seemed to think there was intent involved, citing an earlier plunking received by Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. Scott made his feelings known on the field and earned his revenge by blasting an upper-deck home run in the eighth inning.

"I understand there's certain things that happen," said Scott. "You want to protect your players, and there's a certain way to go about it. That was not it. You never throw at someone's head with intention. You can end someone's life. You can end a career. No one likes going through difficult moments like that, ugly moments in the game. But you've got to stick up for yourself."

"If anybody knows me," said Hawkins, "and a lot of guys around this league know me, I'm not that type of person. He thought what he wanted to think. The way it looked, he had a reason to think like that. But it wasn't intentional."

The game started innocently enough, with a leadoff walk to Brian Roberts followed by two quick outs. Two singles followed, and Jeter threw high to first base on a potential rally-killing ground ball. The play was ruled an error and loaded the bases, and Mussina walked in one run before serving up a three-run double to Jones and an RBI single to Freddie Bynum.

New York's starter stayed in to allow a triple to Roberts, who had just completed his first full pro season when Mussina left the Orioles. The seven-run outburst tied the road team's highest scoring inning of the year. Baltimore (24-20) went on to set a new season high in runs scored and margin of victory en route to the team's eighth win in its last 10 games.

"All those runs were with two outs. That's a big thing," said designated hitter Aubrey Huff, who scored twice and drove in one run. "Any time a team makes an error, you have to capitalize -- especially on the road and against a team like this. They can jump on you in a hurry. But to be able to take them out and take the crowd out, that's big."

The Yankees (20-25) couldn't get much going against Baltimore starter Daniel Cabrera, who had a seven-run advantage by the time he took the mound. Cabrera dominated the early going, holding New York to two hits in the first five innings. Cabrera (5-1) has now thrown eight consecutive quality starts, which ranks as the longest stretch in his career.

Cabrera, who led the league in walks in each of the last two years, didn't issue a free pass Tuesday for the third time this season. That's a huge sign of progress for the hulking right-hander, who has been known for his erratic command.

"The guy, from Day 1 in Spring Training, has come into his own," said Trembley. "He has a purpose to what he does. He doesn't get easily rattled. Those of you who had the great fortune to see him in the past are seeing a different guy. It's called growing up. It's called experience. It's called maturity. It's called having confidence."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Orioles Team Report May 20, 2008

The Orioles may be taking a chance on the future of veteran pitcher Steve Trachsel by skipping two of his scheduled starts for the purpose of maintaining the routines of the younger pitchers. Manager Dave Trembley feels that Trachsel’s years of experience will allow him to deal with the change better than Garrett Olson, Brian Burres and Daniel Cabrera might.

The need for that action came about because of the schedule that gave the Orioles three days off in an eight-day span. The fact that the 37-year old Trachsel (2-4, 6.75 ERA) had not gotten out of the fourth inning in three of his last five starts might also have contributed to the decision, but Trembley wouldn’t say that.

The veteran right-hander realized such a move was likely to be made when he saw the way the schedule set up along with the problems he was having in his early starts.

“I wasn’t surprised,” Trachsel said. “It’s a lot easier to have one guy get bumped than to have everybody working on seven or eight days. If two or three guys can stay on five days, I guess I have to suck it up.”

Trachsel, who admitted the lack of action is tough on him, last started on May 9 and he’s not expected to get another start until Saturday, which would be a 14-day layoff, but he pointed out that he’s endured similar layoffs before. He pointed out that the key, for him, is to try whatever it takes to stay sharp and prepare for the eventual start.

“When I came back from my back surgery, I went from pitching every five days through two months of rehab to coming to New York and pitching on eight-to-nine days’ rest,” said Trachsel, referring to a 2005 experience.

Trachsel has been trying to maintain his groove with bullpen sessions that also give him an opportunity to work on the command of his fastball, the absence of which has plagued him in the first part of this season.

“I know his side sessions have been productive,” Trembley said. “We may do something early in the week: We may throw a simulated game in Yankee Stadium. I don’t know yet what we’re going to.”

Notes, Quotes

• RHP Steve Trachsel, who had two of his starts passed over to keep the younger pitchers on their schedules, has been working in bullpen sessions to regain command of his pitches, particularly his fastball. That, he feels, has been his problem en route to his 2-4 record and 6.75 ERA in his early-season starts.

• DH Aubrey Huff had gone through an 0-for-10 stretch in the series against the Nationals before getting a single in the ninth inning on Sunday, the final game of the three-game set. He was 3-for-23 in his last six games.

• C Guillermo Quiroz gets only limited playing time behind Ramon Hernandez, but he has raised his average from .172 to .225 in his last five games. Quiroz has reached base on a hit or walk 14 times in his 40 at-bats in 16 games and has scored seven times.

• C Ramon Hernandez has not scored a run since April 29 and has scored only seven runs in his 115 at-bats. During the games since April 29, he is 8-for-38 for a .211 average, which is two points better than his season average to date.

• CF Adam Jones had at least one hit in each of the five games on the just-ended homestand. By going 7-for-16 in those games, the rookie who came to the Orioles from the Mariners in the Erik Bedard trade raised his average from .228 to .247 for the season.

By The Numbers: 5—The number of different players who have started for the Orioles at shortstop. Alex Cintron, in the lineup on Saturday, the 42nd game of the season, was the fifth.

Quote To Note: “I’m trying to keep as many guys close to pitching on their regular turn as I possibly can. Until such a point where I can turn the rotation over and do that, I’m not going to mess with it. I think it’s important for routine.”—Manager Dave Trembley on his philosophy for keeping his starting pitchers on schedule.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Orioles Team Report May 19, 2008

The Orioles have been winning more often than losing. Still, manager Dave Trembley has encountered plenty of difficult decisions with his roster.

The latest came Saturday, when Alex Cintron became the fifth player to start at shortstop this season for the Orioles.

Just a week earlier, the Orioles activated Freddie Bynum from the disabled list. Bynum was immediately inserted as the starting shortstop. Trembley made the bold proclamation that Bynum had become the starter at the key position, that the job was his to lose.

Cintron, who had played previously with the Diamondbacks and more recently the White Sox, was called up from Class AAA Norfolk (Va.) to add a bench player to the roster. But when he got his first chance to play as an Oriole, he took full advantage of it, going 4-for-4 at the plate and error-free in the field.

It was probably just what the Orioles were hoping for when they signed Cintron to a minor league contract. As satisfied as Trembley had to feel about the performance, he wasn’t about to go back on his word to Bynum.

“I told Bynum it was his job until he lost it. At this point and time, I don’t think he’s done anything to lose it,” Trembley said.

Still, Cintron didn’t hide the fact that he’s thrilled to have a job and that he wants to help the Orioles in any way he can.

“I’ve been through this before, so I’m kind of excited to have my chance to play,” Cintron said. “Whatever it takes for me, to play every day or be on the bench, I can be happy any way. If I’m coming off the bench, I’m doing my job, too.”

Nationals 2, Orioles 1: Cristian Guzman hit a solo home run in the third inning off starter Jeremy Guthrie and reliever Chad Bradford gave up doubles to Guzman and Ryan Zimmerman in the eighth to account for the winning run. John Lannan allowed the Orioles only four hits in 7 1/3 innings of the game that was delayed 2:01 at the start, and for a shorter time in the eighth.

Notes, Quotes

• RHP Steve Trachsel, who sat out two starts in the rotation so young pitchers could remain on schedule, is expected to pitch Friday, Saturday or Sunday at Tampa Bay. It will be at least 10 days since his last start.

• RHP Jeremy Guthrie (2-4, 3.86), pitched another outstanding game, only to come out the loser. He allowed only one run on Cristian Guzman’s home run in seven innings. Chad Bradford gave up the other run in the 2-1 loss. Guthrie has allowed nine earned runs in his last 25 2/3 innings, a 3.16 ERA.

• RF Nick Markakis showed again that he is among the leading defensive outfielders in the AL as he got his fifth and sixth outfield assists on Sunday. One was on a play at home plate and the other was a force out at second on what might have been a single.

• LF Jay Payton continued a frustrating 10-game stretch during which he has managed only three hits in 25 at bats, but he made the most of his few hits. Two were home runs—one of them a grand slam, and the third an RBI single that gave him eight RBIs during the slump.

• SS Alex Cintron, who was 4-for-4 in his first start as an Oriole on Saturday, was gushing about getting the opportunity from the team. He started the season at Class AAA Norfolk (Va.), signing a minor league contract after being released by the Cubs. His Saturday performance had him in the lineup again on Sunday, but he went hitless.

• 2B Brian Roberts had his six-game hit streak ended on Sunday but he did get the Orioles’ only RBI on a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning. His string of scoring a run in five straight games also came to an end.

By The Numbers: 5—The number of different players who have started for the Orioles at shortstop. Alex Cintron, in the lineup on Saturday, the 42nd game of the season, was the fifth.

Quote To Note: “I’m trying to keep as many guys close to pitching on their regular turn as I possibly can. Until such a point where I can turn the rotation over and do that, I’m not going to mess with it. I think it’s important for routine.”—Manager Dave Trembley on his philosophy for keeping his starting pitchers on schedule.

Orioles Open Road Trip in New York

BALTIMORE -- The streak is dead, and the Orioles will do their best to make sure their momentum doesn't go with it. Baltimore went 4-1 on its homestand and will have an off-day Monday before starting a three-game series at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday. As far as Orioles manager Dave Trembley is concerned, the day off is an unwelcome diversion at this point.

"I wish we were playing tomorrow, to be honest with you," Trembley said after a bruising 2-1 defeat to the Nationals on Sunday. "It didn't work out for [us] today, but I've got no problem with the approach. We played two great games against Boston. We were behind the entire week -- every game -- with the exception of jumping on [Washington] yesterday. I thought the guys just battled hard. ... The guys will take a break, [then] we'll get on a train [Monday] at 5 o'clock, and head to New York and get ready for the next one."

The Orioles will have a true test over the next two weeks, as they play 13 straight games against American League East opponents. The daunting schedule starts with a three-game series in New York and continues with a three-game set against Tampa Bay. After that, the Orioles return home to play against the Yankees and the Red Sox.

So far this season, Baltimore has held its own with its division rivals. The O's are 8-7 against divisional opponents, and that includes a 4-1 record against Boston and New York. Both of those teams have handled the Orioles easily in recent seasons, but Trembley's team already has thrown a few other trends into disarray.

The Orioles will start Daniel Cabrera in the series opener, and they'll conclude with southpaws Garrett Olson and Brian Burres. Baltimore skipped Steve Trachsel to keep everyone else on turn, a surprise engagement for two hurlers. Last year, both Olson and Burres pitched whenever the Orioles had an opening, instead of keeping their own dedicated rotation slot.

Pitching matchup
BAL: RHP Daniel Cabrera (4-1, 3.58 ERA)
Cabrera has thrown seven straight quality starts, which is the longest streak of his career.

NYY: RHP Mike Mussina (6-3, 3.99 ERA)
Mussina has won five straight starts and has allowed three earned runs or fewer in all of them.

Bird bites
The Orioles have had three postponements and one suspended game due to inclement weather this season. ... Baltimore starter Jeremy Guthrie has allowed two earned runs or fewer on five occasions this season, and he is just 2-1 with two no-decisions in those games. ... The Orioles fell to 11-6 in one-run games and 14-7 at home on Sunday.

Rain, Nats Stymie Orioles in Finale

BALTIMORE -- The field was wet, but the bats stayed dry. The Orioles' most consistent streak of the season died Sunday, when twin rain delays totaling nearly 2 1/2 hours bogged down the game. Baltimore had scored at least five runs in four straight games prior to Sunday and snapped that tear with a 2-1 loss to Washington.

The game was delayed more than two hours by the first interruption, and the rains resurfaced in the eighth. The Orioles had to leave the field with a two-run deficit and two runners in scoring position, only to resume the game 27 minutes later. Baltimore scored once against the road team's bullpen and wound up stranding the potential tying run on third base.

"That's just part of the game," said Orioles manager Dave Trembley. "You have to go through it. You can't make excuses about it. It was a long day for everybody, a different situation you have to play through. That's it."

"Nobody wants to sit around for two hours and have a rain delay," added left fielder Jay Payton, who went 0-for-4 on the day. "Both teams deal with it, so it's not really an advantage or a disadvantage either way."

That sentiment reflects the general rule, but not the way things broke down on Sunday. Baltimore finally seemed to break through in the eighth inning, thanks to a one-out double by pinch-hitter Luke Scott. That put runners on second and third, and leadoff man Brian Roberts had to wait nearly a half-hour before he got his chance to contribute.

The switch-hitter had a tough at-bat and ended up driving a sacrifice fly to center field, moving the potential tying run to third. Melvin Mora followed and made the last out of the inning on a hard liner to right field.

"I thought we really showed a lot to come back and do what we did. We hit the ball right on the button," said Trembley. "Guys were ready to do it. You look at Scott, he was here at 10 o'clock this morning, and he was on the bench the whole day and he comes up and gets a hit like that."

Washington (19-26) took control Sunday on a solo home run by shortstop Cristian Guzman in the third inning and extended the lead on Ryan Zimmerman's double in the eighth. Perhaps more importantly, the Nationals held the Orioles to just three runners in scoring position and came close to recording the second shutout against Baltimore this season.

The Orioles (23-20) didn't reach scoring position until Mora netted a two-out double in the sixth inning. Washington's John Lannan got 10 of his 22 outs on ground balls, keeping Baltimore from really hitting anything hard. Lannan (4-4) left the game with two men on in the eighth, and Washington's bullpen stranded the potential tying run at third.

"Well-pitched game on both sides," said Trembley. "Lannan really had command of the outside part of the plate to both right- and left-handed hitters. I thought he changed speeds, did a nice job.

"Obviously, we didn't have much offense going until late. We came up a hit short. That's the game."

Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie got some help from his defense, but he didn't fare quite as well. The right-hander coaxed a double play in the first inning to end one potential rally, and he only allowed two additional baserunners through the sixth. One of those came on Guzman's home run, and Guthrie (2-4) got a key out on a strong throw to the plate by Nick Markakis.

"They threw the ball really well. We got some good defensive plays that kept us in the game," said Guthrie. "The [homer] pitch wasn't a flaw. It was low and away. I was trying to go in, actually, but the actual pitch was a pretty darned good pitch. He just did a nice job. I made a lot more mistakes than that that weren't hit out."

Baltimore reliever Chad Bradford ran into immediate trouble in the eighth, allowing two doubles in a three-batter span. Zimmerman had the latter shot, and Bradford pushed him to third base with two walks. Instead of folding, though, the right-handed reliever got Lastings Milledge to hit into a rally-killing double play.

The Orioles finished their homestand with a 4-1 record and have won seven of their past nine games. The adverse weather has followed them, though. Baltimore has had three postponements and one suspended game this season.

"It's been a lot," said Roberts. "But that's part of playing baseball -- deal with it."

"I would think June, July and August are going to be smoking around here with a lot of sunshine and summertime weather," said Trembley, reading the tea leaves for his summer weather projections. "Obviously, we've had our fair share of rain and cool, damp weather. It must be the summer is going to be conducive to baseball weather all the time."

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Orioles Team Report May 17, 2008

After a year of having to pitch in almost half of the Orioles’ games, relievers Chad Bradford and Jamie Walker are getting added rest because of the arms of youngsters, particularly Matt Albers and Jim Johnson.

Albers and Johnson both made their 15th appearance of the season on Friday and, as they have done in almost all of their appearances, they were in complete command of the opposing batters. Neither allowed a run.

Manager Dave Trembley has no qualms about using the young relievers in tight situations. He doesn’t consider anything except their results, noting that “if they can get the job done, I’ll put them in. That’s what counts, not whether they’re rookies or what they did last year.”

Trembley said of Johnson, who sports an 1.14 ERA, “I was kind of tentative about bringing him in, when he first got here, in the middle of an inning because he’s never done that before. But I haven’t seen the guy show any fear or lack of poise.

“His delivery is a whole lot better, and I think he has better life on his fastball … for a guy who’s never pitched out of the bullpen before, what he’s been is resilient with the ability to pitch back-to-back days. And he’s been resilient with coming in (in) situations in the middle of the inning.”

Orioles 5, Nationals 3: Starter Garrett Olson had the Orioles trailing 2-0 after three batters as Ryan Zimmerman singled home the two runs. But the Orioles got their sixth win in seven games as they scored twice with the aid of a wild throw in the second, got a home run from Luke Scott in the fourth and Melvin Mora and Kevin Millar singled home the final runs in the fifth. Olson held on long enough to get the win, and relievers Matt Albers, Jim Johnson and closer George Sherrill finished off the visitors. Sherrill got his 16th save.

Notes, Quotes

• LHP Garrett Olson was battered around early, but he managed to make good pitches in critical situations to keep the Orioles in the game after he had allowed two first-inning runs and came out after five innings, enough to up his record to 3-0, having allowed another run and nine total hits.

• 3B Melvin Mora was back in the lineup after sitting out two games because of a sore right shoulder from being hit by a batted ball during pregame drills on Tuesday. He made a handful of key defensive plays that might not have been made by his backup Aubrey Huff. He also had an RBI double

• LF Luke Scott, who had an explosive start to the season before slipping into a devastating slump, hit his second home run in three games. It was his third home run and 14th RBI overall to help the team overcome interleague rival Washington.

• RHP Matt Albers relieved Garrett Olson in the sixth and shut down the Nationals for the two innings he worked. He did give up two hits but he struck out three and lowered his ERA to a very respectable 2.15.

• 2B Brian Roberts had two hits, including his second triple of the season, to extend his hitting streak to five games, and with two runs scored, he has crossed the plate six times in the last four games.

By The Numbers: 12—Consecutive wins over the Royals before a loss on May 11. It was the second time Baltimore won 12 straight over Kansas City; the first was in 1970.

Quote To Note: “As soon as I shaved my head it started kicking in, so I want to tip my hat to my haircut.”—1B Kevin Millar, talking about his hitting spree since being moved from the cleanup spot on May 2.

O's Score Just Enough to Edge Nats

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles continued their wildly erratic trend in the score column Saturday night, when they earned a 6-5 win over the Nationals and scored five runs or more for the fourth straight game. Baltimore, which had scored that many runs just four times in its previous 12 games, is four games over .500 for the first time since April 29.

All season long, the Orioles have played to a maddening set of extremes. They've racked up a 20-5 record when scoring four runs or more and have gone just 3-14 when scoring three runs or fewer. Baltimore (23-19) answered which type of night it would be early Saturday, when it scored once in the first inning and came back for three more runs in the third.

"You're never satisfied with scoring enough runs," said Orioles manager Dave Trembley, speaking about his team's recent run of offensive success. "There's always room for improvement. But the way the guys play and the way they compete and the way they keep their poise, I think is as good as you're going to see."

"Everybody worries about the offense, but you play 162 games," added left fielder Jay Payton, who homered in the win. "You're going to have good periods of offense [and] bad periods of offense -- great periods, terrible periods -- it's the name of the game. At the end of the season, you want to be able to look back and say, 'OK, we did what we were supposed to do.'

"I don't think players panic too much when they're in a funk, because it's a long year. The guys that can hit know they can hit, and they know they're going to hit when it's all said and done."

Baltimore also improved to 11-5 in one-run games, whereas the team went 13-31 in those circumstances last year. Saturday's score seemed one-sided in the middle innings, but Washington enjoyed a late rally to make things tight.

The Nationals scored three times in the eighth, but Jim Johnson struck out Austin Kearns with the bases loaded to end the inning. Johnson had walked one batter and hit another, but he found his form in time to extinguish the game's biggest threat.

"I didn't make a lot of pitches in the short time I was out there. I think I had a hard time locating my fastball," Johnson said. "I put myself in that spot. I came in with a free base, and I worked myself into that jam. It just comes back to fastball command."

"I think there's a lesson to be learned in this game -- especially for some of our younger guys," said Trembley. "I think the lesson is you can't turn the switch on and you can't turn the switch off. Mentally, you've always got to be ready to go.

"The score is 6-2, and a lot of times you put yourself down and you don't think you're going to get in there. But in the big leagues, the game can change in a hurry, so you've got to mentally get yourself ready to go."

Right fielder Nick Markakis had a hand in both of the home team's rallies, driving a one-run single in the first inning and a two-run home run -- his eighth of the season -- in the third. Payton added a two-run blast in the fifth inning to temporarily put things out of reach, and the Orioles eventually were able to go to their bullpen with a four-run cushion.

"Our pitching's doing an outstanding job and letting us score some runs," said Markakis. "We might not be scoring a ton of runs per game, but I think we're doing a good job of getting people on and getting big hits when it counts."

Baltimore's Brian Burres was the beneficiary of all those hits, and he worked into the sixth inning for the seventh time in eight starts. The southpaw had lost three straight outings, but he never allowed the Orioles to trail. Washington (18-26) reached Burres (4-4) for a two-run double in the second inning and a solo homer in the fourth, but not much else.

"My defense played great behind me," Burres said. "And the offense did great in getting runs."

Washington starter Odalis Perez worked five innings, allowing 10 hits and six earned runs en route to the loss. Perez (1-4) stranded a pair of runners in both the first and fourth innings, but the two homers sunk him behind for good. The Nationals never really stirred until the eighth, when they had two on and two outs on two hits and two ground balls.

Trembley went to right-handed reliever Dennis Sarfate, but the hard-throwing rookie walked one batter and gave up a two-run hit. Johnson came in and walked the bases loaded, and then he hit Lastings Milledge to force another run home. Johnson wound up getting a key strikeout, and closer George Sherrill worked the ninth for his 17th save of the year.

"It was an interesting eighth inning," said Trembley. "But we hung in there. I thought our poise was very good."

"I was ready," said Johnson, who's quickly emerging as a late-game force. "I just didn't locate my fastball like I normally do."

Baltimore shortstop Alex Cintron was a success in his first start of the season, tying his career high with four hits. All of the infielder's hits went for singles, and he said he was glad that his star-turn came in a victory for his team.

"We won the ballgame," Cintron said. "You can have four hits and you lose -- it's no fun."

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Orioles Seize Beltway Series Opener

BALTIMORE -- The calendar may have flipped to the Interleague portion of the schedule, but the Orioles stubbornly are sticking to the same page. Baltimore overcame its traditional problems against the National League on Friday night in a 5-3 victory over the Nationals, a result that gave the O's three straight wins and six in their past seven games.

The Orioles came into the game with a 79-114 record in Interleague Play, a mark that stands as the worst of any American League team. And after falling behind early, the home team found a better way to frame those numbers. The Orioles scored five of the game's final six runs, including a pair in the bottom of the fifth that put them ahead for good.

"That's history," said third baseman Melvin Mora, referencing his team's record against NL opponents. "This is a new year. Anything can happen this year if we play good baseball. Anyone can come to our house, so we have to beat them."

Baltimore's winning effort was spread over several innings Friday night, but the key runs came across in the fifth. Second baseman Brian Roberts tripled and scored on a double in that rally, and first baseman Kevin Millar singled in the final run. Baltimore scored on a Luke Scott solo homer in the fourth inning and got two runs on two hits and an error in the second.

All of that support made a winner out of Garrett Olson. The southpaw gave up two runs in the first inning and settled down after that, stranding two runners in both the fourth and fifth innings. Olson (3-0) had worked into the sixth inning of each of his previous three starts, but the Orioles (22-19) elected to pull him after the fifth.

"Olson learned how to pitch tonight without his best stuff," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "And I give him a lot of credit, because I don't know whether he would have been able to do that last year. From the first hitter, he didn't have real good velocity [and] he didn't have real good finish on his pitches, but he competed. They hit a lot of hard outs. ... He put a zero up when we needed to after we scored, and I think it's a real credit what he did for five innings."

"Damage control," added Olson, summarizing the tack he had to take for most of the evening. "You can't be scared and tentative up there. You just have to keep attacking the zone, and you make adjustments off them. The way baseball is, chances are the ball is going to go to somebody behind you. You just try to keep attacking the zone."

Washington (18-25) had a two-run lead after just three batters in the first inning, using two hits and a two-run single from third baseman Ryan Zimmerman to take control. Olson got three straight outs after that and coaxed a key double play in the second inning, and he speared a hard liner back through the box to escape a jam in the fifth.

"There are going to be a big chunk of games where you just have to battle and find it," said Olson. "I wouldn't say that I didn't have anything, but I'd maybe say that I didn't have the late movement I normally have."

"I just think he didn't have very good stuff," said Trembley. "He just didn't seem to have real crispness, a real good finish to his pitches. I thought his pitches were down, but they were in the middle of the plate. ... They were free-swinging. His pitch count was down, his ball-strike ratio was very good [and] he didn't walk anybody. He gave us what he had.

"He had to pitch without real good stuff tonight, and it's a credit to him that he competed like that."

Baltimore's comeback began in the third inning, and it got some help from the road team's defense. Adam Jones and Roberts both reached on singles in that rally, and Mora loaded the bases on a walk. Right fielder Nick Markakis hit into a fielder's choice, but Washington second baseman Felipe Lopez threw the ball away, allowing an extra run to score.

The Orioles got one more run in the third on Scott's solo home run, and they took their first lead in the fifth. Washington starter Shawn Hill gave up a leadoff triple in the fifth, and Mora drove Roberts home with a double. Millar singled off Hill (0-1) to provide the final margin, and Baltimore's bullpen took care of the rest of the game.

"Some people call it Orioles Magic, I guess," said Olson, referring to a popular team rallying cry. "But I really feel like it's the sense of attitude that everybody has -- the confidence and the presence where even if we fall behind, we're still going to battle. We showed that tonight. Just keep attacking the zone and guys are going to pick you up."

Baltimore got two-plus innings from Matt Albers and three strikeouts from Jim Johnson in the eighth. After that, southpaw closer George Sherrill worked the ninth for his 16th save of the season. Trembley said he had hoped to avoid using Johnson, but he felt like he didn't really have an alternative after Albers allowed a leadoff hit in the eighth.

"I was hoping we were going to score a couple more runs there," the manager said. "I thought the second inning, Albers went out there and showed real good velocity -- 93-94 with some nasty sink -- but once he got 0-2 on [Lastings] Milledge and then let him off the hook, that was it. I'm going to go to Johnson, because he's hot and he's on a roll. It's that simple."

Friday, May 16, 2008

Orioles Team Report May 16, 2008

Coming out of their second day off in four days, the Orioles are looking forward to their first interleague games of the season. Because they are hosting the neighboring Washington Nationals, the Orioles pitchers have not had to worry about getting in any batting practice since designated hitters are used in American League ballparks.

Manager Dave Trembley masterfully circumvented the question about whether he likes the idea of interleague play, but he was positive in his remarks about it.

“Interleague play is great for the fans: That’s what it’s all about … it’s a shot in the arm for baseball because it give baseball more water cooler talk,” Trembley said. “It lets more people discuss and talk about the game because you’re playing your neighbor. Anything that promotes the game is positive.

“I don’t think it affects the players one way or the other. It doesn’t alter the guys’ approach.”

Having the game played with the designated hitter means the pitchers don’t have to think about batting practice, something some athletic trainers say creates the possibility of injury because they are suddenly using muscles they don’t ordinarily use. Trembley doesn’t concern himself with that.

“All I worry about with the pitchers is that when they’re supposed to bunt that they get the bunt down. Get the bunt down and get off the field. That’s it!” he said.

Last year, the Orioles lost all three home games to the Nationals and were 2-4 overall against them. The Orioles were 6-12 in 2007 against National League teams.

Notes, Quotes

• RF Nick Markakis was hitting just .167 with runners in scoring position and fewer than two outs before his RBI single in the sixth inning Wednesday. The RBI was his first since he hit a three-run homer May 8 and was also his first RBI on anything but a home run since May 2, when he hit a solo homer and a run-scoring double.

• 2B Brian Roberts has quietly put together a modest four-game hitting streak, during which he has gone 5-for-13 with two walks and four runs while raising his average from .252 to .265. The double he hit Wednesday was his team-best 11th. He also leads the team with 40 hits and 11 stolen bases.

• C Guillermo Quiroz has been behind the plate in each of the past four games because of the wrist injury that has sidelined starter Ramon Hernandez. On Wednesday, Quiroz had two singles and scored in each of the rallies that led to the victory over the Red Sox.

• LHP Garrett Olson will make his fourth start on the season Friday against the Nationals. He goes in at 2-0, and his 2.95 ERA is the best among the Orioles’ starters. After waking five in his first start, he has walked only one in each of the last two. He has yet to get through the seventh inning in a start.

• RHP Chad Bradford, the submarining reliever who has not been in a game since May 10 in Kansas City, has not allowed an earned run since April 20 against New York. Overall, he has given up two earned runs in 13 1/3 innings for a 1.32 ERA this season.

By The Numbers: 12—Consecutive wins over the Royals before a loss on May 11. It was the second time Baltimore won 12 straight over Kansas City; the first was in 1970.

Quote To Note: “As soon as I shaved my head it started kicking in, so I want to tip my hat to my haircut.”—1B Kevin Millar, talking about his hitting spree since being moved from the cleanup spot on May 2.

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