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."


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