Monday, May 19, 2008

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."


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