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.


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