Sunday, June 8, 2008

Orioles unable to hold leads in loss

TORONTO -- Scoring is only half of the equation. Baseball teams have a solemn responsibility to follow their own runs by shutting down their opponents, a duty that often results in the difference between winning and losing. The Orioles weren't able to follow up their runs on Sunday, and the Blue Jays countered with a key rally en route to a 5-4 win.

Baltimore took a lead in the sixth inning on a home run from left fielder Luke Scott -- his second of the game -- but immediately rolled over and allowed Toronto to assume command. Jays catcher Rod Barajas doubled in the tying run and scored the go-ahead one on a sacrifice fly, a fact Orioles manager Dave Trembley lamented after the game.

"They put zeros up after they scored, and we didn't," said Trembley. "That was the difference in the game."

Perhaps that was the case, but it didn't appear to be in the early innings. Baltimore took the game's first lead in the second inning on a solo homer by Scott, but Toronto stormed back with two hits and a double steal in the bottom half. The Orioles (31-31) answered right back to tie the game in the third, and neither team scored again until the sixth.

And then, Scott became the center of attention. The National League transplant took Blue Jays starter Roy Halladay deep for the second time, scoring designated hitter Aubrey Huff from first. The ball found Scott in the field in the bottom half, and his misplay helped the Jays advance an extra base and propel their go-ahead rally a little earlier than expected.

Vernon Wells had pulled the Blue Jays (33-32) within one run on a solo homer, and Lyle Overbay reached base on a walk. After that, Barajas, a slow runner, pulled a ball into the left-field corner. Scott chased it and overran it, allowing Overbay to score easily and Barajas to cruise into second base. Two fly balls later, Toronto took the lead.

"The ball's just hit very hard," said Scott. "I tried to cut it off, but on this turf, it beat me by about a foot. All you can do is just play the game hard, and things like that are going to happen. Credit Barajas -- he hit the ball hard."

Right-handed reliever Matt Albers took the loss, and he got surprised shortly after he entered the game. Albers (3-2) made a good pitch to Wells and then watched the outfielder boom an errant sinker over the wall. Albers followed that by walking Overbay and allowing the game-changing double and sacrifice fly, a sequence he explained after the game.

"I made a few good pitches, but then I hung a breaking ball to Barajas," Albers said. "After that, I left a few pitches over the plate and they hit it out in the outfield. ... The worst thing you can do is let this one affect the next one. It's nice we have the off-day tomorrow. You put it behind you, obviously. It hurts a little bit; I'm not gonna lie. We should've won this game today."

"The first pitch that he threw to Wells was nasty," said Trembley of his late reliever. "It was two-seam, it had some sink. The very next one was flat, up in the middle of the plate, and [Wells] whacked it out of the ballpark for a home run.

"We count on [Albers] a lot, and he's done such a nice job for us coming out of the bullpen. He just didn't sink the ball. We needed to put a zero up on the board, and I think we may have added some more after that."

Halladay, a former American League Cy Young Award winner, had the Orioles tied up in knots for most of the game. The right-hander allowed both home runs to Scott, but he cruised through the seventh and into the eighth after the Jays took the lead. Trembley saw the entire game as a missed opportunity, largely because Baltimore starter Radhames Liz matched Halladay.

"I wish we had gotten one today, because I really thought Halladay didn't have his best stuff -- especially early in the game," said Trembley. "We had an opportunity there with one out, and we didn't do it. We have the opportunity to get a couple of two-outs hits and didn't do it. We just missed hitting some balls right on the screws. You know, warning-track power."

Liz, meanwhile, overcame a wild second inning and stranded the bases loaded in the third. The right-hander was the recipient of an on-field pep talk from veteran teammate Melvin Mora, and he credited that chat with prolonging his outing. Liz allowed four hits and walked three batters in his five-inning outing, and Toronto took the lead immediately after he left.

"I feel a little bit upset with myself, because I think I could've been better," said Liz. "I think maybe I tried to be too perfect. I could've [stayed] in the game longer, gone six or seven innings. So I feel a little bit sad about it."

"I thought they took advantage of his inexperience in that one inning," added Trembley of his young starter. "He got distracted with some baserunners, and that really changed his tempo. And when he changed his tempo, his delivery got out of sync somewhat. He's a young guy. He's learning, and he has the ability to make some adjustments."

Left fielder Jay Payton was ejected for the second time this season -- and his fifth time during his two-year Baltimore tenure -- for arguing balls and strikes in the fourth inning. Adam Jones replaced him in the lineup, and the Orioles were forced to turn to backup catcher Guillermo Quiroz for a key pinch-hit appearance in the ninth inning.

"I argued balls and strikes, and I got tossed -- plain and simple," said Payton. "People can watch the video and make their own interpretation on what they think. I thought it was a ball. In my first at-bat, I thought I got [jobbed] on a 2-0 pitch. I was frustrated. [Halladay is] a Cy Young-type pitcher. You don't want to give up anything with him."


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