Thursday, June 12, 2008

O's offense can't erase early deficit

BOSTON -- It looked nothing like the back-and-forth offensive battle of just a night before. Red Sox starter Bartolo Colon made sure of that from the very first inning.

One night after racking up 10 runs and nabbing the first of three games at Fenway Park, the Orioles had no answers for the 2005 Cy Young Award winner and dropped a 6-3 decision to the Red Sox on Wednesday.

It was apparent from the get-go that Baltimore did not have the same offensive prowess that it showed on Tuesday. Colon used just 15 pitches to retire the O's in a 1-2-3 first inning, and he'd rack up seven strikeouts on the night. Boston's bullpen combined for three strikeouts, and Baltimore couldn't quite find a rhythm to produce any runs prior to a two-run ninth inning.

Nick Markakis said that Colon had command of his pitches and didn't make mistakes.

"He was just working at a good pace," Markakis said. "Hitting his spots, making some good pitches and not leaving too much over the plate."

Orioles starter Garrett Olson wasn't as fortunate. He allowed five runs in the first inning, and Baltimore was never able to gain any momentum offensively to make a comeback.

Olson walked two, threw a wild pitch and committed an error on a pickoff throw to first baseman Kevin Millar in that long first inning. He'd throw 31 pitches in the frame, giving up a three-run homer to Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek that turned a two-run contest into an early 5-0 deficit.

"He was just real tentative in the first inning," manager Dave Trembley said. "I thought he pitched very defensive. You know, you can't walk guys the way he did. He walked guys back-to-back."

After giving up a leadoff single to Jacoby Ellsbury, Olson picked off the speedy rookie as he was looking to steal second. But the pickoff throw got by Millar and rolled down the right-field line, and Ellsbury reached third on the error.

"That was very costly," Olson said. "I felt like I had him on that, and if I could have made a good throw, it could have been one out and nobody on base. ... And I just couldn't put guys away the rest of the inning. Instead of being a one-run ballgame after the first -- or maybe no runs -- it ended up being five."

That set up a double by J.D. Drew, two walks and the long homer over the Green Monster for Varitek.

It was a rocky beginning to an outing for Olson that comes after three consecutive strong starts for the 24-year-old lefty. He allowed two runs or fewer in each of his last three starts, including seven innings of shutout ball against the Yankees on May 26.

But the first inning did him in against the Red Sox, even though he said his warmup session felt strong.

"I started going to my secondary pitches -- my curveball and my changeup -- instead of just trying to establish my fastball early in the count," he said. "And when I had to go to my fastball, they were just waiting for it. And they just punched me."

Olson pitched 5 1/3 innings and allowed six runs on seven hits. The southpaw did not strike out a batter, but he settled down to allow no runs and two hits in the second through the fifth innings. He said he tried to bear down and keep his team in the game.

"I'll give him a lot of credit. After the first inning, he really showed me something," Trembley said. "A lesser guy would have caved in."

Mike Lowell tacked on a solo shot in the sixth inning, adding one more insurance run against Olson that broke his stretch of success after the first.

Baltimore got its first run on the scoreboard courtesy of Luke Scott's leadoff home run in the top of the fifth. Scott drilled a 1-1 pitch from Colon over the right-field wall, making him the fourth Oriole to hit 10 home runs on the year.

But until the top of the ninth, when Aubrey Huff and Millar led off with doubles to start a late rally, Scott's homer was the only run the O's could produce.

The doubles began a two-run comeback against reliever Mike Timlin, prompting Boston to bring in closer Jonathan Papelbon. Papelbon forced leadoff man Brian Roberts, who went 0-for-5 in the contest, to ground out and end the game.

Roberts struggled to find a way on base throughout the night, but he wasn't the only one. The top three hitters in the Orioles' lineup mustered just two hits. Millar and Huff, who produced late, went 1-for-6 with three strikeouts prior to the ninth.

"The history of this place is you can never have enough [runs]," Trembley said. "When you play somebody like the Red Sox, you'd better take advantage of every opportunity you have."


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