Wednesday, June 25, 2008

O's halt Cubs' home winning streak

CHICAGO -- See you again in 2126. The Orioles stopped the Cubs agonizingly short of tying their longest home winning streak in the last 118 years on Tuesday, snapping the North Siders' tear at 14 straight games. Baltimore took Chicago's best punch, with the Cubs loading the bases with no outs in the ninth inning and making three straight outs in a 7-5 loss.

The Cubs still tied the longest streak in Wrigley Field history, matching a 14-game mark from the summer of 1936. You have to go all the way back to 1890 -- and to West Side Park -- to find a longer home winning streak for Chicago. Baltimore was more concerned with today, though, and notched its fifth straight series-opening win on the road.

"People that have seen our team play all year, we're kind of used to it," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley, who claimed not to be stressed in the eventful ninth inning. "They're going to have to earn it. We're not going to give it to them. We're not going to kick the ball. We're not going to walk people in. They're going to have to earn it. I've seen it before."

Perhaps he has, but never quite as nerve-rackingly as on Tuesday night. Baltimore closer George Sherrill, who had gotten a key out in the eighth inning, couldn't find his best form in the ninth. Chicago's first two batters reached base, and shortstop Ryan Theriot reached on an infield single. All of a sudden, the Cubs had three cracks at tying the game.

Sherrill dug down -- as he has often before -- and pitched best with his back against the wall. The southpaw struck out pinch-hitter Ronny Cedeno, getting him to flail wildly at a few pitches. And then he struck out Kosuke Fukudome, who had homered earlier and worked a 12-pitch at-bat in the eighth. Finally, he K'd Henry Blanco to end the game.

"He's unbelievable," said second baseman Brian Roberts, who recorded his 1,000th career hit on Tuesday night. "I've never seen anything like it. Our saying is, 'Never in doubt, Georgie, never in doubt.' But gosh, I'm starting to doubt. He's killing me out there. He's killing all of us. But shoot, it's fun. I don't think he ever doubts himself and that's all that matters."

Sherrill, who has 26 saves, agreed with that sentiment, saying that he only gets nervous when someone else is on the mound. When asked if his teammates felt the same way, he said wryly, "They might have doubts."

"I think it's just being lazy," he had said earlier, explaining how he could look so out of sync and then get it back. "Mentally and physically, just not concentrating on mechanics. You see a bunch of pitches sail high and aren't even close. Eventually, you've got to trust your stuff and just concentrate. I guess it takes bases loaded with nobody out to do it."

Baltimore (39-36) had led for virtually all of the game, riding a strong start from Jeremy Guthrie into the later innings. Six of the Orioles' eight starting position players had at least one hit, and five of them drove in at least one run. Luke Scott got things started with a two-run triple in the fourth, and Nick Markakis and Kevin Millar added run-scoring hits in the fifth.

Guthrie, meanwhile, was mowing down the Cubs (48-29). Fukudome reached him for a solo home run to straight-away center field in the fourth inning, but Guthrie (4-7) held steady in the middle innings. Chicago didn't score again until the seventh, when the first two batters reached base on singles and veteran Jim Edmonds cranked a homer to left field.

"It was a lot of fun," said Guthrie of his outing. "It's a historical ballpark. It's a lot of fun to be out there. I wish I would have hit better, maybe touched the bases. I wish I could have gone further in the game, but it was a lot of fun."

Things began to turn in the eighth inning on reliever Jim Johnson's watch, thanks to two epic at-bats. Pinch-hitter Daryle Ward fouled off several pitches to draw a walk, and Fukudome engaged Johnson for 12 pitches before grounding into a fielder's choice. Johnson allowed one more hit, and then Baltimore went to submarine specialist Chad Bradford.

Bradford got one out and allowed a run-scoring single, and Sherrill had to come on to get the final out. Without Johnson's plucky work, though, the Orioles may never have gotten the ball to their closer with the lead intact.

"You've just got to keep making pitches and try to make them put the ball in play," said Johnson, who also got three key outs in the seventh. "You've got to try and make your pitches still and not get frustrated. ... I kept throwing fastballs. I wasn't locating where I wanted to exactly, but they were still pretty good pitches. They just kept fouling them off."

"He kept throwing strikes," added Trembley. "I thought he got a lesson tonight in the pace of the game. Jim will keep going right at you but there's a time to take your foot off the pedal and slow the game down. It's not how hard you throw, it's where you throw. But he's been tremendous for us and this was a great experience for him tonight."

And it was a great experience for the Orioles, who made their first-ever trip to Wrigley Field and thwarted history in the process. They'll play again on Wednesday and Thursday, but those games will be hard-pressed to live up to Tuesday's drama.

"It's a big feather in our cap," said Scott. "It's a humbling experience. Any time you come in and play a first-place team in their backyard and come out with a win -- especially the way they battled us all day -- it's a tremendous accomplishment."

Saturday, June 21, 2008

O's celebrate first three-game sweep

BALTIMORE -- Minutes after capping off a 7-5 victory against the Astros on Thursday night, Orioles closer George Sherrill walked into the clubhouse and placed a broom on Kevin Millar's chair.

After all, it wasn't just another win for the Orioles. It was the team's first three-game sweep of the season and the latest win came without the now almost-standard comeback heroics. The Orioles went ahead mid-way through this one and never looked back -- even when the Astros cut the four-run lead to two in the top of the ninth.

"When you get a sweep, I don't care if it's easy, hard, indifferent or whatever, you'll take it," manager Dave Trembley said. "It's a positive occurrence around here [and] I don't think that's happened very much. We had to work for it like last night, but I thought the intent after last night's game, from what I heard in the clubhouse, [a sweep] was the purpose tonight."

Although it began to look like it might be easy, the win was anything but that for the Orioles. After taking a 7-3 lead into the ninth inning, reliever Dennis Sarfate walked the Astros leadoff batter Ty Wigginton to start the inning. The Orioles then looked to have a double play in hand in the next at-bat when Mark Loretta hit a come-backer to Sarfate who turned and threw to second. Shortstop Alex Cintron, however, could not come up with the ball and the Orioles were not able to get a single out.

The Orioles allowed two runs to score in the inning but Sherrill was able to close it out, getting Lance Berkman to fly out to left field for the final out.

"I kind of probably spoke too soon when we talked earlier this afternoon -- I said there are two parts of the game, the first six innings and the last three," Trembley said. "The last three were totally different than the first six [tonight]. We got a little sloppy there at the end."

"We got some big hits," Trembley added. "We let [Shawn] Chacon off the hook early in the game, but we're swinging the bat really well."

Down a run in the fourth inning, catcher Ramon Hernandez took a 3-1 offering from Chacon over the fence in left field, tying the game at 2. Just two batters later, Cintron hit the first pitch he saw into the center-field bleachers. It was Cintron's first homer of the season and his first since September 7, 2007.

And in the fifth the Orioles tacked on three more runs. With Melvin Mora and Aubrey Huff leading off the inning with back-to-back singles, Kevin Millar then hit an RBI double and Jay Payton smacked a two-run single to drive them in -- a hit that would ultimately be the difference in the game.

Trembley called Payton's hit the single biggest of the game.

Huff then added a solo shot in the bottom of the seventh for good measure, his 12th homer of the year.

Orioles starter Brian Burres pitched well enough to earn the win, giving up three earned runs -- two off solo homers to Hunter Pence and Miguel Tejada respectively. Burres finished after 5 2/3 innings, giving up seven hits and two walks while striking out three.

"They hit two decent pitches," Burres said of the homers. "They weren't too bad of pitches, so you've got to just give them some credit."

"It's always nice even having the chance for the sweep," Burres added. "And then our bats just did a great job giving me support and room to pitch."

The Astros got on the board early with Michael Bourn scoring in the first inning on an RBI single by Lance Berkman and took a 2-0 lead by way of Pence's solo homer in the second. Chacon was tagged with the loss, going five innings and allowed six earned runs on eight hits and four walks.

"Hair's 2-0," Millar said of the team's record with his current bleach-blonde locks. "Lets get some blonde, platinum men out there in the stands. [The hair] won't be going anywhere, it's here for a little bit, we'll see how it goes on this roadtrip."

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

That's Mora Like It - Mora Muscles Go-Ahead Victory

BALTIMORE -- Two worlds collided at Camden Yards on Tuesday night, when the Orioles got to test their new roster against their former franchise player. The Astros' Miguel Tejada made his first trip back to Baltimore since a December trade that heavily impacted both teams, but franchise stalwart Melvin Mora came up with the big hit in the Orioles' 6-5 win.

Tejada, a four-time All-Star, went 0-for-2 with a walk in his first game against his former team, but the Astros still controlled the game from the fifth inning all the way to the eighth. That's when Mora broke things open with a two-run double to right-center off Houston closer Jose Valverde, who had entered the game with one man out and two men on base.

"I don't care who's there," said Mora. "Miggy was a friend of mine and a friend of everybody here, [but] we just want to beat anybody. The only thing I don't understand is why the people booed him. He did everything he can do for this organization. He played day-in and day-out for us. He played hard every day, and I think you should clap when you see a guy like that."

The winning rally started on a single by Adam Jones, and shortstop Freddie Bynum bunted him over to second base. Reliever Doug Brocail wound up walking Brian Roberts, which forced the Astros (33-38) to summon Valverde. The right-hander struck out Nick Markakis and got ahead on Mora, who worked the count full and sprayed the game-winning double to right-center.

That hit helped the Orioles (35-34) improve to 4-28 when trailing after eight innings and to 16-10 in one-run games. Baltimore also earned its 16th victory in which it trailed by two runs or more and logged its 20th comeback win of the year. And to hear Mora tell it, the latest go-ahead hit seemed pretty unlikely considering the at-bat that directly preceded it.

"When I saw him pitching to Nick Markakis and he threw that high fastball, I said, 'I'm in trouble,' " said Mora, who went into the game hitting .370 with runners in scoring position. "I don't like when pitchers throw that high fastball, because you won't be able to catch it. I'm glad he threw me just strikes, and I said, 'OK, now I've got him.' ... I knew he was going to go after me."

"You know, people have asked me about Melvin being in the three-hole," added Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "There's a lot of reasons. You put Roberts and Nick back-to-back [and] they're not going to walk one guy to face the other. So pick your poison there, but Melvin has experience and Melvin's numbers don't lie hitting with guys on base and hitting with men in scoring position. Melvin has got some awful big hits for us, and, boy, there was none bigger than the one he got tonight."

Baltimore starter Garrett Olson endured his second straight rough outing and was gone before the end of the fifth. The southpaw helped one run score with a pair of wild pitches in his first inning and was victimized for a two-out rally in the fifth. Three straight Astros got singles in that inning, and infielder Kazuo Matsui drove in two runs with a double.

Strangely enough, Olson had retired 12 straight batters when the Astros began to break through. The left-hander just couldn't find his best form, maddeningly searching for pitches that he had made easily just one inning before.

"Well, I didn't think it was going to end up like that," said Trembley of the way the game progressed. "I'm awful glad we won, but Olson pitched to the fifth [and had] two outs and nobody on and I don't know what happened. [Pitching coach Rick Kranitz has] got the term that he got stuck. I guess he got stuck and couldn't get it out of neutral."

"I think it started with that base hit," explained Olson. "I left the ball up, and for no reason I just wasn't making the adjustment to get the ball back down through the zone. I was just kind of leaving some pitches up and not trusting my pitches at all. I fell behind the next couple hitters and it just kind of snowballed on me. Before you know it, they have three runs.

"It was very frustrating, because I felt good. I felt like I had all my pitches working for me."

That hit sunk Baltimore behind, and starter Brandon Backe helped keep it that way. The right-hander had given up a two-run homer to Aubrey Huff in the third inning but stranded two runners on base in the fourth. Houston's bullpen escaped a tense situation in the seventh, stranding two runners on a strikeout by Baltimore catcher Ramon Hernandez.

The Orioles escaped a similar fate on Mora's full-count hit in the eighth, which meant that closer George Sherrill got a chance to exorcise some demons. The southpaw had a rocky weekend -- allowing runs in two straight outings and speaking of a "dead arm" on Sunday -- but redeemed himself by retiring the Astros in order for his 23rd save of the season.

"I felt pretty good today," he said. "I think icing [Sunday] and getting the day off yesterday really helped. I felt like I had a lot of life in the bullpen, so it gave me a little extra confidence going in."

Trembley, who will celebrate his one-year anniversary as Baltimore manager on Wednesday, reveled in the win.

"It's a real honor for me to be here. And somebody asked me earlier today what it was like for me, because I guess I've been here a year now," he said. "I'll tell everybody here: Watching this team, it's a privilege to be with this team.

"And for what this team has done and for the improvement that's gone on here and the approach and how these guys play the game, it's a real privilege for me to be a part of it."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Roberts' Ninth Inning Heroics Not Enough

BALTIMORE -- Turnabout may be fair play, but it isn't always evenly distributed. Baltimore and Pittsburgh swapped places on Sunday, spurring one team to empathize with its opponent's plight from the previous night. The Orioles tied the game late and fell to a 5-4 loss in extra innings Sunday, allowing the Pirates to avenge a similar result from Saturday night.

Pittsburgh had scratched out a late rally against Baltimore closer George Sherrill on Saturday, only to see the Orioles come back and spin a game-winning burst in the bottom of the ninth. That process reversed itself on Sunday, when second baseman Brian Roberts tied the game with two outs in the ninth and Sherrill had his second straight tough outing.

"It wasn't a normal three games -- that's for sure," said Roberts, who homered in the ninth. "We've kind of come to expect that this year. ... We always know in the late innings if we give ourselves a chance, at least we will fight our last nine outs."

"We felt all along that we were going to come back and win," added manager Dave Trembley. "There's no doubt about the approach here, or our thought process. We're thinking we're going to win. Even when we're down, 4-1, we thought we were going to find a way. Last game of a series, and the way things have been going, late in the game, things get interesting."

Sherrill had been 12-for-12 in save opportunities at home before the weekend, but the Pirates (34-36) reached him for three hits in Sunday's game-winning rally. First baseman Adam LaRoche -- who had homered off the relief ace on Saturday -- delivered the go-ahead hit in the top of the 10th, and Sherrill wound up falling to his second loss of the season.

In the aftermath, Sherrill said his shoulder felt tired and mentioned that he could use Monday's off-day to recharge.

"My arm was dead," he said. "I didn't feel like I had anything, and it showed. I didn't feel like I could get anybody out today. It's natural. Looking back at it, I think I've thrown in seven or eight out of 12 [games] or something like that."

"It just goes to show you he's human -- that's all," said Trembley of Sherrill's rough weekend. "It happens to the best of them. There [are] guys with a lot more experience than he has and have been in this game at the big league level [longer] that have struggled. They all go through it, but it just goes to show you how valuable of a guy he's been to us."

The Orioles (34-34) had trailed for virtually all of Sunday's game, falling behind in the third inning and staying there until Roberts hit a two-run homer that barely cleared the left-field wall in the ninth. Baltimore had leveraged its lineup so much that it wound up sending its designated hitter into the field in extra innings, a last-ditch effort that rarely occurs.

Pittsburgh had to do the same thing, but the altered defensive alignments didn't make a difference.

"We've been playing really good baseball," said O's left fielder Jay Payton, who singled in the ninth inning. "The good thing is, when we get down, we feel like we have a chance to come back and win the ballgame. Our pitching's been great, we've been able to swing the bats a little bit better of late, and we're just playing some good baseball right now."

All of that late energy helped redeem Baltimore starter Daniel Cabrera, who reverted to his old walk-happy ways. The right-hander walked five batters and hit two others, sinking the Orioles to an early deficit. Cabrera has worked 16 innings and allowed 16 earned runs in his past three starts, pushing his ERA up nearly a full run (from 3.60 to 4.45).

His wildness caught back up to him on Sunday, but Cabrera managed to escape damage in the first and second inning. Center fielder Nate McLouth broke open a double shutout with a solo home run in the third, and Cabrera wilted soon after that. The right-hander walked one batter and hit another, and two runs came home on a two-out hit by Jason Michaels.

"I felt better than the last start -- they got me with three runs in the third inning, and that's what made the difference," said Cabrera, who has gone five starts without a victory. "I think [my fastball is] still a little flat. I didn't get the same movement that I had early, but I'm working on it and I hope I have some better movement for the next start."

Baltimore's offense started stirring in the fifth inning, when backup catcher Guillermo Quiroz hit a solo home run off Pittsburgh starter Paul Maholm. Aubrey Huff pulled Baltimore within two runs with another homer in the sixth, and McLouth helped stall a seventh-inning rally by making a two-out diving catch in center field off a Payton drive.

"I thought it was definitely down," said Payton. "He's probably a little bit more shallow because it's second and third instead of first and second. Being a little bit more shallow probably allowed him to get to it. I thought it was definitely going to fall."

The Orioles went quietly in the eighth, and didn't really begin to stir until there were two outs in the ninth. That's when Roberts reached out and drove a Matt Capps offering just over the left-field wall, scoring Oscar Salazar from first base. Capps (1-2) had also allowed the late Baltimore rally on Saturday, but he rebounded Sunday to pitch the 10th and seal the win.

"You can't play from behind every day," said Roberts of his team's dramatic bent. "You don't want to do that every day. But we certainly feel confident enough to do it. It's not a big deal at this point, but you want to give yourselves some runs early on. You want to give your starting pitcher something to work with. That would make it a little easier, certainly."

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Hernandez caps wild walk-off win for Orioles

BALTIMORE -- If the Orioles have proved one thing this season, it's that no opponent's lead is safe -- 19 of the team's 34 wins have been come-from-behind victories. To emphasize that point, the Orioles came back for the second game in a row against the Pirates, and this time, they did it in walk-off style with an 8-7 victory Saturday.

The Orioles and Pirates (33-36) traded blows the entire game, but the knockout punch didn't connect until the bottom of the ninth inning, when Oscar Salazar took Matt Capps' (0-2) first pitch over the left-field wall to tie the game at 7. Two batters later, Freddie Bynum put himself in scoring position by hitting a single and stealing second base, before coming around with the winning run on Ramon Hernandez's single to left-center field.

The walk-off hit came just a half-inning after closer George Sherrill (2-1) blew his third save of the season, unable to hold a 6-5 Orioles lead. With Jason Bay on first base, Adam LaRoche took Sherrill's 2-1 pitch over the right-field wall -- an almost identical homer to the one Nick Markakis hit just two innings earlier to put the Orioles (34-33) ahead. Sherrill hadn't blown a save at home this season and had converted his past 12 opportunities, with his last blown save coming more than a month ago on May 7 against Oakland.

"What a tremendous game for our team and our fans," manager Dave Trembley said. "George Sherrill has meant so much to this club that we came in the clubhouse after and [Brian] Roberts said, 'Hey George, there was never a doubt. We were going to get one for you.' And I think that says something about our team. George Sherrill has meant so much to our team. For the guys to come back like they did -- not once, not twice, but three times ... that's just incredible, incredible, the fight that's in this team."

For Salazar, it had been six years between home runs, the last one coming on April 19, 2002 -- the last year he was in the Major Leagues -- when he was with the Detroit Tigers.

"It's unbelievable," Salazar said. "I looked for a pitch to hit. It's the ninth inning, we're down by one run, I'm just trying to hit the ball. ... As soon as it left my bat, I knew that ball was gone."

And Hernandez was more than happy to add the finishing touch, but with the fans at Camden Yards on their feet, Hernandez hit the fourth pitch of the at-bat down the right-field line, where a charging Xavier Nady ran into the wall, jamming his shoulder as the ball reached the seats. The injury delayed the Orioles' heroics by a few minutes, but two pitches later, Hernandez finished the job.

"I was going, 'Man, come on, just hurry up,' I'm kind of getting nervous just waiting," Hernandez said of the injury delay. "You just want to get it over with. You're warm, you see a few pitches, you kind of get in a rhythm. After that, it's tough [to wait for a] long time. You're trying to get your mind set again, trying to get it going.

"At least I'm happy that I did something to help my team. But every day somebody does something; it's not one guy doing it all. This year, all the guys work together."

The Orioles have been making quite a habit of coming from behind to win, but in this game, they were working themselves out of a hole almost every inning.

Roberts was the offensive sparkplug for the Orioles, helping to bring them back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits early in the game and getting on base in front of Markakis' homer in the seventh. Roberts accounted for the Baltimore's first two runs with a pair of RBI doubles in the third and fifth innings.

"You can never let anybody tell you you can't do something," Trembley said. "You can't succeed in this game and in life with that thought process at all. You have to believe you can do it and you have to know you can do it. That's just a tremendous game -- I can pick out so many guys. We're talking before the game about the improvement in Brian Roberts, how he's swinging the bat right-handed."

After the Orioles broke open a 2-2 game in the bottom of the sixth inning to go ahead 4-2, the Pirates came right back. Third baseman Jose Bautista smacked a three-run homer off Baltimore reliever Matt Albers, reclaiming the lead.

Shortstop Alex Cintron connected on a Zach Duke offering in the sixth with the bases loaded and sent it to deep left-center, giving the Orioles the short-lived two-run lead. Duke was tagged for four runs in a no-decision.

Radhames Liz threw 6 1/3 innings for Baltimore, once again turning in a solid start. Despite surrendering solo home runs to Nady in the second inning and Freddy Sanchez in the fourth, Liz only allowed four hits and struck out five, keeping the Orioles in the game. He allowed two base hits in the sixth and was pulled in favor of Albers, who got Doug Mientkiewicz to fly out to left field before giving up the three-run shot to Bautista.

"Liz, that's as good as you're going to see that guy," Trembley said. "You talk about improvement. [Rick] Kranitz did one small thing with him -- lined him up so that his step would be right toward home plate, and I tell you, from the first inning, that kid was impressive. And there's a lot of that stuff going on here."

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Orioles Magic Sends O's Past Pirates

BALTIMORE -- The story began at one extreme and wound itself back again. It would be easy to marry Orioles starter Brian Burres to the result from Friday night's game, which in turn would divorce him from an unsightly stat line. The truth is more complex, which means that Burres can get both credit and blame for Baltimore's 9-6 win over Pittsburgh.

The blame, of course, is fairly easy to pinpoint. Burres allowed six earned runs in the first three innings, sinking the Orioles into an early deficit and sending himself into early damage control mode. But then he settled down, keeping the Pirates (34-35) from adding any offense through the end of the sixth inning and allowing the home team to get back in the game.

"He had thrown a couple good innings. Plus, we needed him to throw six," said pitching coach Rick Kranitz on the decision to push Burres further. "We can't keep getting into our bullpen. These guys have got to go, and he righted himself pretty good. That's not an easy thing to do, especially after giving up six [runs]. He turned the tide and gave us our momentum."

The end result may be perplexing, but it's also quite indicative of the southpaw's season. Burres worked to a 3-1 record and a 2.59 ERA in his first four starts, but he's gone 2-4 with a 6.70 ERA since the end of April. He had been knocked out before the end of the fifth inning in three straight starts before Friday, when he seemed on the verge of doing it again.

But there he was, pitching scoreless ball from the fourth through the sixth, saving the game and perhaps his job in the process. Baltimore has already lost two arms from its Opening Day rotation, and Burres (5-5) could wind up being the third. The offense helped curtail that conversation Friday, thanks to a five-run burst spread between the fifth and sixth innings.

"I just started really attacking the zone a little bit better," Burres said. "I was falling behind a lot in those first couple innings. Later, I just started getting ahead of hitters a little more. I think it worked out a little better from there."

Strangely enough, Burres almost never got the chance to rebound. Reliever Lance Cormier was up in the bullpen at one point, and Kranitz and manager Dave Trembley repeatedly discussed the proper point to make a move.

"I was going to go to Cormier early and Kranny talked me out of it," Trembley said. "The second time, we kind of met halfway. Kranny just said, 'Hey, he's either got to show he can do it now or we won't be able to count on him again later on.' ... He said that the pitches that he made poorly weren't that bad. I've got to give my pitching coach credit."

"It's all a process," added Kranitz. "It's hard to say, 'Hey, because he's not throwing real good right now, what are we going to do about it?' It's my job to make sure that he gets going in the right direction, and I think we saw some pretty good signs today. That's really all he needed -- to get through a couple innings and get on a roll. He hadn't been able to.

"They'd gotten him, and they'd gotten him quick. It was just a good job for him, making it through six."

The Pirates went quietly in the first inning, but ripped into Burres in the second, when they loaded the bases with one out. The southpaw got a harmless fly ball, but allowed a two-run single with two outs to shortstop Jack Wilson. The Pirates came back for four more runs in the fourth, with right fielder Jason Michaels providing a three-run homer.

Baltimore (33-33) scored to make it a four-run game in the fourth inning and came back for more in the fifth. Veteran Kevin Millar brought the Orioles within a run on a two-run single, setting things up for more drama in the sixth. Melvin Mora singled to give the home team a lead, and the O's added insurance runs in the seventh and eighth to seal the win.

"The team did such a good job bailing me out," said Burres. "I put us in a pretty big hole early and just tried to keep it there as close as it could be. They did a great job battling back, and the bullpen did a great job, too."

Burres retired nine of the final 10 batters he faced, and Baltimore's bullpen handled the rest of the game. Right-handed reliever Jim Johnson pitched two perfect innings and closer George Sherrill worked the ninth for his 22nd save. But in the aftermath, Burres seemed to be the only story worth talking about in the O's clubhouse.

"I would say the biggest three outs Burres got in the game was in the sixth," said Trembley. "He slowed down. Before, when he gave up pitches, he looked like somebody had pulled the fire alarm. He was just really rushing, and we try to tell these guys that there's such a thing called tempo. There's a time to speed it up and time to slow it down, especially against a team that looks like they're basically running from the on-deck circle to get in the batter's box [and] can't wait to get in there."

"He was rough the first couple innings. He couldn't make pitches when he needed to," said catcher Ramon Hernandez, who doubled and drew two walks. "When he got ahead of the guys, he couldn't locate the pitch to put the guys away when he needed to with men in scoring position. But you know what? After the third inning ... he kind of settled down.

"I told him, 'We've got to keep going.' ... Our relievers were tired and had been pitching a lot, and I told him if we held them there, we might come back. You never know. He came back out, and the last three innings, he was tremendous."

Friday, June 13, 2008

Orioles Team Report Jun 13, 2008

In just one-third of a season, Luke Scott has proven to be a better version of Jay Gibbons. With a similar swing as that of the former Orioles outfielder, Scott has proven to be just as streaky.

Scott has gone on hitting streaks of at least four games on four different occasions this year, and on five occasions has put together streaks of three or more games without a hit.

The left-handed-swinging left fielder is batting .277 with 10 homers and 25 RBIs, but he has caught fire in June, hitting .382 with four home runs and six RBIs.

Scott did not play Thursday, with Boston left-hander Jon Lester on the mound.

Scott has homered three times in his past three games, and he is 7-for-16 (.438) in his last four games. In his three games prior to that stretch, though, he was 0-for-7 with a walk, a run and two strikeouts.

Scott entered his first season in Baltimore with the reputation for being a streaky power hitter with the 30-homer potential. He hasn’t disappointed, hitting at a 26-homer pace while providing an upgrade in left field defense.

Red Sox 9, Orioles 2: The Orioles opted to intentionally walk Manny Ramirez to load the bases in the fifth inning, and Mike Lowell made them pay. Lowell hit his second grand slam of the season off Jeremy Guthrie—the first of three Boston homers. Kevin Youkilis and J.D. Drew homered off Baltimore relievers, and the Orioles return home having gone 5-4 on the road trip.

Notes, Quotes

• 1B Kevin Millar left the game in the first inning after fouling a ball off his left knee. The injury was deemed a contusion, and X-rays were negative. Entering Thursday, Millar had a hit in nine of 10 games, batting .308 (12-for-39) with three doubles and three homers in that stretch.

• RHP Jeremy Guthrie had his shortest outing of the season, allowing five runs on seven hits in 4 2/3 innings. The biggest blow was a grand slam by Boston’s Mike Lowell. Guthrie walked five, and he never seemed to find his comfort zone.

• INF Oscar Salazar entered in the first inning when Kevin Millar was injured and went 1-for-4 with his first run and RBI of the season. Salazar doubled home Brian Roberts in the sixth, and he scored when Aubrey Huff doubled.

• RF Nick Markakis went 0-for-4 Thursday, but he has a hit in 12 of 14 games, batting .414 (24-for-58) with six doubles in that stretch. His average has climbed from .249 to .289.

• LHP George Sherrill has converted 10 consecutive save opportunities. Sherrill, who went from May 17 until June 2 without a save, is on pace for 55 saves, which would be a team record.

By The Numbers: 14—One-run victories for the Orioles through June 10, one more than last year’s MLB low.

Quote To Note: “It’s going to be a little nerve-racking. I hated to leave her.”—RHP Dennis Sarfate on leaving his wife, Jada, who is nine months pregnant, on June 2.

Late runs not enough for Orioles vs. Sox

BOSTON -- For all the late-inning runs the Orioles produced in their past two games, it's rather unfortunate that they spotted the Red Sox a five-run cushion in each outing. In fact, it seemed as though the Baltimore bats didn't come alive until the team had already accumulated what is generally an insurmountable deficit at Fenway Park.

Boston third baseman Mike Lowell took starter Jeremy Guthrie deep for his second grand slam of the season over the Green Monster in the fifth inning, giving the Red Sox four big insurance runs that ultimately led to a 9-2 Orioles defeat on Thursday.

"We've got to stay away from the big inning," manager Dave Trembley said. "Last night, they jump out and score five, [and they did so again on Thursday]. It's hard to come back from those kinds of deficits."

Guthrie found himself with runners on second and third with only one out in the fifth. Instead of pitching to Manny Ramirez, Trembley elected to walk the vaunted slugger and face Lowell with thoughts of a double play.

"Are you going to face a guy who has hit 500 home runs in his career, or are you going to try one pitch and get the double play and get your guys in at the end of the inning?" Trembley said. "I think it's a real simple option."

The result wasn't so appealing. Lowell crushed a 0-1 slider from Guthrie for his eighth career grand slam.

Guthrie said that the slider didn't dip away from Lowell the way it should have. Instead, he said, it remained in the lower third of the plate, a point from which Lowell is generally a strong hitter.

"He's real good at hitting the ball in that area," Guthrie said. "I guess the best word is, it backed up on me."

Guthrie would leave in the middle of that frame, going 4 2/3 innings and allowing five runs on seven hits. He walked five -- one intentionally -- and struck out one.

The damage accumulated in the fifth but it was compounded by the fact that Guthrie went deep into counts early in the contest and raised his pitch count higher than he would have liked. Trembley pointed out after the game that Guthrie went to eight three-ball counts in the first three innings.

"It was a combination of being a little bit off, and a couple of pitches I thought could be strike three [were not called], and having to pitch five, six more pitches in each of those cases," Guthrie said. "So it was a little bit of a combination of things."

Facing an offense that features almost no easy outs, Guthrie said, made making good pitches increasingly difficult.

"When you do throw a strike, they put the ball in play, and a lot of times, those are base hits," he said. "So one through nine, they're very tough, and it's a tough task for any pitcher."

Still, Guthrie battled and kept the Orioles within one run until that big fifth inning. It didn't help that the O's offense was unable to muster run support for the young right-hander until late in the game. It's a common occurrence when he's on the hill; Guthrie has now received just 10 total runs in his seven losses on the year.

Baltimore's top three hitters went a combined 1-for-10 collectively at the plate against Boston starter Jon Lester, who breezed through seven innings of work, allowing just two runs on seven hits.

"He's got good stuff, there's no doubt about that," said Brian Roberts, who struck out twice on a 1-for-5 day. "You've got to battle."

It also didn't help that cleanup hitter Kevin Millar left the contest in the second inning with a left knee contusion. He fouled off the first pitch of the second inning just below his left knee and would not return.

It wasn't until the sixth inning that Baltimore found its stroke at the plate. Roberts, Oscar Salazar -- who entered the game for Millar -- and Aubrey Huff launched doubles and cut the lead to 5-2.

The Orioles compiled just five runs in the final two games of its series with the Red Sox after erupting for 10 runs in the first game, on Tuesday. Still, with the team's final record on the road trip at 5-4, the players were more than pleased with how they played since leaving Baltimore 10 days ago.

"We played in three tough places to win at -- you know, Minnesota, Toronto, Fenway," Millar said. "We beat some good pitchers. We've got to keep our heads high and come back tomorrow."

And even with the back-to-back losses to end the trip, there's a sense that winning more than they lost away from Camden Yards is a sign of things to come.

"You go 5-4 on that road trip, I mean, that's three pretty good teams," Roberts said. "I think we have a pretty good mind-set, really. I mean, it's too bad we lost the last one ... but it's [still] pretty positive."

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."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Orioles Team Report Jun 11, 2008

Keeping Steve Trachsel on the roster as a long reliever was simply delaying the inevitable.

The Orioles needed to bring up another bat from the minor leagues, and Trachsel’s place on the roster was unstable since he was demoted to the bullpen after allowing nine runs in 1 2/3 innings at Tampa Bay on May 24. Ultimately, the Orioles decided Trachsel’s methodical preparation did not bode well for long or middle relief. Trachsel was not used to warming up in 25 pitches or less.

Trachsel, who allowed four earned runs in six innings of relief, was 2-5 with an 8.39 ERA before he was designated for assignment Tuesday.

The Orioles can trade the 37-year-old or waive him. They can also outright Trachsel to a minor league affiliate should he clear waivers, but it’s unlikely the veteran would accept a minor league assignment with the club.

Upon Trachsel’s demotion to the bullpen, the Orioles recalled right-hander Radhames Liz from Class AAA Norfolk and designated shortstop Luis Hernandez for assignment. Many close to the team felt the club would have designated Trachsel for assignment at that time.

Manager Dave Trembley tried to give Trachsel the opportunity to straighten himself out. But after the right-hander allowed four hits and four runs—two unearned—in a mop-up role Saturday, Trachsel had pitched his way off the roster.

Orioles 10, Red Sox 6: Every Orioles starter but Melvin Mora had a hit, and the bullpen tossed four shutout innings to bail out starter Daniel Cabrera, who allowed six runs in five innings. Relievers Dennis Sarfate, Jamie Walker, Chad Bradford, Jim Johnson and George Sherrill combined to allow one hit and one walk after Cabrera allowed seven hits and four walks.

Notes, Quotes

• LHP Adam Loewen (sore left forearm) began a rehab assignment with Class A Frederick, pitching a scoreless inning and striking out two. Loewen has been on the 15-day disabled list since April 25.

• RHP Daniel Cabrera allowed six earned runs for the second time in as many starts. Cabrera failed to reach the sixth inning for the first time since his 2008 debut, when he allowed six Tampa Bay runs in four innings on April 2.

• RF Nick Markakis went 3-for-5 with a double Tuesday night, just one game after ending a 10-game hitting streak Sunday. Markakis is a safe bet to rebound after a tough game—he has gone hitless in back-to-back starts just five times all season. He is batting .486 (18-for-3) this month.

• 1B Oscar Salazar was promoted from Class AAA Norfolk, taking the place of RHP Steve Trachsel on both the 40- and 25-man rosters. Salazar, 29, played in eight major league games with Detroit in 2002, when he batted .190 (4-for-21) with one home run and three RBIs.

• RHP Steve Trachsel was designated for assignment Tuesday afternoon. Trachsel, 37, had been demoted to the bullpen earlier this month. In 10 games, including eight starts, Trachsel was 2-5 with an 8.39 ERA.

• LF Luke Scott entered the series with Boston as the Orioles’ best hitter against Red Sox RHP Josh Beckett. Scott went 1-for-2 with a walk against Beckett on Tuesday to improve to 5-for-8 with a home run and three RBIs against the Boston ace.

By The Numbers: 14—One-run victories for the Orioles through June 10, one more than last year’s MLB low.

Quote To Note: “It’s going to be a little nerve-racking. I hated to leave her.”—RHP Dennis Sarfate on leaving his wife, Jada, who is nine months pregnant, on June 2.

O's go ahead early, then rally past Sox

BOSTON -- By no means did the Orioles make it look easy. In fact, the O's jumped out in front early, gave up five unanswered runs to a team that rarely loses at home and ultimately came from behind to win.

But victories like these rarely come with ease. The Orioles let a three-run lead disappear in the fifth inning, then crawled back from a two-run deficit in the seventh to beat the Red Sox, 10-6, on Tuesday night at Fenway Park.

It was Baltimore's first game of the season in Boston, and the O's came out victorious against a team that has only lost seven games at home all year. Much of the Orioles' success on the evening came from timely hits and a lock-down bullpen that allowed no runs in four innings.

"It's great, you know, it's great," said starter Daniel Cabrera, who lasted just five innings while allowing seven hits and six runs. "I didn't have my good stuff today. I battled for five innings, and we go out there and try to win the game no matter how it is. Winning the game, that's what's important."

Cabrera said it was his two-seam fastball that gave him trouble against the Red Sox. He said he left it hanging in the strike zone, and Boston's J.D. Drew and Manny Ramirez took advantage for back-to-back home runs in the fifth. The homers gave Boston a 6-4 lead, and it was Cabrera's final inning.

"They worked [Cabrera] to death and they made him throw his fastball up," manager Dave Trembley said. "But he hung in there. You know, he could've given up more runs if he had given in. And what I've been saying about him since Day 1 is the wheels won't come off the wagon. He'll find a way to compete no matter what the situation is."

That's when the Orioles' platoon of relievers came in to shut down the Red Sox's dangerous lineup. Dennis Sarfate, Jamie Walker, Chad Bradford, Jim Johnson and George Sherrill combined for one hit and three strikeouts to finish out the game.

Baltimore came back in the seventh, victimizing Boston reliever Hideki Okajima for the second time in eight days by scoring three runs. After Aubrey Huff's two-run single tied it, Kevin Millar sent a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Melvin Mora from third and putting the O's up for good.

Huff was Baltimore's catalyst through much of the contest, making Boston's pitchers work during his at-bats and ultimately going 4-for-5 with two RBIs and a run scored. It's the 14th time in his career he's collected four hits in a game -- a career high -- and the second time this season.

As a team, Baltimore apparently has a way of earning runs off Okajima. On May 14, Jay Payton hit a grand slam on Okajima's second pitch of the outing that turned a 3-2 Boston lead into a 6-3 Orioles' advantage. Then on June 2, Okajima allowed a three-run double to Adam Jones, breaking an eighth-inning tie, and was saddled with the loss.

"You've got to wait him out," Trembley said. "You can't chase pitches off the plate. ... And when you get behind in the count, you've got to shorten your swing and use the other side of the diamond."

Earlier, Baltimore began the contest with powerful hitting.

The Orioles erupted for four runs off Red Sox starter Josh Beckett in the top of the second. Baltimore smashed three Beckett offerings off the Green Monster in left field -- all for doubles -- and put four runs on the board.

Millar started the damage with a ball that just missed going over the wall in left. After a Luke Scott walk and a Ramon Hernandez hit by pitch, Freddie Bynum doubled with the bases loaded to drive in two. Brian Roberts followed up with a double, scoring Hernandez and Bynum and opening up a 4-1 lead.

It wouldn't last. Cabrera put the leadoff batter on base in four of his five innings. He'd face at least six batters in three of those innings and found himself with the bases loaded in both the first and third innings.

But double plays became crucial to the Orioles' ability to escape potential jams.

"We showed poise," Trembley said. "You've got to show poise when you come in here and you play these guys. The game can get away from you in a hurry if you don't."

Though the early lead wouldn't last, the O's found themselves harboring a 7-6 lead heading into the ninth. They tacked on three more, changing the one-run game into a four-run advanntage. Huff said the late run support helped make sure the Red Sox's potent lineup would have to string together a long rally.

"The best thing we did was tack on three more runs in the ninth, because I've seen those guys come back with a two-run walk-off," Huff said. "You never know with that offense."

O's designate Trachsel, call up Salazar

BOSTON -- Orioles veteran right-hander Steve Trachsel, whose struggles as a starter resulted in him moving to the bullpen, was designated for assignment on Tuesday.

The Orioles notified Triple-A Norfolk first baseman Oscar Salazar on Monday he would join the team in Boston before Baltimore's three-game series with the Red Sox began on Tuesday.

Trachel, a 37-year-old veteran who reached 2,500 career innings on June 1 against Boston, was 2-5 with an 8.39 ERA in 10 games for the Orioles. Regarding the move to the bullpen, manager Dave Trembley said he thought the veteran was never fully comfortable in that role.

"He didn't pitch good enough, bottom line," Trembley said. "We had to move on, and we did."

With Trachsel being designated, the team will have 10 days to trade the veteran, release him or assign him to the Minor Leagues. The 16-year veteran has played for the Cubs, Rays, Blue Jays, Mets and Orioles.

"I just let the numbers and the way he pitched -- everyone saw the numbers and the way he pitched -- and let them speak for themselves," Trembley said.

"But he's fine. He's a professional athlete. He's been through it before. One thing about Trachsel is he knows how to handle himself."

The roster move made room for Salazar, a right-handed hitter that cut the team's pitchers on the staff from 13 to 12. But Trembley said the move comes at a good time, considering the O's will face Red Sox lefty Jon Lester on Thursday and then three more left-handers n a weekend series against the Pirates.

Salazar impressed Trembley during Spring Training and has gone on a tear in Triple-A. A well traveled athlete, Salazar, 29, spent eight games in 2002 with the Tigers. He's since spent time playing in Mexico and Italy trying to make his way back to the Major Leagues.

"It's exciting when you're almost out of baseball and try to make it to the big leagues six years after you played in the big leagues," Salazar said.

Salazar batted .311 with seven home runs, 23 doubles and 44 RBIs in 63 games with Norfolk this season. He was signed by the Orioles as a Minor League free agent on Nov. 24, 2006, and found himself in Spring Training this season impressing Baltimore's manager.

"He impressed me in Spring Training," Trembley said. "He swung the bat and could play more than one position. He's a contact hitter -- went down to Triple-A and kept our interest."

Trembley said Salazar would be a role player with the club and he would insert him into games as the situation arose. That's OK with the visibly excited Salazar, who said his excited emotions of making it back to the big leagues will keep him motivated to help the team whenever necessary.

"I'm just very happy," Salazar said. "I'm going to try to do the same things I do in Triple-A and help the team the most I can."

Monday, June 9, 2008

Starting times of Red Sox vs. Orioles games moved to 6:05 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday

BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox today announced that the starting times of the Tuesday, June 10 and the Thursday, June 12 games with the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park have been moved from 7:05 p.m. to 6:05 p.m.

The Tuesday and Thursday games will start one hour earlier so that fans may enjoy both the Red Sox-Orioles games and the NBA Final Series between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. Games 3 and 4 of that series will be played on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively, in Los Angeles with tip-offs both nights at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

The Red Sox moved their starting time for the June 5 game with Tampa Bay to 6:05 p.m. due to Game 1 of the NBA Finals at TD Banknorth Garden.

The Fenway Park gates will open at 4:05 p.m. on both Tuesday and Thursday. NESN's pre-game coverage will begin at 5 p.m. both days.

The Red Sox-Orioles game on Wednesday, June 11 remains a 7:05 p.m. start.

Prior to Tuesday's game, the Red Sox will honor Manny Ramirez for becoming the 24th player in major league history to hit 500 career home runs. Hall of Famer Eddie Murray, who played with Ramirez in Cleveland from 1994-96 and is currently tied with the Red Sox slugger for 23rd all-time with 504 homers, will participate in that ceremony. There will also be video tributes from active members of the 500-home run club. The ceremony is expected to take place at approximately 5:45 p.m.

On Wednesday night, Jon Lester, Jason Varitek, and Manny Ramirez will donate items to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum during a pre-game ceremony. The artifacts are from Lester's May 19 no-hitter, the major league record fourth caught by Varitek, and Ramirez' 500th home run on May 31. Hall of Fame executives, Chairman of the Board, Jane Forbes Clark and President Jeff Idelson will join Hall of Famers Wade Boggs, Bobby Doerr, Dennis Eckersley, Carlton Fisk, and Eddie Murray in the ceremony.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum's traveling exhibit, Baseball As America, will be on display at Boston's Museum of Science from June 15-September 1. The Hall of Famers are in Boston to celebrate the opening of that exhibit.

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."

O's Finally Backs Guthrie, Beat Jays

TORONTO -- Finally, Baltimore ace Jeremy Guthrie can greet a storyline he can stomach.

The Orioles have struggled to score all season with their Opening Day starter on the hill, but reserve outfielder Jay Payton stepped into that void Saturday and rendered it unrecognizable. Payton boosted his starter with five RBIs en route to a 9-5 win over the Blue Jays, singlehandedly providing more offense than Guthrie has seen in most of his starts.

"He's usually going out against one of their best pitchers, so it's been tough for us to score a lot of runs for him," said Payton, who finished with his second five-RBI game of the season. "Today, it was nice to go out against a great pitcher and to be able to push some runs across. Hopefully we can get a few more for [Guthrie] down the road."

"For the most part, we're in every game," added Guthrie. "Even if we score one or two runs -- or four or five -- it seems like we're always competitive. So to our hitters and to myself, it's not as big of a deal as maybe other people make it to be."

Big deal or not, Baltimore (31-30) hadn't opened up a four-run lead for Guthrie (3-6) before Saturday and had only scored six runs for him on two occasions -- both of which turned out to be no-decisions. Meanwhile, the right-hander had seen his team score fewer than three runs in seven of his 14 starts and had lost four games by two runs or fewer.

"It's fun to compete," he said. "And when the games are close, it really does make the game feel enjoyable. You'd love to win, but at the same time, competing and really being in a dogfight each game is also enjoyable and rewarding."

The two teams were locked in a tie game when Payton came through for the first time, lacing a two-run single in the third inning. Payton stepped up again in the fifth, drilling a three-run double that spurred a five-run rally. Baltimore chased A.J. Burnett (5-6) in that inning, and Guthrie went into the late going with his first significant lead of the year.

The Orioles didn't stop there, though, punching another run off the Toronto bullpen in the sixth inning. Guthrie made it all stand up, holding the Blue Jays (32-32) to a run in the first inning and not much after that. Five of the home team's six hits off Guthrie went for singles, and Baltimore's starter retired 15 of the final 17 batters he faced.

"I'd never had one so for sure it seems like a long time," Guthrie said of the rare luxury of a big lead. "They're not easy all the time, but hopefully you can make them look easy when you have a big lead and you continue to put up zeros."

"It's good that he had won the game, because he means a lot to our club," said Orioles manager Dave Trembley. "I don't care what the score is or the situation, he'll give you what he's got. But it's good for him and it's good for the team that we can score some runs. ... Once Guthrie got the lead, you knew he was going to stay right where he was."

Toronto couldn't even get runners back into scoring position against Guthrie. The Blue Jays advanced to second base in the second inning and then didn't do it again until the eighth, after Guthrie had been removed. Toronto scratched out four late runs to make the game appear cosmetically closer, and Guthrie completed seven innings for the sixth time.

"Either way, my goal is to attack them. But today, with the runs, it's nice to continue to try to get the first guy out and limit the damage while we're ahead," Guthrie said. "As the game went along, they took a little different approach. They were swinging a little bit earlier, which helped the pace of the game go while the lead was stretched out. It was a nice game."

The action turned for good in the fifth. With one out, the Orioles loaded the bases on two hits and a walk. Payton unloaded them with a gap double to left-center field. Burnett stayed in to give up two more run-scoring hits, and Baltimore's rally ended on a sacrifice fly to left field by Brian Roberts.

"I knew his pitch count was up a little bit," Payton said of Burnett. "Sometimes when a pitcher gets his count up, he's going to want to try to throw some more strikes so he can stay out there and get through five or six innings. Fortunately, we were able to take advantage of that. I think a lot of guys in that inning hit first or second pitches."

"You don't really want to get two strikes on you, because [Burnett] has devastating stuff," said Trembley. "He throws 95, and he'll throw that curveball that will buckle you. You just have to show a lot of patience with him and you've got to fight off good pitches with two strikes. But more importantly with him, you can't chase pitches out of the strike zone."

The Orioles held on late -- surviving a Toronto rally -- and took their fourth win in their last five road games. They also won their second straight road series and will have a chance to earn their first road sweep of the season on Sunday.

"We've been getting really good pitching all year," said Payton. "And on this road trip we've been able to get some big hits and some good hitting. That's kind of what we've lacked a little bit in the past on the road."

Friday, June 6, 2008

Jones homers, lifts Orioles over Twins

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Adam Jones hopes things are falling into place for him.

A day after a costly slip in center field, Jones hit a tiebreaking home run in the seventh inning that sent the Baltimore Orioles over the Minnesota Twins 3-2 Thursday.

“Jones has been the kind of guy that bounces back from bad games,” Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. “He’s a mentally tough kid, and he did it again today.”

With the score 2-all, Jones led off the seventh by hitting a hanging slider from reliever Brian Bass (2-2) into the left-field seats, his tenth of the year.

Acquired as the top prospect in the offseason trade that sent All-Star pitcher Erik Bedard to Seattle, Jones delivered his second key hit of the week. In Monday’s win over Boston, Jones hit a three-run double to break an eighth-inning tie.

“Baltimore has been a real good fit for me, and I feel like everything is starting to come together,” Jones said.

On Wednesday night, Jones went 0-for-4 and fell while catching Joe Mauer’s sacrifice fly, letting two runs score in a 7-5 loss.

Garrett Olson (5-1) pitched 6 1-3 innings, giving up two runs on eight hits. He didn’t make the team in camp, but is 2-0 with a 1.96 ERA in his last three starts.

“He had some problems coming out of spring training, especially commanding his fastball,” Trembley said. “He’s improved a lot. Last year he might not have been able to handle some of the things he has this year. He’s matured.”

Olson came into the game averaging more than seven strikeouts per nine innings, but struck out just one, saying he didn’t have his best stuff.

“In that situation you have to start changing speeds more and going inside more, and that worked for me,” Olson said.

George Sherrill pitched the ninth for his 20th save in 22 attempts, working around Nick Punto’s one-out double.

Twins starter Scott Baker, making his first start in over a month, came off the disabled list and gave up two runs and five hits in five innings of work.

Baker strained his right groin on May 3, putting him on the 15-day DL for the first time in his career.
Baltimore Orioles closing pitcher George Sherrill works in the ninth inning against the Minnesota Twins in a baseball game on Thursday, June 5, 2008 in Minneapolis. Sherrill earned a save in the Orioles 3-2 win.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous, just going out there for the sheer fact that I hadn’t been in a game in a month,” Baker said. “But I had to keep telling myself that I had made some rehab starts, and I was able to go out there and feel pretty good.”

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said before the game that Baker would be allowed to throw 85-90 pitches. He had 81 pitches after four innings, but was allowed to complete the fifth and finished with 99 pitches.

“He was OK,” Gardenhire said. “The ball was up a little bit and I don’t think he was sharp with his breaking ball.”

The Twins made it 2-all in the fifth on an RBI single from Alexi Casilla. Recently called up because of injuries in the infield, Casilla had three hits but also grounded into a double play with two runners on to end the seventh.

The Twins stranded runners in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, including runners in scoring position in the final two.

In the eighth, the Twins put two on against reliever Jim Johnson. Joe Mauer, 7-for-15 with two home runs in his last four games, entered as a pinch-hitter and grounded out to end the inning.

“These are the kind of games when you need one big hit, and we couldn’t come up with it,” Gardenhire said.


Minnesota Vikings head coach Brad Childress was in the Twins clubhouse before the game, talking with Gardenhire. … Though Orioles SS Freddie Bynum brought a .212 average and only two RBIs in 66 at-bats into the game, Trembley said Bynum is the still starter—though Alex Cintron is in the mix. Bynum, though, needs to shorten his swing and improve his discipline at the plate. “If you look at his history, his walks and strikeouts, there is too big of a disparity there,” Trembley said. … Twins SS Adam Everett won’t begin throwing until the Twins return from their road trip June 17, at the earliest. Everett went on the disabled list May 22 with a shoulder injury, and isn’t expected back until well after the All-Star break.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Orioles Team Report Jun 5, 2008

Daniel Cabrera is a completely different pitcher this season.

But the 6-foot-9, 270-pound right-hander is still learning how to pitch without his best stuff.

Wednesday, Cabrera seemed to lack confidence in his secondary pitches, as Minnesota scored six runs on eight hits in six innings against him.

Manager Dave Trembley thought Cabrera relied too much on his fastball during the outing. Cabrera has carried a dominant fastball throughout his career, but this year he has shaved a few miles per hour off his heater, and it has shown in his results.

Cabrera said falling behind hitters was an issue. He fell to 5-2, and his ERA rose to 3.98.

Cabrera has always been a workhorse, and he’s on pace for 240 innings this season. The only Orioles pitchers to amass that total since the club moved to Camden Yards in 1992 are Scott Erickson (‘98 and ‘99), Mike Mussina (‘92, ‘96 and 2000) and Rick Sutcliffe (‘92).

Even in defeat Wednesday, Cabrera was able to give an overworked bullpen an extra inning, going into the sixth for the 11th consecutive time this season.

Twins 7, Orioles 5: Bad timing for the Orioles to face Twins catcher Joe Mauer. The left-handed-hitting backstop went 2-for-3 with three RBIs, including a seventh-inning solo home run off Jamie Walker. It was Mauer’s second homer of the season—each coming in the past three games.

Notes, Quotes

• 3B Melvin Mora continues to devour left-handed pitching. The right-handed-hitting veteran is batting .319 against southpaws after going 1-for-3 with a solo home run against Twins LHP Glen Perkins on Wednesday.

• CF Adam Jones must like June. Jones is batting .333 (5-for-15) with six RBIs since the calendar turned. Jones, who was batting .223 on May 11, has seen his average climb to .251 despite an 0-for-4 night Wednesday.

• 2B Brian Roberts looks fresher since a day off May 24. Since then, Roberts is 15-for-45 (.333) and is 4-for-5 in stolen base attempts. Roberts has been on base or scored a run in 10 consecutive games and leads all Orioles regulars with a .268 average.

• LHP Jamie Walker has made a big-league-best 31 appearances. The Orioles’ left-handed specialist is the only southpaw in the bullpen aside from closer George Sherrill. Walker, though, has been more effective against right-handed hitters, who are batting just .261 against him. Left-handed hitters are batting .396 against Walker, and Joe Mauer’s home run Wednesday was the fourth against Walker this season—all by left-handed hitters.

• LHP Adam Loewen is slated to return from his left elbow soreness later this month. Loewen, who has been on the disabled list since April 25, threw 27 pitches in an inning at extended spring training Wednesday. Loewen, 24, is likely to go out on a minor league rehab assignment next week.

By The Numbers: 8—Outfield assists by right fielder and former college pitcher Nick Markakis, tops in the major leagues through Sunday.

Quote To Note: “I’m happy for him. He’s got a uniqueness about him that makes him easy to like… You take away the hair and the baggy uniform, he’s just a guy that can hit.”—1B Kevin Millar, on former Boston teammate Manny Ramirez’s 500th career home run, which came against the Orioles Saturday.

O's squander early lead as Mauer rallies Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS -- Orioles manager Dave Trembley sought Twins catcher Joe Mauer before Wednesday's game to give him a message.

"I told him I thought he is a real credit to the game, the way he plays," Trembley said.

To the misfortune of Trembley's Orioles, Mauer went out and proved the skipper right.

Mauer went 2-for-3 with a home run, three RBIs, and a wacky sacrifice fly in the Twins' 7-5 victory at Metrodome.

Minnesota's catcher took a chunk out of Baltimore's 5-2 lead in the fifth inning when he hit a long shot to center field off a 94-mph Daniel Cabrera fastball. With runners on second and third and one out, Orioles center fielder Adam Jones streaked to the ball and made the catch. But Jones slipped on the warning track after securing the out, allowing both Carlos Gomez and Nick Punto, who were on second and third, respectively, to score.

"It was good baserunning that took advantage of Jones slipping, that's all," Trembley said. "If he didn't slip, they weren't going to score two. They were going to score one."

"It kind of helps out to have the fastest guy in baseball at second base," Mauer said.

Cabrera ran into more trouble in the sixth. He allowed a leadoff single to Michael Cuddyer, which was followed by a Jason Kubel RBI triple. Delmon Young then hit a sacrifice fly to right field, giving the Twins their first lead.

Cabrera, who had improved his control after leading the American League in walks the past two years, hit two batters during the game. He also threw a wild pitch in the second inning that allowed Cuddyer to score.

"He didn't look comfortable," Trembley said. "I thought maybe after the second inning, he was going to find his groove, somewhat. It just didn't happen for him."

The damage against Cabrera could have been more substantial if not for a stellar play by Melvin Mora at third base.

The Twins loaded the bases in the third with two outs. Cuddyer scorched a liner that appeared headed for the left-field corner. But Mora dove and speared the ball, allowing the team to get out of the inning. The play probably saved three runs.

"I thought when that happened, it was going to take Cabrera off the hook somewhat, maybe find his way and maybe settle down somewhat," Trembley said.

Cabrera (5-2, 3.98 ERA) went six innings, allowing eight hits and six earned runs.

Mauer added a home run in the seventh, a shot into the right-field upper deck off Jamie Walker, padding Minnesota's lead.

"It was his day," Cabrera said.

The Orioles jumped on Twins starter Glen Perkins when Mora and Kevin Millar hit back-to-back solo home runs in the first inning. Perkins was chased after four innings, allowing nine hits and four earned runs. He gave way to recently demoted starter Boof Bonser (3-6), who went 2 2/3 scoreless innings and recorded the win.

"Today, we fought to a lead and I was supposed to keep the game to three or four runs," Cabrera said. "I'm just feeling bad."

Joe Nathan pitched a perfect ninth inning to lock down his 16th save.

Mauer's sacrifice was the first two-run sacrifice since May 8, 2001, when Alex Ochoa, playing for the Reds against the D-backs, accomplished the feat.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Liz fares more than well in debut win

MINNEAPOLIS -- Radhames Liz made his Major League debut against the Twins at Camden Yards on Aug. 25, 2007. He struggled, giving up five earned runs in six innings en route to an 8-1 Orioles loss. On Tuesday, it appeared as though he had learned a thing or two since then.

The 24-year-old mowed through the Twins for five innings in the Metrodome, allowing no runs and only one hit. Liz had a rocky sixth, giving up three consecutive doubles and two runs before being pulled, but he was ultimately credited with his first Major League win in a 5-3 Orioles victory.

"I didn't feel comfortable," Liz said of last season, when he went 0-2 with an ERA of 6.93. "Now, I feel comfortable, and the thing I have on my mind is to throw a strike and locate my pitches."

After the game, Liz said he was keeping the game ball for all of his teammates to sign. Manager Dave Trembley came over to Liz's locker later, saying, "Congratulations," and telling his young pitcher that he would give him the scorecard and lineup card -- keepsakes for life.

Liz, making his 2008 debut after being called up from the Minors on Monday, went 5 1/3 innings while surrendering two earned runs and striking out four.

Trembley said Liz looked more poised and confident than he had seen last year. He was happy that the rookie attacked the strike zone. Trembley's main concern going into the game was that Liz would have control problems, get deep into counts, and surrender walks. Liz only walked one batter.

"We were expecting him to be wild -- and he was pretty much on the money tonight," Twins designated hitter Jason Kubel said. "He made pitches when he had to make them and he didn't get behind in many counts."

Minnesota center fielder Carlos Gomez said he had seen Liz in the Dominican and throughout the Minor Leagues: "He threw more strikes, more in the zone. He threw the breaking ball for strikes. Before, he threw hard -- 100, 98 mph -- and now more consistent -- 94, 95 mph. And more control. He knows now what he has to do."

After the Orioles sent down Liz in Spring Training, Trembley told the youngster that he wouldn't be coming back to the Majors until he was ready to pitch at the big league level.

It was just irony that Liz got to attempt to show his manager that he could handle Major League hitting against the same team that had knocked him around in his Major League debut last year.

"He looked great," first baseman Kevin Millar said of Liz. "He exuded a lot of confidence and had great tempo."

The confidence wasn't there from the onset. Liz said he was nervous in the first inning. In it, he got Carlos Gomez and Alexi Casilla to fly out before walking Joe Mauer. Facing Justin Morneau with Mauer on base, Liz coaxed the power-hitting first baseman into a swinging strikeout. From there, until the sixth inning, he sailed.

"When I went to the second inning, I said, 'This is mine. I got it,'" Liz said.

It was Millar who allowed the O's to stake an early lead when, leading off the second inning, he belted a Kevin Slowey curveball over the left-field fence. The Orioles tacked another run on in the inning and never trailed.

Millar said Slowey only made a couple of mistakes on the night, namely the home run pitches to himself and Melvin Mora, in the sixth, also a solo shot.

Slowey went six innings and surrendered four earned runs on seven hits, dropping to 2-5 on the year.

The Orioles had 13 hits total. Center fielder Adam Jones went 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs and a run scored. Catcher Ramon Hernandez, whom Trembley said caught the best game of his season for the work he did with Liz, went 2-for-4 with two doubles.

Trembley was even more impressed with the offensive output because it came against Slowey, a strike thrower, who, even with a subpar 2008 record, now has a 3.76 ERA.

George Sherrill got his second save in as many nights -- his 19th of the season -- pitching a perfect ninth inning.

"Maybe we've turned the corner somewhat," Trembley said. "We've had our struggles offensively, and we needed a game like this. There was a lot of real positive things with us offensively tonight."

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Sherrill saves attention for winning

MINNEAPOLIS- When the Orioles struggle, so do George Sherrill's save numbers. Beyond that, he could care less that he had gone more than two weeks since recording his last save before locking down Monday's 6-3 win against Boston.

"I really don't care about saves," Sherrill said. "If I get them, that means we are winning. It's good for us to stop the bleeding a little bit, and good for me to get back out there."

Sherrill's save ensured the Orioles had snapped a four-game losing streak. Since his last save, on May 17, Baltimore had gone 3-10. Sherrill appeared in four games since then, and was tagged with the loss on May 25 after giving up the game-winning run against the Rays.

Monday's save was no piece of cake, however. Sherrill inherited a three-run lead, but surrendered two-out walks to Julio Lugo and Kevin Youkilis. He got out of the game by inducing a Manny Ramirez flyout to right field.

"I still felt a little rusty last night," Sherrill said. "It's just a matter of going out and making your pitches and just throwing strikes. I did it for the first couple hitters, and then the ball started going everywhere."

Coming into Tuesday's action, Sherrill has 18 saves, good for second in the American League behind the Angels' Francisco Rodriguez, who has 22. Sherrill has a 3.28 ERA.

Sherrill has adapted quickly to the closer's role since coming over in an offseason deal with Seattle. Sherrill said being a closer is "really no different than being a lefty specialist," his role in Seattle, because both require pitching in pressure-packed situations.

He has emulated certain closers such as Trevor Hoffman, Brian Fuentes, and Eddie Guardado, whom Sherrill played with in Seattle. He said he picked Guardado's brain, and he emulated the former Twins and Mariners closer more than Billy Wagner, the flame-throwing lefty reliever for the Mets.

"I would have to go more Guardado or Fuentes," Sherrill said of his influences, "just because I don't throw 98 mph, you know?"

After everything, Hernandez designated

MINNEAPOLIS -- Luis Hernandez's whirlwind tour through the favor of the Orioles organization appears to be over.

The 23-year-old infielder, who began the year as the Orioles' starting shortstop, was designated for assignment on Monday. In the last six months, Hernandez has gone from a prospect whose path to a starting position was blocked by Miguel Tejada, to the team's shortstop of the future after Tejada was traded to the Astros, to a utility player after being benched by manager Dave Trembley, to the waiver wire.

"In Luis' mind, he thinks he can be an everyday shortstop in the big leagues, and that's what you would want -- you want guys to think that," Trembley said. "Sometimes you have to take a step back before you can go forward. That's where he's at right now. He's got to go back, and prove to himself that he can compete and play at this level at a higher level than we saw."

But before Hernandez can re-prove himself to the organization, he must pass through waivers. That process will last 10 days.

Trembley said he is confident that if Hernandez gets through waivers, the young infielder can go back to the Minor Leagues and "play on a regular basis and get himself back to where he was."

Where he was, specifically, refers to 2007 when Hernandez first gave Baltimore the indication that he could be a full-time Major League contributor. He filled in when Tejada was hurt last season, hitting .290 (20-for-69).

But things quickly spiraled downwards for Hernandez. He had a difficult Spring Training, though Trembley stuck behind him. After Hernandez batted .241 with inconsistent defense, Trembley had seen enough. The team decided to go to 13 pitchers after the bullpen had been taxed recently, and that meant there was no more room for Hernandez.

"I am a firm believer in giving everybody every opportunity you possibly can, don't make decisions based on one or two games," Trembley said. "But sooner or later, you get yourself to the point where you have to move on and do what's best for your club."

Hernandez's role as a starter was revoked on May 8. Since then, it has primarily been Freddie Bynum's position. Bynum remains the Orioles' starting shortstop, with Alex Cintron the occasional fill-in.

Orioles Team Report Jun 3, 2008

Catcher Ramon Hernandez has been scuffling this season—both at the plate and behind it. Hernandez has thrown out just 11 of 55 runners attempting to steal against him, while batting just .222 with four home runs.

Manager Dave Trembley said he’s heavily considered giving backup Guillermo Quiroz more frequent starts. “Ramon’s a good catcher. He’s done it for a long time,” Trembley said. “But in order for us to have the success that we’re looking to have, Ramon needs to play better. I think that’s just the way it is.”

Equally as important as Hernandez’s struggles is the emergence of Quiroz as a viable catcher. The rookie has earned 16 starts as compared to Hernandez’s 40—evidence that he’s become more than just a Sunday afternoon catcher. Quiroz, signed Dec. 3, has been better defensively than Hernandez, evident in his throw to nail Boston speedster Jacoby Ellsbury Sunday.

“After that, it seems like they were more careful on the bases,” Quiroz said. “If we can do that, we’ll get the team a chance of shutting down the running game, and that puts less pressure on the bases.”

Boston did not attempt a stolen base Monday night. Opponents are a combined 58-for-73 (79.5 percent) in stolen base attempts against the Orioles.

“Sometimes they’ve been going on breaking balls. That’s a tough, tough pitch to throw to the bases,” Quiroz said. “It’s been different things. We’ve been working on it.”

Orioles 6, Red Sox 3: Phenom Adam Jones is clutch. The outfielder, acquired in the February trade that sent Erik Bedard to Seattle, doubled in three runs with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the eighth to give the Orioles the win. Jones is 3-for-5 with three doubles and nine RBIs in bases-loaded situations this season, each at bat coming with two outs.

Notes, Quotes

• RHP Radhames Liz will start Tuesday’s game in Minnesota. The Dominican right-hander was recalled from Class AAA Norfolk after Monday night’s game, when the team designated infielder Luis Hernandez for assignment. Liz, 24, appeared in nine games—including four starts—in Baltimore last season, going 0-2 with a 6.93 ERA.

• RHP Jim Johnson allowed an earned run in the eighth inning, the first time he’s done so since May 22 in a 2-1 loss at New York. It was just the fifth time this season Johnson has allowed an earned run, and the sixth time he’s allowed more than one hit in an outing.

• RHP Steve Trachsel was not in consideration for Tuesday’s spot start in Minnesota and will remain in the bullpen. Trachsel was deemed unavailable after throwing five innings Sunday—his first relief appearance since 1995 and just the second of his career.

• LHP Adam Loewen (left elbow soreness) was scheduled to throw live batting practice at extended spring training Monday afternoon. After that session in Sarasota, Fla., Loewen was slated to throw an inning in a simulated game June 5, and then, provided he experiences no setbacks, will be sent to either Class A Frederick or Class AA Bowie to begin his rehab assignment.

• 3B Melvin Mora returned to third base Monday after being given Sunday’s afternoon game off. Mora, who made two throwing errors in Friday’s extra-inning loss, admitted his miscues have been mental, not physical. His bat is not lacking, as he ranks sixth in the American League with a .370 average with runners in scoring position.

By The Numbers: 8—Outfield assists by right fielder and former college pitcher Nick Markakis, tops in the major leagues through Sunday.

Quote To Note: “I’m happy for him. He’s got a uniqueness about him that makes him easy to like… You take away the hair and the baggy uniform, he’s just a guy that can hit.”—1B Kevin Millar, on former Boston teammate Manny Ramirez’s 500th career home run, which came against the Orioles Saturday.

Jones' clutch double lifts O's over Sox

BALTIMORE -- Patience. It can be one of the most elusive qualities for young people, who generally want to have their success as soon as humanly possible. Orioles center fielder Adam Jones is no exception, but he waited for his pitch in the eighth inning Monday night and wound up with a three-run double off the left-field wall in a 6-3 win over the Red Sox.

Jones came up in a tie game with the bases loaded, a situation he's done quite well in this season. And instead of swinging at a pitch he knew he could hit, he let it go, making the situation seem even more dire. Moments later, he got another hittable pitch and smacked it deep to left and over the glove of leaping left fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.

"I was just in the right spot in the right time," said Jones, who is 3-for-5 with nine RBIs with the bases loaded. "I like hitting with men on base. I like RBIs. [After] coming up through the Minors, I just have to be more patient and be selective and get a good pitch. He threw one right down the middle and I took it. It wasn't me that was under pressure. It was him."

That hit released the pressure around the Orioles, who had lost three straight games to the Red Sox and had led for most of Monday's game. Boston scored single runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings to take the lead, but Baltimore stormed right back with three straight hits off southpaw reliever Hideki Okajima in the bottom of the eighth.

First baseman Kevin Millar tied the game on a long sacrifice fly, and one out later, catcher Ramon Hernandez walked to reload the bases. Jones patiently worked the count, then pulled the ball toward the furthest reaches of left field. Ellsbury chased it and appeared to have a chance to make the catch, but the ball bounced high off the wall and three runs scored.

"He didn't chase pitches out of the strike zone. He showed real good poise," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "Just like Millar did. Millar got himself in a good count and I think late in the game that plays to your advantage. I thought Ellsbury was going to catch the darn thing [with] the way he's been playing against us. But, well, he didn't."

Perhaps nobody was more relieved by that result than starter Jeremy Guthrie, who pitched well and wound up with his fifth no-decision. The right-hander has allowed two earned runs or less in seven of his 13 starts, but the Orioles (27-29) are just 4-3 in those games. Guthrie has worked six or more innings in nine of his 13 starts, but owns a 2-6 record.

Monday night brought more of the same, and Guthrie casually dominated the first five innings. He stranded runners in scoring position in three of the first four innings and got a double play in the other one, pitching Baltimore to an early lead. Boston finally broke through on a solo home run by Manny Ramirez in the sixth and tied the game in the seventh.

"It was a good win for us and a great little comeback at the end to win that one," said Guthrie. "It was great, especially against a team ahead of us in our division, a tough team. It's a great win heading into the road trip for us."

"I know Guthrie as well as anybody," said Trembley, who was ejected early in the game. "Guthrie is as tough as nails. Guthrie is the epitome of a team guy. Guthrie doesn't get all wrapped up in winning and losing and all that. Guthrie is all about doing the best he can all the time and the things that are out of his control ... I don't think those things bother him."

The Orioles jumped out to an early lead against Red Sox starter Tim Wakefield, courtesy of run-scoring hits in the fourth inning from designated hitter Aubrey Huff and Millar. The offense went quiet in the middle innings -- with no hits between the fifth and seventh -- and Wakefield managed to escape without any further damage.

Boston (35-25) tied the score on a gap double by catcher Kevin Cash in the seventh and pulled ahead on a Mike Lowell single in the eighth. Baltimore closer George Sherrill came out for the ninth inning and struck out two, but he also walked two more. Finally, Sherrill earned his 18th save on Ramirez's hard fly ball to right fielder Nick Markakis.

"I got the first two outs -- got ahead of them and everything," said Sherrill. "Then all of a sudden, everything started cutting and sinking. I don't know what was going on. Same thing with Manny, the last two pitches cut on him. He swung over the first one, and the second one just got in on him. It's better to be lucky than good."

"Well, we're 3-3 against Boston," added Trembley. "They have a very good team [and] we're going to play them during this road trip. I think it was important for us to win tonight, because you're going to play them relatively soon again. If we would have lost a one-run game tonight, those things snowball. They just keep going [and] you've got to stop it."

Monday, June 2, 2008

Orioles Team Report Jun 2, 2008

Third baseman Melvin Mora had Sunday off, two days after a throwing error cost the Orioles in the 13th inning Friday.

Mora’s throw to first baseman Kevin Millar was high, sparking the Red Sox rally that ended in a 5-2 Boston win.

“I threw it away. I just threw it away. I should have thrown better than that.”

Mora had no specific explanation for the throw, but the Orioles third baseman has been coming up short on a number of throws to first base lately. Mora has nine errors in 50 games at third base. Two came in Friday’s game.

“If I don’t play defense we cannot win the game, especially on the hot corner,” Mora said. “You need to play defense.”

The former utility man has settled in as a third baseman with the Orioles, where he’s played primarily since 2004—his third full season in Baltimore.

Mora has been battling a sore right shoulder since spring training, and missed two games last month after taking a batting practice grounder off his shoulder.

Mora is batting .245 with seven home runs and 29 RBIs.

Left-handed batting Aubrey Huff replaced Mora in Sunday’s starting lineup against Boston right-hander Bartolo Colon.

“You’re not going to get a hit every day, but if you play defense every day, that’s important,” Mora said. “You need to go out and play defense every day.”

Red Sox 9, Orioles 4: Boston outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury is a thorn in the Orioles’ side. The young and talented left-handed hitter went 3-for-5 with a stolen Sunday to improve his series line to 7-for-15 with seven stolen bases. Ellsbury leads the majors with 27 stolen bases, and Sunday was caught for just the third time all season.

Notes, Quotes

• RHP Steve Trachsel made just his second career relief appearance for the Orioles Sunday. Trachsel last appeared in a regular season relief appearance with the Chicago Cubs in 1995. He also pitched out of the bullpen in the 1996 All-Star Game. Trachsel’s turn in the rotation would be Tuesday, but the Orioles had yet to announce a starter as of Sunday afternoon.

• RHP Jim Johnson has a 1.19 ERA through 30 1/3 innings pitched, but he will be moved from his role and into the starting rotation. Manager Dave Trembley Sunday ruled out the possibility Johnson would start Tuesday’s game in Minnesota.

• INF Aubrey Huff started at third base in place of Melvin Mora Sunday. It was the fourth time Huff has started at the hot corner this season. Against a Boston lineup with seven right-handed bats Sunday, he was not handed an easy task.

• RHP Chad Bradford served up Manny Ramirez’s 500th career home run Saturday. It was the second home run the submariner allowed this season, marking the first time since 2004 that he’s allowed multiple home runs in a season.

• C Ramon Hernandez came into spring training in terrific shape, and Orioles management expected a big season out of him. But Hernandez, who had Sunday off, is batting .222 with four home runs and 20 RBIs. He is 6-for-22 on the homestand, and has thrown out only 9-of-53 attempted base stealers.

By The Numbers: 8—Outfield assists by right fielder and former college pitcher Nick Markakis, tops in the major leagues through Sunday.

Quote To Note: “I’m happy for him. He’s got a uniqueness about him that makes him easy to like… You take away the hair and the baggy uniform, he’s just a guy that can hit.”—1B Kevin Millar, on former Boston teammate Manny Ramirez’s 500th career home run, which came against the Orioles Saturday.

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