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O's Bullpen Leaves Door Wide Open

Reed, Kline Provide Little Relief in Loss: Yankees 8, Orioles 5

By Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 10, 2005; Page E01

NEW YORK, April 9 -- The frustrated lefty sat on a chair in front of his locker with his legs outstretched and his hands on his head, but never appeared comfortable. The seat has become quite warm for Steve Kline, the Baltimore Orioles reliever who has yet to provide any relief this season.

"You think I'm happy about giving up home runs after joining a new team?" Kline said. "I'm a little bitter right now."



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Kline's missed pitch in the seventh inning Saturday against Ruben Sierra led to an 8-5 loss to the New York Yankees in a manner that has become custom. The Orioles have led in 15 consecutive games against New York, yet they have won only five. This loss was perhaps even more painful because the Orioles scored five runs in six innings against Yankees ace Randy Johnson.

Orioles starter Bruce Chen's six-inning, three-run effort had helped put Baltimore ahead 5-3, when reliever Steve Reed started the seventh inning. Reed did what is perhaps the worst sin for a reliever: He walked Tony Womack with just one out. Reed then surrendered singles to Derek Jeter and Gary Sheffield, whose two-out hit scored Womack. Baltimore Manager Lee Mazzilli summoned Kline to face the left-handed Hideki Matsui.

On a 2-2 count, Matsui sent a blooping ball near the left field line. Left fielder B.J. Surhoff only saw the ball for a moment before losing it in the sun. Shortstop Miguel Tejada ran toward the ball, but could not catch it. The ball dropped for a ground-rule double and Jeter scored, tying the score at 5.

"I'd have caught it if it wasn't in the sun," Surhoff said. "I had no idea where it was. The sun was about as bad as it could be today. I saw the direction off the swing, but trying to find it was the difficult part."

Kline quickly became unnerved. He lost Thursday's game against the Oakland Athletics when he allowed a three-run homer to outfielder Eric Byrnes in a 1-1 game. By the time Sierra approached the plate, Kline was upset. On the first pitch, Sierra sent a home run deep over the left field wall.

"I wasn't really concerned with Sierra," Kline said. "I didn't think he could really hit down and away. Guys are cheating and getting what they're getting off me. I can't explain anything right now. I'm a little irritated.

"After you give up a big hit, Sierra just came in first pitch looking outside and he dove and got it. He just was in a spot where he knew where I was going to throw it. He got it and hit it out. First-pitch fastball, he knows I'm not a hard thrower. I was trying to get ahead. I thought he'd roll right over it, but he hit it. An absolute missile."

Kline, signed to a two-year deal this offseason, finished the game with a 23.14 ERA. He is considered one of the best left-handed relief specialists. He has yet to show it.

"This has just been horrendous," Kline said. "I don't know if I'm trying too hard with a new team or whatever. I have to change it and figure out what I'm doing wrong. You feel like you're on an island when you keep doing this."

Neither Kline nor Reed, also signed to a two-year deal this offseason, have provided much help to the bullpen. Reed has a 13.50 ERA.

"I felt as though the only at-bat I would want back was the Womack at-bat," said Reed, who took the loss. "It's frustrating to wear that one. I don't feel I'm throwing the ball that badly."

All the fault wasn't on Kline. The Orioles had a man on third with less than two outs in the third, sixth and seventh innings but did not score. The rally in the sixth ended on a failed squeeze bunt attempt by Brian Roberts. Chris Gomez was easily tagged out at third base after Roberts could not lay down the bunt.

"It works great when it works," Mazzilli said. "If it doesn't it looks bad."

The Orioles scored five runs against Johnson, but they should have had more.

"We swung the bats well but we didn't pitch like we needed to pitch," Mazzilli said. "No concern [about Kline]. You've got to stay with him. He's your guy."


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