In Rain, Chicago Washes Out O's
White Sox 5, Orioles 4
By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 4, 2004; Page D06
BALTIMORE, May 3 -- The top of the seventh inning Monday night began with Mike DeJean jogging in from the bullpen to take over a tie game -- a choice that served as an admirable but dangerous act of faith on the part of Manager Lee Mazzilli toward a veteran reliever who has been his bullpen's weakest link -- and ended with a sparse, shivering, waterlogged crowd showering boos down upon Mazzilli, DeJean and the rest of the Baltimore Orioles.
In between, the Orioles blew another winnable game through a self-destructive mix of shaky defense and DeJean's ineffective pitching. The resulting 5-4 loss to the Chicago White Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards served as the latest indictment of a team suddenly unable to win tight games.
It was the Orioles' third straight loss, and sixth in their past eight games; three of the losses have been by one run, and another by two.
"It's very, very frustrating," said DeJean (0-3). "We have enough offense and defense to beat anybody. But we're a little short on the mound, especially me."
In a game delayed about 20 minutes by rain, the Orioles' sputtering offense found itself dominated by an unremarkable pitcher, Scott Schoeneweis (3-1), who owned a 9.55 ERA at Camden Yards. The seventh-inning meltdown, which gave the White Sox a 4-1 lead, was simply too much to overcome -- despite the Orioles' spirited attempts to do just that against the White Sox' bullpen in the final two innings.
The Orioles brought the tying run to the plate with two outs in the eighth, but catcher Javy Lopez -- back in the lineup after missing two games with a strained muscle in his side -- flied out to the warning track in left to end the inning.
Then, facing high-wire closer Bill Koch in the ninth, the Orioles brought the winning run to the plate with two outs in the person of shortstop Miguel Tejada -- whose error in the seventh inning allowed the White Sox' go-ahead run to score. Tejada smashed a one-hopper up the middle, but shortstop Juan Uribe went to one knee to spear the ball, then flipped to second base for the force out to end the game.
"The guy made a great play," said Tejada, who is hitting .200 this season with runners in scoring position. "That's baseball."
Still, the Orioles never would have been in the position of needing late-inning heroics were it not for their implosion in the top of the seventh.
DeJean, who, when last seen, was taking the loss in the 13th inning Saturday at Cleveland, entered a 1-1 game in relief of Kurt Ainsworth (six innings pitched, one earned run) and immediately put himself in a messy situation. A leadoff single by Uribe was followed two batters later by a one-out single by Frank Thomas.
With runners on the corners and Carlos Lee at the plate, Mazzilli chose to play his infield at double-play depth, and Lee obliged with a grounder to shortstop. It was slow enough to have made a double play iffy at best, but Tejada rushed his throw to second and wound up whipping it into center field for an error.
"I think he knew that play was do-or-die right away," Mazzilli said.
By the time the inning ended, DeJean had issued a bases-loaded walk, Tejada had failed to make a barehanded play on another slow roller (which probably would have been a hit regardless) and the White Sox had scored three runs to seize a game that could have gone either way.
Mazzilli was booed as he went to the mound to pull DeJean following the bases-loaded walk, and DeJean was booed as he jogged in to the dugout.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company