Twins Beat O's in 10th; Matos, Sosa Go on DL

By Les Carpenter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 11, 2005

BALTIMORE, May 10 -- In a single night the bad news poured down on the Baltimore Orioles.

It came on the field in a game they should have won, would have won, but somehow had eluded their grasp with a blown save in the eighth inning and home runs by Minnesota's Jacque Jones and Shannon Stewart in the 10th in a 6-4 loss to the Twins.

It came from the doctor's office, where a staph infection was discovered in the abscess on the bottom of Sammy Sosa's foot, suddenly turning what was supposed to be a simple injury into something far more serious.

It came too from the X-ray room, where pictures of the right ring finger of center fielder Luis Matos showed it had been smashed by a fastball as he tried to bunt in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Suddenly, the team that had done everything right and was the surprise of baseball is without two-thirds of its outfield for what may be several weeks.

"We're going to have to pull our straps up right now," Manager Lee Mazzilli said, looking at what will be the first major test of the strength of his team that has led the American League East the entire season. "We'll get through it. We're still going to fight it. Fight it and grind it out. That's for sure."

For a night, though, the Orioles looked shell-shocked as the news about Sosa and Matos settled in. A normally boisterous clubhouse was deathly quiet, almost empty. Those who did come out spoke in muted tones. Pitcher Steve Kline talked about the sliders he left hanging over the plate that Jones and Stewart hit to beat him. Starting pitcher Erik Bedard talked about the splendid seven-inning, three-hit game he pitched that went for naught when closer B. J. Ryan blew his first save in the top of the eighth.

But mostly the game talk was minimal.

Bedard didn't matter. Neither did Rafael Palmeiro's second home run of the year, nor the home runs by Javy Lopez and Brian Roberts that should have been enough to win this game. Neither did Melvin Mora's two errors at third base that led to two Minnesota runs and ultimately cost the game for the Orioles.

The talk was about an outfield that was suddenly depleted. Both players were placed on the 15-day disabled list. Sosa, the team said, could return as soon as the next homestand next week. Though given the seriousness of the injury, it could be much longer. Matos will miss the next six weeks.

"I'm not very happy about that either," Mazzilli said.

The manager sat slumped in his office chair, his face in a frown. The moment the doctors used the words "staph infection" to describe Sosa's condition everything suddenly stopped.

"That's something that could be serious," Mazzilli said. "That has to be addressed at the hospital."

He said he assumed Sosa would have to be treated with IVs and antibiotics but wasn't sure what plan the doctors would take. Sosa was not at the hospital last night, he said.

The news on Sosa was something of a shock.

"It's a day-to-day thing and you see how it is, the swelling is going down and it's day to day and everything is going to plan," Mazzilli said. Then to have this:

"Yeah it's a jolt," he said.

Just a few minutes before the manager had looked at Matos's finger.

"It was not a pretty thing," Mazzilli said. "Just as soon as you saw it you felt for him. It was not a pretty thing."

Matos was trying to sacrifice runners over to second and third with nobody out in the eighth when the pitch from Jesse Crain caught him on the fingers as he slid his right hand up to bunt. He jumped in the air, howling with pain, pulled off his batting glove, saw the mangled finger and ran into the dugout screaming.

The news was so fresh when the Orioles arrived in the clubhouse the team hadn't had time to decide what it would do to replace him.

"You really feel for the kid, he had come back from last year's injury," a stress fracture in the shin, Mazzilli said. "For something like that to happen, you just feel for the kid."

Now the Orioles must find a way to replace the 30 runs and 25 RBI that Sosa and Matos had combined to produce this year.

The first bad news in a year when everything has gone right.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company