Orioles Get Hit, Then Hit the Road

Jeff Fiorentino, Sammy Sosa
Sammy Sosa picks up an error on this play in the fourth inning, collidng with teammate Jeff Fiorentino in the outfield. (Joe Giza - Reuters)
By Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 30, 2005

BALTIMORE, May 29 -- They departed, suitcases in hand, for a 14-day, 13-game trip that may define their season, at least in the short term. They carried not just clothing and equipment, but also the wear of a three-game losing streak and the expectations from those outside the team that their stint in first place may not last longer than the road trip for which they were departing. The Baltimore Orioles and the Texas Rangers were the last two teams not to lose three consecutive games this season. Now only the Rangers can make that claim after Baltimore's 8-6 loss to the Detroit Tigers on Sunday.

In three losses against Detroit, Baltimore's sense of invulnerability after a series of injuries has taken a hit. A team that only three games ago was 14 games above .500 for the first time this season, and appeared resilient after several setbacks, now appears to be reeling as it heads into a four-game series against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.

"We're still in first place," Miguel Tejada said. "We don't worry about what happened this weekend."

As has happened several times this season, the bullpen tandem of Steve Reed and Steve Kline failed to get Baltimore out of a tight situation. The two combined to allow five runs in the seventh inning, turning a 6-2 Baltimore lead into an 8-6 loss. It was Reed who bears the most responsibility. He relieved starter Bruce Chen with one man on and no outs. Four of the next five Detroit hitters reached base, including a game-deciding three-run home run by Craig Monroe.

Inexplicably Reed, who thrived in seven seasons in Colorado's Coors Field -- generally considered the worst park for pitchers -- has struggled at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. He has a 11.88 ERA in seven appearances at Camden.

"I didn't make good pitches today," Reed said. "Today it didn't matter what park you're pitching in, if you elevate sliders, you're going to get hit."

Sunday concluded a difficult week for Baltimore, which lost its best pitcher (Erik Bedard), one of its best hitters (Javy Lopez) and a starting outfielder (Larry Bigbie) to injuries. Geronimo Gil and Jeff Fiorentino, who replaced Lopez and Bigbie, were 1 for 6 with four strikeouts and a double play. Baltimore's fearsome lineup no longer appears imposing near the bottom. The lineup will be tested on the road trip, which takes Baltimore to Boston, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

"There will be nine guys in the lineup tomorrow," Tejada said. "Nine major league players. Somebody will be there tomorrow trying to do the job."

The Orioles had taken the lead in a five-run fifth inning and Chen appeared headed for a team-leading six wins. He surprisingly began the seventh inning even though he already had thrown 100 pitches. He walked leadoff batter Vance Wilson.

"I wanted to go out there for the seventh," Chen said. "The first batter I was leaving the ball up. I felt, yeah, my arm was pretty tired."

Reed entered the game and didn't appear to have much command of his pitches, most of which were high in the strike zone. Dmitri Young -- who had three hits and three RBI on Sunday -- sent a double off the right field wall to score the first two runs of the inning. Monroe's home run ended Reed's outing after just one-third of an inning.

"For the bullpen I feel bad," said Kline, who gave up a run in two-thirds of an inning. "I think this bullpen has been run through the mill this year."

Kline said perhaps the Orioles did not focus enough on Detroit. The Tigers entered the three-game series with a 20-25 record and had just been swept by the New York Yankees.

"Maybe in the back of our minds we looked ahead to the next series," Kline said. "Detroit is a good team, but I think we took them lightly."

But Tejada, who gritted after each question in a postgame interview, did not agree. As usual, the star shortstop was reticent after a loss. "I'm not paying attention to the Yankees," Tejada said. "I'm not paying attention to Boston, either. I just think about what we're doing with this team. It doesn't matter what the Yankees do, or what Boston does, we have to go out there. We have to do our jobs."

Tejada grabbed his suitcase and dragged it out the door. Baltimore should hope for a more pleasant return in two weeks.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company