Orioles Let One Slip Away

Hayden Penn
Orioles starter Hayden Penn sees his bid for a first major league win come to an end when Jorge Julio allows four eighth-inning runs to the Pirates in a 6-5 loss. (Jason Cohn - Reuters)

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By Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 8, 2005

PITTSBURGH, June 7 -- It was a bitter fate that fell on young pitcher Hayden Penn, who sat in the dugout while his first major league win, only six outs from reality, disappeared in a few painful moments.

The first home run given up by Jorge Julio landed on a grassy mound past the center field fence. That tied the game. The next home run in the inning landed in the left field stands, boosting Pittsburgh to a 6-5 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday.

In the Pittsburgh locker room, several called it the Pirates' biggest win of the year. The Baltimore locker room lamented what might have been. Penn said he didn't worry about seeing his first win slip away. He was more concerned about simply winning the game. He peeked at the scoreboard and saw several teams in the division losing.

"It was a good chance to pick up a game," Penn said. "It would have been a good win for us."

Julio said he did not feel comfortable in that eighth inning. He felt like he often jumped off the mound, which affected his delivery and his ability to control the location of his pitches. He could not stride correctly.

"I didn't have location," he said.

Julio had pitched so well in Monday's win, and his performance was certainly one of the reasons for that day's win. But from the start on Tuesday he was erratic. He allowed a single to right to Rob Mackowiak, then walked Jason Bay. Daryle Ward's three-run home run tied the game. Two batters later, Jack Wilson hit the game-winner.

"I think he was throwing and not pitching tonight," Manager Lee Mazzilli said. "You can't throw a fastball past a fastball hitter in a fastball count. The game has been like that for 100 years."

It was Julio's lack of consistency that compelled the Orioles to switch B.J. Ryan to closer. Baltimore never knew what it would get out of Julio from one game to another.

The rookie Penn, only 20 years old, showed poise and composure even though he pitched without his best stuff. "This is probably the worst of his starts of the three," catcher Sal Fasano said. "But he was in line for the win."

So what now for Penn, who pitched 5 1/3 innings and allowed just three hits and has proven himself to be a capable pitcher in the majors? What happens when Erik Bedard returns to reclaim his spot in the rotation? Will Penn be sent back to the minors?

Penn bears monitoring because no matter what happens, the young pitcher likely will play a part in the team's pennant chase. If he remains in the rotation he'll likely be counted on to win important games down the stretch. But he also could be shopped and used to acquire a top-of-the-rotation starter who could help Baltimore get to the playoffs. Baltimore will have to determine whether it's worth sacrificing a bit of the future in order to try to win now.

Most impressive about Penn was that he made adjustments when he discovered he often was not able to locate pitches. He was wild in the first inning, allowing a double and a walk. By the sixth inning, though, he had allowed just two hits. No runner had reached third base against him.

Four home runs, including one by Sammy Sosa, had given Penn what appeared to be an adequate lead. Sosa entered Tuesday's game 7 for 12 with five home runs and eight walks against Pittsburgh starter Dave Williams. He added to those numbers with a solo home run in the second. Sosa added a single in the eighth.

"That's what happens when you never give up," Sosa said. "I've been hitting the ball well. A lot of people don't recognize that."

Sosa has so dominated Williams, Pirates Manager Lloyd McClendon intentionally walked the right fielder when he batted against Williams in the fourth. Monday night, Miguel Tejada was walked twice with first base open in order to face the slumping Sosa.

Fasano hit two home runs, the first time he has done so since July 30, 2000. "It doesn't mean much now," Fasano said.

It appeared to be set up for Penn to get his first win. He will have to wait.

"I'm not worried about that," Penn said.


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© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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