Yanks Come Back, Leave O's Behind

Orioles Manager Lee Mazzilli gets between home plate umpire Marty Foster and reliever Steve Kline, on whom Foster called a balk in the eighth inning.
Orioles Manager Lee Mazzilli gets between home plate umpire Marty Foster and reliever Steve Kline, on whom Foster called a balk in the eighth inning. (By Joe Giza -- Reuters)
By Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 28, 2005

BALTIMORE, June 27 -- The Baltimore Orioles claimed their losing streak had not caused them to fall apart. Throughout their recent struggles they maintained their composure, if not their lead in the American League East.

That couldn't be said on Monday night, however, as Orioles relief pitcher Steve Kline erupted after being called for a balk, which contributed to Baltimore's 6-4 loss to the New York Yankees at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

The Orioles have now lost six straight in part because Kline was called for moving his back foot prior to a pitch to Jason Giambi with no outs in the eighth inning.

After the balk, which moved Jorge Posada to second base, Kline immediately charged toward second base umpire Laz Diaz. After several moments, Kline went to home plate umpire Marty Foster. Orioles Manager Lee Mazzilli ran from the dugout to talk to Foster while trying to hold back a furious Kline, who was ejected. Neither Kline nor Mazzilli said he saw a balk after watching replays.

"You can't have a bogus call in a tight game like that," Kline said. "I really didn't see anything. I didn't do anything to deceive the runner. It was a [expletive] call. You have to have some flexibility with movement. I'm going to go out there like a statue tomorrow and pose on the mound for seven hours."

As he left the field, Kline tossed the ball in the direction of the umpires. All the anger and frustration of a team in decline seemed to manifest itself with those few moments on the field in the eighth inning. The losing and the long season for Kline, who has struggled on the field in his first year with the Orioles, finally showed itself in one quick rant.

It was a familiar, frustrating end for the Orioles, who lead the majors with eight balks. Posada later scored on a sacrifice fly to center field by Bernie Williams, which proved to be the deciding run.

"I think they favor the Yankees," Kline said. "The umpires suck up to them. They are the cream of the crop."

The umpiring crew did not see it that way.

"He started and he stopped," said third base umpire Dana Demuth. "Once you start to take your set position, it has to be uninterrupted. Marty Foster made the call first, then Laz made it right behind him. When you have two or three of the other umpires immediately coming up with it, it's a pretty obvious call."

Baltimore has been painfully sloppy during its losing streak. Aside from the balk, the Orioles also had two passed balls and hit into a pair of double plays to end threats in the sixth and eighth innings. Perhaps the losses have worn on Mazzilli. In his postgame news conference the manager called out reliever Jorge Julio for not covering first base on what could have been a double play. First baseman Rafael Palmeiro fielded a grounder by Ruben Sierra and threw to second for the first out. Sierra, however, beat Julio to the bag, which allowed Posada to advance from second to third on the play. Posada then scored on Williams's sacrifice fly.

"Julio has got to get over and cover first base, that's the bottom line," Mazzilli said. "He wasn't there and it cost us a run. That made the game tight. He's got to get over there. There's no excuses."

Julio seemed surprised that his manager had called him out publicly.

"I was there but Ruben can still run," Julio said. "My movement on the mound takes me the other way. It's difficult for me to recover. I was there at the same time as the ball."

Mazzilli also chastised a reporter for suggesting Sammy Sosa, who left four men on base, should have bunted in the eighth inning with a man on first base with no outs.

"Do you know the game?" Mazzilli asked the reporter.

It is becoming difficult to gauge how to value games against a Yankees team that appears rather ordinary. In the short term, Monday's loss meant Baltimore's losing streak reached six games and that the Orioles remained 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox, who after seven consecutive games finally lost.


© 2005 The Washington Post Company