Lowly Devil Rays Are Too Much for Orioles

Bruce Chen
Orioles' Bruce Chen tags out Tampa Bay Devil Rays' Toby Hall at the plate in the third inning Friday. Hall tried to score on a single by Damon Hollins. (Steve Nesius - AP)

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By Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 23, 2005

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. July 22 -- It was perhaps a bit of good fortune that Baltimore Orioles Manager Lee Mazzilli watched Friday's game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays from a suite at Tropicana Field. The manager, serving a one-game suspension, might have flipped more than a tray of gum had he been in the dugout to witness Baltimore's 7-5 loss to the Devil Rays. The Orioles' most reliable starter, Bruce Chen, failed to finish the fifth inning and seemed mostly ineffective after being struck in the left shin in the first inning. Baltimore's offense, punchless for almost a week now, had just eight hits against a Tampa Bay pitching staff that ranks last in the American League in ERA.

"I thought we jumped out on [Tampa starter Seth McClung]," said acting manager Sam Perlozzo, Baltimore's bench coach. "I thought we had a chance to get the guy out of the game shortly. But they scored six runs against us and took the starch out of us."

Baltimore hardly appears to be a team in the middle of a pennant race. At least it didn't lose any ground in the division because of the Boston Red Sox' loss to the Chicago White Sox. The Orioles have lost five of six games, though a possible roster shuffle may ignite them.

For almost a week, the Orioles have played under the shadow of a trade with the Florida Marlins for pitcher A.J. Burnett that will undoubtedly reshape the roster. The likely trade of Sidney Ponson to Tampa Bay, the Texas Rangers or the San Diego Padres means Baltimore will be without four players who were on the Opening Day roster. The trade for Burnett, which had been held up over Mike Lowell's contract, appears to be near completion because of the money freed up by the possible Ponson trade.

Mazzilli was suspended on June 18 for two games after his tirade following a ruling by umpires that a drive hit to the left field stands by Chris Gomez was foul. Mazzilli, watching from the dugout, thought the ball had landed fair for a home run. He charged out from the dugout, argued for several minutes and was ejected. On his way to the clubhouse, Mazzilli flipped a tray full of bubble gum onto the field. He was suspended for two games, but after a conference call with John McHale Jr., baseball's executive vice president of administration, the suspension was reduced to one game.

"You'd like to have zero games, but I'll abide by with the ruling and go with it," Mazzilli said.

Baltimore was also missing Steve Kline, who began serving a four-game suspension stemming from an incident on June 27 when he argued a balk call. On his way to the dugout after being ejected, Kline yelled at umpire Marty Foster.

"I thought I'd get a couple days off," Kline said. "[Detroit reliever Kyle] Farnsworth slams a guy and gets five days, and I get four for cussing at a guy. That's their decision. You can't argue with the law I guess unless you're in Hazzard County."

Immediately after that game, Kline told reporters that umpires always favor the Yankees. At the time the suspension was announced, baseball spokesman Pat Courtney said that Kline's comments had been a factor. Apparently the decision not to reduce the suspension also took those comments into account.

"I think they hit me for what I said in the paper about favoritism," Kline told reporters. "Thanks guys."

As for Chen, he did not appear comfortable after being struck by a ball hit by Tampa Bay left fielder Carl Crawford.

"If it affected him, it probably threw his rhythm off," Perlozzo said. "He was probably thinking about it. He scuffled after that."

The Devil Rays scored one run that inning and added five more in the second inning on a solo homer by Damon Hollins and a grand slam by Aubrey Huff. "At first [the leg] was numb," Chen said. "I had no energy in the leg. But I'm not trying to make excuses. I think I just pitched poorly. I had everything I needed to pitch a good game."

Chen's outing ruined what at first appeared to be a slight revival of the Baltimore offense. Baltimore scored four runs in the first five innings against McClung after scoring five runs total the past two games against the Minnesota Twins. One of the runs scored Friday night was on a home run by Larry Bigbie, one of the players likely to be sent to the Marlins. Bigbie, perhaps in his final night as an Oriole, had three hits.

Jay Gibbons, who struck out three times, left the game after the fifth inning with back spasms. He is not expected to miss an extended amount of time.

Baltimore entered the three-game series thinking it had to sweep the Devil Rays in order to remain in contention for the division. Perhaps the possible trade for Burnett and the trading of Ponson will do just that instead.


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