O's Are Doomed by Big Inning

By Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 12, 2006

BALTIMORE, Sept. 11 -- The options for Orioles Manager Sam Perlozzo in the bullpen were clearly lacking in the seventh inning, but in an almost unbelievable display of restraint or perhaps stubbornness, some might say lack of judgment, the Baltimore manager did not budge when Jim Hoey, a 23-year-old rookie who began the season in Class A, imploded.

No rational explanation exists as to why Perlozzo allowed Hoey to bear the brunt of a New York Yankees' rally in the seventh inning of a 9-6 loss that wiped away a three-run Baltimore lead, except for the fact that in the bullpen waited a pitcher who once this season lost a game on an intentional walk attempt, and another hurler whose nose bled on the mound, forcing him out of the game, in his major league debut earlier this week.

With a 97 mph fastball he could not control, Hoey walked two, hit two more, and allowed a bases-loaded-clearing double to Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, which might have been caught if Perlozzo's options in the outfield weren't also lacking.

Left fielder Fernando Tatis, who had never played the outfield until this season, misplayed the ball and then made a laughable flop toward the ball, coming several inches short of making the catch.

Perhaps it would have been prudent if at this point, Perlozzo emerged from the dugout to remove Hoey from the game. But yet he did not make a move and Hoey allowed a run-scoring single to Bernie Williams.

During several points of that embarrassing seventh inning, Perlozzo could have removed Hoey. Brian Burres, the left-hander with the nose bleed, could have been brought in to face the lefty Cano or the lefty Bobby Abreu, who hit a deep sacrifice fly. Perhaps Todd Williams, whose sidearm delivery causes him to struggle in throwing an intentional ball, could have been brought into face the righty Derek Jeter, who walked against Hoey.

Finally, after Williams' single, Perlozzo emerged to boos. Hoey was jeered on his way back to the dugout, as was Perlozzo.

With a quick sprint to the mound after the sixth inning, after Williams was left with his bat in his hands after a called third strike, Rodrigo Lopez had celebrated an outing that might have reclaimed some faith from the Orioles coaching staff. Clearly Lopez was satisfied with his six innings, in which he allowed just two runs on five hits, in emergency duty for Kris Benson, who was sent home with strep throat. Lopez found out he was starting less than four hours before the start of Monday's game. Lopez did his job. The bullpen did not.

Before the Orioles announced he would start the game, Lopez, wearing street clothes and recently settled into the clubhouse, walked past the Baltimore easel board where the starting lineup and the day's starting pitcher are listed and put his name in the open slot where Benson's name once had been.

On his way to his locker, he flashed a wide grin of satisfaction. Lopez dearly does not want to be a reliever and said he would not accept such a role next year. That might leave the Orioles with no choice but to trade Lopez, their Opening Day starter the past two seasons. If Lopez intends to stay with the Orioles as a starter, then he must perform ably every opportunity he gets, like for example on Monday.

Lopez's six innings, though not superb, kept Baltimore in the game long enough to mount a comeback against New York starter Randy Johnson. The Yankees scored two runs against Lopez in the second inning, one scoring on a single by Melky Cabrera, the other on a fielder's choice by Johnny Damon.

Baltimore halved New York's 2-0 lead with a triple by Tatis. Baltimore took the lead with a three-run rally in the fifth.

While trailing 8-6 in the eighth inning, Perlozzo made another dubious decision. With a man on first base, Perlozzo pinch hit Chris Widger for the left-handed David Newhan to face the left-handed Mike Myers. The problem was that Widger, because of a pinched nerve in his neck, had not hit since Aug. 27 and had not had a hit since Aug. 12. He struck out easily.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company