Baltimore's Losses Mounting
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
DETROIT, May 1 -- For all the harrowing moments during the Baltimore Orioles' recent losing stretch, which Tuesday reached nine of 10 games with a 5-4 loss to the Detroit Tigers, this one might have been the worst. Adam Loewen, the Orioles' 23-year-old pitcher, a future cornerstone of the rotation, stood on the rubber as team trainer Richie Bancells hustled out to the mound, with Manager Sam Perlozzo not far behind.
The loss featured several of the usual pitfalls that have pockmarked the Orioles' descent in the American League East. They went 1 for 16 with runners in scoring position, including Aubrey Huff's game-ending popup with the tying run on third base. They caught raw breaks at the wrong time. And they underwent a late-inning bullpen implosion, this one when Danys Baez allowed two runs in the eighth inning that snapped a 3-3 tie.
Still, the most painful part of the latest loss was Loewen's early departure with what Perlozzo described as a "nagging ache in his forearm." Loewen left after five innings and 85 pitches, Perlozzo not wanting to risk further damage to an injury that he feels is not serious.
Loewen did not address media members after the game, but Perlozzo said he did not think the injury would cause Loewen to miss any starts. He also said Loewen had battled the same ailment for three starts, but it didn't affect his pitching until Tuesday night.
"It's not a serious spot or anything," Perlozzo said. "It's just an annoyance. It was bothering him on the breaking ball, the curveball. I thought he was a little different in the fifth, and I didn't want to take any chances with him."
Loewen had cruised through the first 4 2/3 innings, and he had an 0-2 count on Neifi Perez when Bancells visited him. The lefty convinced him and Perlozzo that he was fit to stay in the game, and he retired Perez.
But in the next inning, the ailment affected Loewen. He had walked only two batters, allowed no runs and four hits, all singles, before the fifth inning. He seemed to have solved most of the control problems that had made him the league leader in walks; of his first 33 pitches, 25 were strikes.
But he displayed none of that command after his injury. He left pitches up in the strike zone. His curve, once darting sharply across the plate, broke less. The Tigers took advantage, blasting the ball all over Comerica Park. Craig Monroe delivered the largest blow, a two-run homer to left.
Loewen had been lit up, allowing three of his seven hits in his final inning, as well as all three of his runs. But Perlozzo stayed calm.
"It's supposedly a manageable situation," he said. "It's a nagging thing. It just came into play tonight. Richie seems to think it's not an issue where we're talking about injuring somebody's arm or anything like that. We can't seem to get it to go right."
Lately, the same could be said for the whole team. The trouble Tuesday night peaked in the eighth, when Baez did something that causes losses to pile up: He walked leadoff hitter Carlos Guillen on four pitches.
Brandon Inge followed with a sacrifice bunt, and Perlozzo ordered an intentional walk of Curtis Granderson to face pinch hitter Sean Casey. He has struggled lately, he's slow, and he hits a lot of ground balls -- a perfect double play candidate, Perlozzo thought.
Casey did hit a ground ball, but it was smoked to third base. Melvin Mora dove, but it ricocheted off his glove and dribbled into left field. Casey clobbered the pitch, sure, but a foot or two to the left, and it would have been the double play Perlozzo envisioned.
"I made the right pitch, and I got a ground ball," Baez said. "Sometimes you can have control of your pitches you throw, but you don't have control of where the ground ball is going to be. I feel that I made good pitches."
The Orioles never had to be in such a tight situation. They had starter Chad Durbin, a Washington Nationals castoff, on the rocks for all 3 2/3 of his shaky innings, but couldn't knock him out. Durbin walked six and allowed three hits, but the Orioles stranded seven runners and scored two runs off him.
"When we were going good, we were getting those kind of breaks," Perlozzo said. "Now we're not."