Trachsel's Effort Goes for Naught

Travis Hafner is congratulated by Josh Barfield and Johnny Peralta after an eighth-inning grand slam in the Indians' win on Monday.
Travis Hafner is congratulated by Josh Barfield and Johnny Peralta after an eighth-inning grand slam in the Indians' win on Monday. (Nick Wass - AP)
By Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 8, 2007

BALTIMORE, May 7 -- No, Steve Trachsel said, he doesn't feel snakebitten; just the breaks of baseball, he believes. But it would be hard to blame him if he did. Only six active starting pitchers have received less run support than Trachsel in his 15 seasons as a major leaguer. Sixty-five pitchers allowed home runs to Mark McGwire in 1998, but only Trachsel became a trivia answer -- he gave up No. 62, the record-breaker.

On Monday, the latest chapter in his hard-luck career, Trachsel allowed one run in six innings, only to watch as the Baltimore Orioles offense floundered and the bullpen turned his gem into a 10-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians. But given the right-hander's history, it was no wonder that Trachsel stood in front of his locker, shrugged and said, "It's just the way the game works."

When the Orioles signed Trachsel in mid-February, they did so only because Kris Benson had been lost for the season. Baltimore Manager Sam Perlozzo "didn't know much about him," despite his 15 victories last season with the New York Mets.

But a week into the season's second month, after joining the team as an afterthought, Trachsel is the Orioles' best starting pitcher. In his seven starts, he's allowed more than three runs and pitched fewer than five innings once. "A blessing," is how Perlozzo described him. But he has little to show for his 3.70 ERA, just a 1-3 record and three no-decisions.

"That's not what I can worry about," Trachsel said. "I can only worry about what I am doing. I am happy with the way I threw the ball, just not happy with the results."

Trachsel caught another unlucky break in the first inning, when Travis Hafner ripped a line drive back at him. It drilled Trachsel's mid-section, but he somehow trapped the ball against his body with his arm for the third out.

He allowed one run in the third on a Grady Sizemore single, and pitched around trouble in his three subsequent innings. But as he pitched, his forearm began tightening from the blow Hafner's shot delivered. After the sixth inning, Trachsel had thrown 88 pitches. Perlozzo asked him if he was tired.

"I'm getting there," Trachsel said.

"It was affecting my control, especially my curveball," Trachsel said later. "It was a situation where if I go out there and runners get on, he'd have to come out and get me. So I thought it was better at that point for someone to start a fresh inning."

Perlozzo weighed Trachsel's ache and didn't want to take any chances. Besides, he had his bullpen set up just how he wanted it -- Chad Bradford in the seventh, Danys Baez in the eighth, Chris Ray in the ninth.

So Trachsel exited, having allowed one run but with no chance for the victory. The Orioles had scored only one run to that point off Fausto Carmona, who humbled Baltimore for the second time in nine days, several of which he spent with Class AAA Buffalo.

Still, when Bradford came on, the Orioles were in the game. The bullpen quickly changed that. Bradford recorded one out, then allowed consecutive singles. He departed so left-hander John Parrish could face Sizemore, also a lefty.

Parrish threw one pitch to Sizemore, "a flat slider," Parrish said. Sizemore pummeled it to left center, and it hopped over the fence for a ground-rule double. Things wouldn't improve much for Parrish; he walked in a run and surrendered a two-run single to Trot Nixon, who had eight hits in the final two games of the series. The damage: a four-run seventh inning and 5-1 Cleveland lead.

Hafner blasted a grand slam in the eighth, but the way Carmona was pitching, that was purely cosmetic. Before the game, Jay Payton and Kevin Millar watched a video of Carmona's last performance against Baltimore, when he cruised through 8 1/3 innings and forced 18 ground ball outs. They marveled at his sinker. "That's straight down," Payton said. Millar nodded.

He used it masterfully again on Monday, inducing 14 ground ball outs in seven innings. "He's probably thrown the ball better than anybody we've faced," said Payton, who drove in Baltimore's lone run. "He pretty much dominated us."

"He doesn't try to trick you too much," Orioles first baseman Aubrey Huff said. "When someone is throwing a sinkerball that hard and keeping it knee-high, good luck."

More than anybody, Trachsel could use some. But so could his teammates, now 14-18, losers of 11 of their past 14.

"Hopefully, we can collect it as a team and get out of it pretty soon," Huff said. "Because it's not really that fun right now."

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