Baez, Orioles Stumble in the 10th

Danys Baez
The sight of opposing batters rounding the bases after hitting a home run has become all too familiar to struggling Orioles reliever Danys Baez. (Joe Giza - Reuters)
By Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 25, 2007

BALTIMORE, May 24 -- The two sounds Danys Baez heard Thursday night surely will ring in his sleep, worse than most nightmares. One was the deafening crack of his flat sinker off the bat of Alex Rios. The other was the boos that cascaded from every corner of Oriole Park at Camden Yards before, during and after Baez took the mound in the 10th inning.

The boos grew fiercest after Rios launched a Baez's would-be sinker into the left field seats, the decisive blow in the Baltimore Orioles' 5-4 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. Manager Sam Perlozzo kept the embattled Baez in the bullpen as long as he could, bypassing him in the eighth for a trio of pitchers that couldn't preserve a one-run lead. Out of options in the 10th, Baez came in, the ball flew out and the game was lost.

Perlozzo has maintained Baez will be the setup man for the majority of the season, which his $4 million a season price tag would demand. But Baez imploded for the fifth time in six outings, and keeping his late-inning role has become a risky proposition.

"Hopefully, it's not a devastating thing for him," Perlozzo said. "We're obviously going to have to pick and choose when to get him in the game until we get him back on track."

That will take a change in Baez's mechanics. Baez made his name as a closer with his devastating sinker, but, "my sinker is not working right now," he said, which renders it a straight fastball up in the strike zone and over the middle of the plate. The problem is not his health, he says, and it's not his mind-set.

"I'm going to be there," Baez said. "When I go out there, I go out there 100 percent. Sometimes, pitches work out, sometimes not. This is a tough time of the year. But I know I'm going to be good."

Baltimore may have avoided extra innings if not for a risky move by third base coach Juan Samuel in the eighth. With Melvin Mora on first and two outs, Nick Markakis lofted a blooper to left field. Toronto's outfielders were playing close the line to cut off possible doubles and left fielder Matt Stairs charged in and dove at the last moment.

Mora was running with the pitch and when Stairs couldn't make the catch, it appeared the Orioles would have men on second and third, giving Miguel Tejada a chance to win the game. But Samuel windmilled Mora home.

"He's aggressive," Mora said. "I love him. That's the way you're supposed to play, not afraid of nothing. I knew he was going to send me home, because that's the winning run right there."

Stairs rifled a two-hop throw to Jason Phillips, who tagged Mora out by about 15 feet, "a pretty easy out," Perlozzo said.

Said Samuel: "I would do it again. Same situation, I would do it again. We had the outfielders playing no double. They were playing down the line, the outfielder dove for it. I would do the same thing again."

So the game headed to extras and, disastrously, into Baez's hands. Afterward, Tejada sought Baez. "Be strong in the mind," Tejada said. "And keep pushing. Keep pitching. And everything is going to be fine."

Another sound was in Baez's ears then -- the silence of a losing clubhouse.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company