By Marc Carig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
BALTIMORE, Sept. 22 -- Little more than seven months ago, the Baltimore Orioles gathered in Fort Lauderdale for spring training, where they repeated drills to ensure that fundamental mistakes would not be their downfall. But on Monday, the Orioles provided a reminder of how long it's been since those sunny spring afternoons in Florida.
The Orioles fell to the playoff-bound Tampa Bay Rays, 4-2, before 12,489 at Camden Yards.
They didn't drop their sixth consecutive game, however, because of Tampa Bay phenom David Price, who enjoyed a solid big league debut as a starter. Instead, it was a base running blunder that Orioles Manager Dave Trembley called "embarrassing," and a fielding error that led to the go-ahead run.
"The games that you should win we should win," Trembley said. "I don't care what time of the year it is, I don't care what game it is. If you have an opportunity to win the game, do the right things to win it."
After the loss, Trembley fumed mostly over a base running miscue in the sixth that led to an inning-ending double play. With one out and the score tied at 2, Oscar Salazar was on first and Aubrey Huff on second for the Orioles. Ramón Hernández lifted a sinking liner to center field on a 3-2 pitch as both runners took off immediately.
But Rays center fielder B.J. Upton caught the ball and easily doubled-up Huff at second, thus killing the potential rally.
"It's three balls and two strikes and you're running and it's a fly ball," Trembley said. "Don't you stop? It's not kamikaze baseball. You don't just run till you're out. To me that's a total mental breakdown."
Huff took a different view of the play.
"Can't do nothing about that," Huff said. "That's not a base running mistake. I mean we're on the move on the pitch, he catches it in shallow center, a soft line drive. If Oscar's not out, I'm out. Ain't no way I could have gotten back on second base."
Tampa Bay took the lead for good in the seventh inning after Brian Roberts bobbled Gabe Gross's routine grounder to second base. Gross later scored the winning run.
The miscues changed the complexion of what had been an unexpected pitching duel between the much-celebrated Price and Orioles starter Brian Bass.
Their pedigrees couldn't have been more disparate. Price, the top overall pick in the 2007 draft, was making his first major league start after a season in the minor leagues and a pair of relief appearance. Bass was making just his third big league start after seven seasons of toiling in the minors.
But entering the fifth, neither man had allowed a hit.
With a fastball registering in the mid-90s, Price kept the Orioles off-balance, allowing only a pair of walks through four innings while displaying the composure of a veteran.
"Obviously, there's been a lot of hype behind him and he's definitely got the stuff with the hype," Huff said.
But the journeyman Bass struck out five and walked just one until the fifth inning, when he lost control. Bass walked three consecutive hitters to load the bases, signaling an end to his night even though he did not allow a hit.
"I don't think it has anything to do with being comfortable or uncomfortable," said Bass, who was charged with allowing two runs when reliever Randor Bierd allowed a hit. "I think it's just, stamina wise, it's not quite where it should be."
Meanwhile, Price left a tie game after allowing a pair of runs in the fifth and getting the first out in the sixth inning. Price took a no-decision, though he allowed just one earned run in 5 1/3 innings.
"I pounded the zone, challenged their hitters, worked out of a couple jams," Price said. "So, not too bad."
Orioles Notes: The Orioles on Monday named Matt Wieters the organization's minor league player of the year, a forgone conclusion after the catcher excelled at both Class A Frederick and Class AA Bowie.
Earlier in the month, Baseball America named Wieters its minor league player of the year, after hitting .355 with 27 homers and 91 RBI in his first full pro season.
"To be thought of within your organization is always something special," Wieters said. But at the same time, also to be thought of across the whole minor leagues, is also special. . . .
Trembley said injured starter Jeremy Guthrie will throw a simulated game on Wednesday, the outcome of which will determine if he makes another start this year. Guthrie said he felt excellent after throwing 45 pitches in a bullpen session on Monday. The pitcher is on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Sept. 6 with right shoulder impingement. . . .
Right-hander Alfredo Simon will start the second game of Tuesday's scheduled doubleheader, the Orioles announced late Sunday. Melvin Mora, who has battled with a hamstring injury suffered more than three weeks ago, was out of the lineup again on Monday. . . .
The Orioles announced on Monday that its Sept. 6 rainout against the Oakland Athletics will not be made up. Fans with tickets to the game (originally scheduled for Sept. 6) can exchange tickets for any remaining home games this season or any non-prime home games next April.