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Olson's Best Is Not Enough for O's

Baltimore Falls to .500 Despite Its Home-Grown Starter's Solid Performance: Athletics 2, Orioles 1

By Marc Carig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 6, 2008; 2:13 AM

OAKLAND, Calif., May 5 - Garrett Olson grew up in California's Central Valley, just a three-hour drive from McAfee Coliseum, making it easy for about 40 of the pitcher's closest friends and family members to watch in person as he made just his second start with the Baltimore Orioles this season.

With his support group in the stands, the left-handed Olson continued his surprising dominance since being called up from Class AAA Norfolk last week, allowing just four hits in 6 1/3 innings against the Oakland Athletics. He allowed only one run and struck out seven, the highest total for any Orioles starter this year. Still, Olson's effort was not enough in a 2-1 extra-innings loss to the A's before an announce crowd of 10,128.

"I just feel more consistent with myself," said Olson. "You always don't know what you're going to have when you go out there everyday. But I feel like if I just go after hitters, you can find your stuff sometime in the game."

But with Olson long out of the game, the A's broke through in the 10th off reliever Jim Johnson. Emil Brown drove a single to center field, scoring Daric Barton from third to win the game, which ended Johnson's streak of 18 straight scoreless innings.

"That was a well pitched game obviously on both sides," Orioles Manager Dave Trembley said. "They made some very big defensive plays, we did, scoring opportunities were limited on both sides. They ended up getting the hit to win."

Baltimore dropped its third straight game for only the second time this season and has lost five of its last six. The loss also drops Baltimore to 16-16, the first time the Orioles have been at the .500 mark since winning the second game of the year.

After collecting a season-high 15 hits against the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday, the Orioles reverted to familiar form. They hit into double plays, got caught in hit-and-runs and failed to do much against A's lefty Dana Eveland. In his first career start against the Orioles, Eveland left after seven shutout innings.

"We're just not scoring runs for our guys and they're busting their [butts] out there," Orioles first baseman Aubrey Huff said. "Our young guys in the pen are keeping us in it, our starters are keeping us in it, we're just not scoring."

Even when the Orioles created opportunities, they were wiped out with some bad luck. The Orioles watched in the first and sixth innings as hit-and-run plays backfired and ended potential rallies.

With the bases loaded in the seventh, Oakland's Rajai Davis grounded toward first base against reliever Jamie Walker. Baltimore's Kevin Millar ranged far to his right to field the ball, so far that he cut off second baseman Brian Roberts, leaving nobody covering the bag at first and allowing Emil Brown to score from third to give the A's 1-0 lead.

The Orioles tied the game in the ninth against A's closer Huston Street. He allowed a leadoff double to Melvin Mora before he walked Aubrey Huff. Millar hit a fly ball deep enough to center field for Mora to tag and slide safely into third.

But with one out and the tying run on third, Ramón Hernández bounced a ball to shortstop Bobby Crosby, who appeared to lose his grip on the baseball just as he was to throw home. The slight hesitation forced Crosby to throw to first base instead, and Mora scored to tie the game.

But that's all the Orioles could manage, leaving Olson's performance as the only consolation prize. The left-hander again showed good command and signs of a comfort level he never came close approaching during his struggles last year.

"He's improved," Trembley said. "His approach, he's a lot more businesslike, his focused is more improved. His body language is better, plus his stuff his better."

© 2008 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive