Never Say Never: O's Win on Sunday

Loss Streak on Day of Rest Put to Rest: Orioles 5, Angels 2

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 28, 2008; Page E07

BALTIMORE, July 27 -- They gathered at Kevin Millar's locker just before game time, and though details are sketchy, the only item on the agenda for this players-only meeting was ending what had become a ludicrous losing streak. For 15 straight weeks, while the rest of the world enjoyed church picnics, department store sales or even monster truck rallies, Sunday, Sunday, Sunday meant sure defeat for the Baltimore Orioles.

And as the streak grew a life of its own -- the organization even launched a ticket promotion based on snapping the Sunday struggles -- they found it more and more difficult when pressed to explain such a fluky occurrence.

Then a glorious thing happened at Camden Yards: Left-hander Garrett Olson gave the Orioles his first nose-plugs-not-required start in weeks, backup catcher Guillermo Quiroz enjoyed a career day and the Orioles ended their Sunday slide with a 5-2 victory against the Los Angeles Angels.

"It's done. It's dead," Manager Dave Trembley said, puffing on a victory cigar after the game. "Put it to rest."

The homage to legendary Boston Celtics Coach Red Auerbach provided Trembley with a much-needed respite from what has been a season-staining stretch of games for the Orioles. The victory ended a 4-7 homestand and kept the Orioles from dropping a sixth straight game, which would have been a season worst -- all in addition to ending the Sunday streak.

"It's a fluky thing, 15 straight Sundays," said Millar, who declined to divulge much about the gathering at his locker. "We don't have to hear about the streak. I'd have to look back at the games to see how close we were. It was crazy."

With an injury to third baseman Melvin Mora and with second baseman Brian Roberts battling a slump, Trembley trotted out a starting lineup that featured reserves Juan Castro, Jay Payton and the little-used Quiroz, a regular during Sunday matinees because Trembley often chooses to spare starting catcher Ramón Hernández from the strain of playing day games after night games.

So, Quiroz has had perhaps the best view of the streak, serving behind the plate for 11 of the 15 losses.

"Sometimes it was the offense. Sometimes it was the defense," he said. "But today we put a little bit of everything together."

Quiroz was a big part of that, going 3 for 4 with a career-high three RBI, including a two-out, two-run single in the third inning to give the Orioles a 4-0 lead.

"Everybody knew about it," Quiroz said. "We just wanted to get out of it and we did today. We played a really good ballgame."

Yet, Quiroz deflected most of the credit toward Olson, whose quality start came at a good time. Trembley has grown increasingly frustrated with the failings of the team's starting pitching, and the grousing had reached unprecedented levels this weekend.

Olson responded by pitching six solid innings. He allowed two runs on seven hits. Though the outing was not without its flaws, it was good enough to earn Olson a pat on the back from Trembley and a warm ovation from the crowd as he exited with two on and nobody out in the seventh inning.

It was the first time in four starts that Olson allowed five runs or less.

"He wasn't perfect, but he had better command of his fastball," Trembley said. "That's the whole key with him. He had better command of his fastball."

Olson acknowledged that one of the most gratifying aspects of his outing was pitching his team to its first Sunday victory since beating the Seattle Mariners on April 6.

"I was thinking about it," Olson said. "It's definitely awesome. Last Sunday, we were all kind of fed up. It was definitely a goal of mine, and I think everybody here just wanted to end it finally. Fortunately for us, we did, and now we can move on."

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