ARLINGTON, TEX., JULY 3 -- Midway through a season of drooping batting averages and bloated earned run averages, the Orioles' frustrations entered a new dimension tonight in a 7-2 loss to the Texas Rangers before 20,750 at Arlington Stadium.
First they were playing in a park that has been kinder even than their own. The Orioles entered having won nine of their last 12 games here and their 69-37 (.650) all-time record here is the team's best on the road.
Compound that with facing Bobby Witt, who in two appearances against Baltimore this season had gone 0-2 with an 11.33 ERA. Witt came in with a career 2-5 record and a 7.19 ERA against the Orioles and had last defeated them on Aug. 8, 1987.
This was one that had Baltimore written all over it.
No such luck.
Instead the Orioles remained mired in fifth place in the AL East, 11 games out of first and only percentage points ahead of sixth-place Milwaukee.
"Yeah, it's frustrating," center fielder Mike Devereaux said. "It's real frustrating."
Witt (6-8), Texas's mystery man who has inflicted more frustration on the Rangers' organization than opponents with unrealized potential the last four seasons, was close to masterful. Baltimore, having problems of late scoring numerous base runners, had precious few chances against him.
"The main thing was he threw strikes with his fastball," said Devereaux, who went zero for three and is hitless in his last three games. "And he had us off balance with the slider. He had great control."
Witt struck out seven and walked four while posting his first complete game since September and the first against the Orioles since Bob Welch's on May 11.
"A complete-game victory is always a good outing to me," Rangers Manager Bobby Valentine said. "He settled in once we got the lead and decided to keep it."
The Orioles weren't in an arguing mood.
Joe Orsulak, who with three hits was the only Oriole to solve Witt, did the most damage with a one-out, bases-empty home run in the first. After that, Witt didn't allow a runner past second base until the ninth, when third baseman Scott Coolbaugh misplayed Cal Ripken's leadoff ground ball for a two-base error. Ripken reached third on a wild pitch and scored on Sam Horn's sacrifice fly that Pete Incaviglia caught running into the center field fence.
Witt spaced five singles over the final eight innings. He did walk the leadoff hitter twice, in the fourth and in the seventh, but Mickey Tettleton and Horn, just recalled from Class AAA Rochester, quelled both potential rallies with double-play grounders.
Meanwhile, John Mitchell (0-2), making his fourth start and bidding for his first victory since 1987, wasn't around long enough to see the sunset.
After Orsulak's homer, his sixth of the season, Mitchell gave it back in a hurry. Jack Daugherty, in the Texas lineup because center fielder Gary Pettis was nursing a sore hamstring, got the first of his two doubles off Mitchell and scored the Rangers' first run on Harold Baines's line single to left.
Mitchell could have escaped further damage though, when with two out Incaviglia waved helplessly at consecutive curves out of the strike zone. But two pitches later he grooved a fastball that Incaviglia drilled through the gap in left-center to give Texas a 3-1 lead.
"Basically, the problem was that his pitches were up," Orioles Manager Frank Robinson said.
Mitchell sailed through a perfect second inning but saw his night end early in the third. Daugherty doubled to lead off and scored on Rafael Palmeiro's single. Palmeiro, who had taken second on right fielder Steve Finley's ill-advised throw to the plate, scored when Ruben Sierra finished Mitchell with a double to right-center.
Brian Holton relieved and promptly served up Kevin Reimer's double -- the Rangers' fifth in three innings -- that gave Texas a 6-1 lead.
Holton (one inning, one hit), Jeff Ballard (two innings, one hit in his first major league relief appearance), Ben McDonald (two hitless innings in his first appearance this season) kept the Rangers from inflicting further damage until they touched Kevin Hickey for a run in the eighth.
"Witt just didn't cooperate," Robinson said. "You don't want to take yourself out of the ballgame in the third inning, and that's what we did tonight. Our offense is not geared to scoring seven or eight runs. We're geared to picking up a couple here and there."
And tonight they couldn't even manage that much. Even against Witt, even at their home away from home.