Everything wrong with the Baltimore Orioles' pitching staff was on display today in an 11-7 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies: starting pitching that forces an early call to the bullpen, long relief that can't go long and short relief that can't be summoned because of frailty, overuse or inability.
Today's sellout crowd of 47,833 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards had no idea it would get an encapsulated version of the first 55 games of the season. But with more than a third of the season finished, the Orioles (21-34) have played this same game dozens of times.
"It's a crying shame," Manager Ray Miller said. "It's pathetic. Absolutely pathetic."
All you have to do to know the story of this game is read the bullpen's pitching lines: Doug Johns, no innings, four runs; Mike Fetters, one inning, two runs; Ricky Bones, two innings, two runs; Rocky Coppinger, one inning, two runs.
Left-hander Arthur Rhodes was unavailable because of a stiff back, and Mike Timlin and Jesse Orosco were available only in limited use.
"It seems like for the last year and a half, whenever Arthur can't pitch, everything falls apart," Miller said.
Today's meltdown was no isolated instance: Since May 10, the Orioles' bullpen has an 8.08 earned run average (53 runs in 59 innings). The relief pitchers cannot be counted on to hold a lead -- they have converted only 9 of 17 save chances -- nor keep the Orioles in a close game.
Fetters, who gave up a two-run homer to Scott Rolen in the Phillies' six-run sixth inning, strained his right elbow and did not accompany the team to Florida after the game. Instead, he will have his elbow examined Monday or Tuesday. Fetters could end up on the disabled list, with Gabe Molina or Doug Linton recalled from Class AAA Rochester.
As Fetters walked off the mound today after the sixth inning, with the Orioles having turned a four-run lead into a two-run deficit, the crowd was almost equally divided between cheering Phillies fans and booing Orioles fans.
"It makes a frustrating season even more frustrating," Fetters said. He later said he regretted not informing the team of his injury, which he felt while warming up. "I'm not using it as an excuse. . . . But maybe if I said something we wouldn't have been down two runs after I left. It was a bonehead move on my part."
The Orioles and starting pitcher Juan Guzman led 5-1 after five innings -- the big hits being Cal Ripken's fifth homer of the season and a two-run double by Charles Johnson -- when Miller made his first call to the bullpen.
Guzman, who had drawn Miller's wrath in previous starts with a litany of embarrassing mental mistakes, felt he should have been left in the game based on his improved pitching in the fifth inning, when he retired the Phillies on a double play and a strikeout.
"I was settling down," Guzman said. "By the fifth, I felt I was getting into a rhythm. . . . I could have helped the team. I know the situation I'm in now, where I'm inconsistent in the strike zone. The only way for me to get better is to keep getting more work."
Guzman had allowed just one run in those five innings, but he allowed 11 base runners and benefited from two putouts at home plate in the third and fourth innings. In one stretch in the third inning, he fell behind 3-1 or 3-0 to four out of five hitters.
"Obviously, [Guzman] was skating on real thin ice," Miller said. "I was holding my breath the whole time. He didn't look very sharp. I couldn't wait to get Johns in there. . . . I was counting on him. He's the one rested guy we had."
But Johns, the left-hander, walked Ron Gant to open the sixth. Three batters later, Johns still hadn't recorded an out and the Phillies had cut the lead to 5-4. Fetters came in, gave up another walk, an RBI groundout and Rolen's homer.
The Orioles tied the game in the bottom of the inning on Johnson's 11th homer of the season, a two-run blast to left-center. But Bones (0-2) gave those two runs back in the seventh, on a two-run homer by Mike Lieberthal, who added a solo shot in the ninth off Coppinger.
"It's very difficult," Johnson said. "I look around this room and see guys who can play baseball. To not win games we know we can win, it's frustrating."
Data: at Florida Marlins, today, Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WTOP-1500, WBAL-1090, WTOP-FM-107.7, WMJS-FM-92.7
Records: Orioles 21-34; Marlins 21-36
Pitchers: Today -- Orioles RHP Mike Mussina (7-3, 4.26 ERA) vs. RHP Ryan Dempster (3-1, 2.89); Tuesday -- Orioles RHP Jason Johnson (0-1, 9.31) vs. RHP Alex Fernandez (1-3, 2.92); Wednesday -- Orioles RHP Scott Erickson (1-8, 7.11) vs. RHP Dennis Springer (2-6, 3.97).
CAPTION: Despite being upended by B.J. Surhoff, Philadelphia second baseman Kevin Jordan is able to complete double play.