Fireworks were exploding over their heads, and SkyDome was filling with smoke and the roar of 21,137 fans as the Baltimore Orioles jogged off the field in shame tonight. There are only so many ways to lose a game, and the Orioles went through almost all of them in a 10-9 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Blue Jays catcher Darrin Fletcher won the game with a three-run homer off Orioles left-hander Jesse Orosco in the bottom of the 10th inning, as the Orioles' bullpen blew its second lead in as many innings. Mike Timlin had blown a 7-6 lead in the ninth.
"Another devastating loss," Orioles Manager Ray Miller said. "I worry about the psyche of the club. The ballclub hasn't quit, and I don't want it to quit. But they're getting punched in the mouth."
The loss was the Orioles' seventh in a row and, coupled with Tampa Bay's victory over Boston, put them back in the American League East cellar for the first time since June 12.
Fletcher, who also hit a three-run homer off Orosco in Baltimore on April 11, smashed a 2-0 slider over the right field wall, bringing home Shawn Green and Carlos Delgado, who had reached on a walk and a double, respectively. Green, Delgado and Fletcher are left-handed hitters -- exactly the sort of hitters Orosco (0-2) is paid to retire.
"The bottom line is, if you're paid to get somebody out," Miller said, "you'd better get somebody out."
"I threw [the pitch to Fletcher] in the completely wrong place," Orosco said. "He deserved to hit it out. . . . It's even worse because of what has happened this year. Just add it to the fire."
The Orioles (32-44) had taken a 9-7 lead in the top of the 10th off Blue Jays right-hander Paul Quantrill on an infield single by Jeff Conine, a double by Cal Ripken, a single by Brady Anderson and a sacrifice fly by Charles Johnson.
But in the bottom of the 10th, Orosco was pressed into service as the Orioles' closer because of Timlin's meltdown the inning before and the unavailability of Arthur Rhodes, who threw 23 pitches Tuesday night.
"You run out of people," Miller said. "Jesse has saved games before, and [the Blue Jays] had three left-handers and a switch hitter coming up."
"That," Orosco said, "was my opportunity."
Orosco's unraveling cost the Orioles the game, but he wouldn't have gotten up from the bench if Timlin hadn't blown the save in the bottom of the ninth. Timlin, the Orioles' former closer, current co-closer and poster boy for the blame-ridden bullpen, entered the ninth with a 7-6 lead but surrendered a pinch-hit, leadoff homer to former Oriole Willie Greene, tying the game.
The Orioles signed Timlin as a free agent this winter to a four-year, $16 million contract based largely on Timlin's second half last season, when he converted 18 of 19 save opportunities. Tonight's derailment already was his sixth blown save of the season.
Timlin, who inherited the 7-6 lead from left-hander Doug Johns, was coming off a pair of encouraging outings in the past week, which had Miller again praising his "awesome" sinker. But it took him two pitches to Greene to end the feeling of goodwill.
Mike Bordick's two-run homer in the seventh off Blue Jays starter David Wells gave the Orioles their first lead since the bottom of the seventh inning Friday night against New York -- a span of 36 innings.
On that night, the lead lasted half an inning. Tonight, it lasted two.
Bordick's was the third homer allowed on the night by Wells (8-7), who had given up only a solo homer by B.J. Surhoff, No. 18 for the Orioles' left fielder, through the first five innings.
Orioles starter Mike Mussina needed 78 pitches to make it through an uncharacteristically shaky first three innings, in which he yielded four runs. Green's home run in the first, his 20th of the year, put the Orioles in a familiar position. It was the third game in a row in which they have trailed after the first inning.
But Conine, whose third-inning error led to the Blue Jays' fifth run, completed the Orioles' comeback from a 5-1 deficit with a two-run homer off Wells to cap a four-run sixth. It was the first of several times tonight the Orioles battled back, only to have their efforts wasted.
"We all know the guys [in the bullpen] are capable," Conine said. "Every time we take a lead, I feel we can win the game. We're just in a bad funk. I wish there was an easy answer."
CAPTION: Jerry Hairston keeps track of throw to first as Blue Jays' Jacob Brumfield disrupts double play in second inning. Orioles have lost seven straight.