He was out of explanations, out of solutions, out of encouragement, and today Ray Miller finally ran out of patience. Surveying the wreckage of yet another bullpen crash, which sent the Baltimore Orioles to an 8-6 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, Miller lashed out at his relievers.
"It's a crying shame when you have a [expletive] ballclub busting its [expletive] [tail], and you don't have one guy who can take the bull by the horns and shut the [expletive] door," said Miller, whose team lost its eighth straight. "Nobody has stepped up yet. Either step up or we'll get somebody else, a whole [expletive] new bunch of them."
For the third game in a row at SkyDome, the Orioles' bullpen blew a game in the late innings. The first two losses were in 10-inning games. This time, tortured co-closer Mike Timlin (3-7) gave up the winning runs in the eighth, with assists from Doug Johns and Ricky Bones.
The winning hit was a one-out, two-run single by Blue Jays designated hitter Willie Greene, whom the Orioles released last winter. In the Blue Jays' five-run eighth, Johns hit a batter and allowed a single, Bones gave up a walk off and Timlin allowed two ground-ball singles and Shawn Green's home run.
It was the Orioles' 18th blown save of the season, putting them on pace to set a major league record. After the breakdowns Tuesday and Wednesday, it was more than Miller could take.
"I'd be embarrassed to stand in front of the club right now if I was a relief pitcher on this team," he said. "I would be embarrassed to walk through the [expletive] clubhouse."
Blue Jays right-handed reliever John Frascatore (3-0) got all three wins in the series, tying a major league record that had been accomplished only eight other times.
In the three losses here, the Orioles blew a total of three leads after the eighth inning. In two games, the Orioles had battled back from early deficits. Arthur Rhodes lost Tuesday's game in the 10th inning. Timlin and Jesse Orosco blew saves in the ninth and 10th innings, respectively, on Wednesday. Then came today.
The Orioles bring their eight-game losing streak into a harrowing four-game series against the New York Yankees this weekend, with the club psyche at a season low.
"I'm getting sick and tired of seeing people get hit, people getting walked when we have a [expletive] lead, pitching like we're scared to [expletive] death," Miller said. "This [expletive] ballclub is sick. We battled our [expletives] off all day, then our guys come in and walk people, hit people, pitching defensively with a three-run lead to the bottom of the [expletive] order. It's sickening."
Starter Scott Erickson staked the Orioles to a 6-3 lead after six innings, with help from home runs by rookie second baseman Jerry Hairston (his first in the majors) and Harold Baines. But Erickson's day ended with a one-out double by Greene in the seventh inning.
Johns opened the eighth by hitting catcher Darrin Fletcher, Wednesday night's hero, and followed that by giving up a single to Tony Batista. Johns was lifted for Bones.
Bones walked Jacob Brumfield and bounced his first pitch to Homer Bush, bringing Miller to the mound with the hook.
"It's my fault," Bones said. "I went out and didn't do my job. . . . When things aren't going too good, you lose a little confidence and try to be too perfect. But I feel good. I still believe I can get guys out."
With the bases loaded and the Orioles leading by three, Timlin entered with a 1-0 count. He went to 3-0 before getting Bush to hit a chopper to third baseman Jeff Reboulet, which Bush beat out for an RBI single. Shannon Stewart drove in another run with a groundout.
Greene was the first of three left-handed hitters coming up for the Blue Jays, and left-hander Rhodes was ready in the bullpen. But if Miller brought in Rhodes, the Blue Jays would have countered with right-hander Craig Grebeck, and Greene was hitting only .163 against right-handers entering the game.
Miller said he also knew Rhodes has allowed 30 walks in 33 innings.
"I was going to try to use [Rhodes] to close," Miller said. ". . . . I decided to stay [with Timlin] and try to get one out, and then go to Arthur. I wanted him to pitch a clean [ninth] inning, if we ever get to one."
So Miller left Timlin in to face Greene, and Greene singled through the right side of the infield, scoring the tying and winning runs. Green's homer added an insurance run.
"We're pitching like [expletive]," Timlin said. "I came in today, faced three ground-ball situations, and got three ground balls. I'm [peeved] because we lost. I got three ground balls and it didn't work out. That's the only positive thing I can take out of that."
What now for the Orioles? Asked if he will stay with the bullpen's current alignment, or make an overhaul, Miller said, "That is not my job." Of the seven pitchers in the bullpen, Rhodes is the only one with much trade value, and he will be a free agent after the season.
For now, there are only experiments to try. The Orioles could give the ball to someone else, such as seldom-used right-hander Rocky Coppinger, whom the Orioles tried to send down in a botched roster move last week.
"The one guy out there [in the bullpen] who hasn't pitched is Rocky," Miller said. "We're going to find out what the [expletive] he can do."
CAPTION: Orioles' Will Clark, left, and Albert Belle are waiting at home to greet Harold Baines, who hit his 16th home run of the season, a two-run shot in the fifth.
CAPTION: Orioles' B.J. Surhoff fields hit by Tony Batista in eighth inning, when Toronto overcame 6-3 deficit with five runs. (Photo ran in an earlier edition)