Indians 4, Orioles 2

Welcome to the Baltimore Orioles, Mr. Omar Daal. You may have heard your new teammates' horror stories from last September -- the self-destructive defense behind you, the punchless lineup-by-attrition that can turn your quality start into a quality loss, the seas of empty seats at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

You may have thought it would be different this year, or different for you. You may have been wrong. Yours was a valiant effort tonight in your Orioles debut, four runs allowed in 61/3 innings. But as you will come to find out, that will rarely do around here.

Indeed, if Monday's Opening Day victory was a giant exclamation of faith that things can be better for the Orioles this season, tonight's 4-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians was a giant "Uh-oh." In Game 2 of the new season, the Orioles brought back all the worst memories of their 2002 finish.

There was the loss of another veteran bat from the lineup tonight, when designated hitter Marty Cordova was a late scratch before the game. There was a flood of weak grounders by the Orioles' hitters against a young pitcher, Indians right-hander Ricardo Rodriguez, making his sixth major league start. There was a game-turning play the Orioles' defense failed to make.

Meantime, only 27,658 fans turned out on a gorgeous spring evening -- a 40 percent drop from the sellout crowd that braved the cold and snow on Opening Day -- to see the Orioles' debut of Daal, whose free agent signing this winter made him the first left-hander to be a regular in the Orioles' rotation in half a decade.

Daal pitched into the seventh inning and trailed by only a run when he handed the game over to the bullpen. But he was undone by the same offensive shortcomings that plagued the Orioles during last year's 4-32 finish, in which they scored two or fewer runs in 21 of those 36 games.

"Everyone was a little jumpy and on-edge," said Manager Mike Hargrove. "It wasn't one of our better offensive nights."

Veteran left fielder B.J. Surhoff, signed this winter as a platoon outfielder but forced into the lineup by injuries, seems particularly lost at the plate. He failed to get the ball out of the infield in four at-bats tonight, and is 0 for 9 on the season.

Asked if he is worried about repeating September's offensive misery, right fielder Jay Gibbons said: "Not at all. It was just one of those games. It's nothing. None of us knew [Rodriguez]. But we know him now."

Still, the state of the Orioles' offense -- which was missing two key components, with David Segui on the disabled list through at least Friday and Cordova scratched tonight because of a lower back strain -- is such that Hargrove felt compelled to bring in his infield with nobody out and a runner on third base in the second inning.

It was a move that would be almost unheard of -- particularly in the American League, where a single run in the second inning is practically meaningless -- with any other team but the Orioles. And it failed to pay off, as rookie first baseman Travis Hafner lifted a soft liner into right-center, bringing in the run.

Daal displayed a fastball that rarely got above 85 mph and a respectable breaking ball, but his best pitch was his change-up, which darted beyond the reach of the Indians' bats all night, at least until he began to tire in the seventh.

"That was the best I've seen him throw," Hargrove said, alluding to Daal's shaky spring training.

Daal's biggest mistake, in fact, was in his defense, not his pitching. He threw away Omar Vizquel's sacrifice bunt attempt, allowing the Indians' first run to score. After a walk to Ellis Burks to load the bases, Daal had to strike out Shane Spencer and Karim Garcia, then get Hafner to ground out to escape without further damage.

The inning turned, however, on Milton Bradley's single off the glove of Orioles third baseman Tony Batista, who failed to come up with the smash to his backhand side. Had he fielded the ball cleanly, the Orioles had a chance at a double play. Instead, everyone was safe and a run would later score.

Batista is the type of player who can confound fans and coaches alike with his inattention to such inconsequential matters as defense, but who can also make everyone forget his shortcomings with one swing of the bat. His towering homer in the bottom of the second was one of those swings, briefly tying the game.

Shortstop Deivi Cruz, who replaced veteran glove-man Mike Bordick this season, had his first homer, a solo shot to left off Indians reliever Jose Santiago in the eighth.

With Daal's pitch count sitting on 95 following the sixth inning, Hargrove allowed the veteran to start the seventh. But it soon became evident he was spent. After doing a masterful job of getting ahead in the count all night, he fell behind 3-0 and 2-0 to the first two Cleveland batters of the inning.

Hargrove finally pulled him after Vizquel's double put runners on second and third with one out, tapping into a sturdy bullpen and calling on right-hander Willis Roberts. But veteran designated hitter Burks smashed a single up the middle, scoring both runs and extending the lead to 4-1.

"He started getting tired," Hargrove conceded. "He was right at his [pitch] limit. But he said he felt good."

Tony Batista rips a double to left field in fourth inning. He also homered for Orioles, who managed only five hits against four pitchers.