Angels 5, Orioles 3
The situation was this: Bottom of the eighth inning, two-run lead for the Baltimore Orioles. Two switch-hitters and a right-handed hitter due up for the Anaheim Angels. Two relievers in the Orioles' bullpen -- a left-hander who has owned the eighth inning all year, and a veteran right-hander who has owned the wrath of Orioles fans for his many failures this season.
Playing the matchup percentages, Orioles Manager Lee Mazzilli went with the right-hander, Mike DeJean, and the results could not have been much worse.
In a span of five pitches, DeJean managed to load the bases, energize the Rally Monkey and send the Orioles to a deflating 5-3 loss at Angel Stadium.
"I didn't do my job," DeJean said. "I've owned up to my mistakes. There's nothing I would've changed about the way I pitched tonight."
The Orioles brought the go-ahead run to the plate in the ninth against Angels closer Troy Percival, but could not get the runs home. The ninth was highlighted by Anaheim center fielder Chone Figgins making a catch at the wall of a Rafael Palmeiro drive that was a few feet from tying the game.
Following seven dazzling innings from lefty starter Eric DuBose, Mazzilli bypassed his eighth-inning maestro -- B.J. Ryan -- and turned the 3-1 lead over to the struggling DeJean, who brought a 5.93 ERA and .367 opponents' batting average into the game.
"It's his spot," Mazzilli said of DeJean. "He just didn't do it tonight. He's a groundball type pitcher and I knew I had B.J. if I needed him."
DeJean got himself into a mess immediately, giving up three straight singles. Only one of them (pinch hitter Adam Kennedy's sharp grounder down the third base line) was hit hard -- the others were a bunt single by Figgins and a soft liner to center by Vladimir Guerrero -- but they served to load the bases with nobody out.
With the Angels' famous Rally Monkey -- a scoreboard fixture during the franchise's run to the 2002 World Series title -- inciting the crowd of 43,557 to madness -- Mazzilli got DeJean out of the game and replaced him with right-hander Darwin Cubillan, who fared no better.
Cubillan gave up run-scoring singles to Jose Guillen and Jose Molina, before he, too, was yanked.
Finally, Ryan was brought in to stop the bleeding, which he eventually did (though he needed Jay Gibbons's strong throw from right field to cut down a runner at the plate). Still, it was too late. The two-run lead had been inverted thanks to four Anaheim runs.
For the second game in a row, a failed bunt play played a large role in the Orioles' loss. On Thursday night, Brian Roberts failed to get a sacrifice down during the pivotal third inning of an eventual 11-0 loss at Seattle.
On Friday night, it was Jerry Hairston's turn. With one out in the seventh and runners on second and third -- and the Orioles holding a 3-1 lead -- Mazzilli put on a suicide squeeze play with Hairston at the plate.
With Luis Lopez sprinting down the third base line, Anaheim starter Jarrod Washburn threw a high fastball that Hairston could not control. He fouled the bunt back, and two pitches later fouled out meekly to third base, as the Orioles eventually came away empty.
Mazzilli had planned to give Palmeiro the night off before calling on him to pinch hit in the ninth. He later revealed Palmeiro has been dealing with a bit of a stiff neck, but the night off had more to do with his 5-for-34 slump, which has sent his batting average dipping to a season-low .258.
Palmeiro's absence allowed Mazzilli to experiment with a faster lineup, with Roberts, Hairston and Melvin Mora forming the top third. That alignment looked brilliant in the first inning, when Hairston reached on an infield single, scooted around to third on Mora's single to center, and scored on Miguel Tejada's double over the head of Figgins.
Mora later scored on Javy Lopez's grounder to short, giving the Orioles a 2-0 lead.
Three innings later, Gibbons, who was hitting just .184 with one homer against lefties entering the game, blasted a 3-1 pitch to center field for a homer, his sixth of the season.
Orioles Notes: Roberts entered the game mired in a 3-for-38 slump that has coincided roughly with the return of fellow second baseman Hairston from the disabled list. Although he has managed to retain control of his job for now, the words "second base" and "controversy" are being used in tandem with increasing frequency around the team.
Mazzilli spoke with Roberts late Thursday night during the team's charter flight from Seattle, a chat Mazzilli described later as a "pep talk." The primary subject of the talk was Roberts's inability to get down the sacrifice bunt. . . .
The Orioles reached back deep into their past Friday in signing outfielder Eugene Kingsale to a minor league contract. Kingsale, who appeared in 71 games for the Orioles between 1996 and 2001 while getting shuttled back and forth to the minors, will report to Class AA Bowie on Tuesday.