Pirates 6, Orioles 1
This is what success brings: A center fielder staring into his equipment bag, sulking after allowing a fly ball to go over his head in the first inning. That same center fielder lowering his head onto his lap because he grounded into a double play to end the inning. A team angered at the tiniest bit of failure.
Baltimore lost, 6-1, to the Pirates on a sweltering Wednesday night in Pittsburgh when the humidity at times was suffocating.
The Orioles put the first two men on base in the first inning but did not score. They had two men on against Kip Wells in the second and did not score again. Wells, who entered the game with a 2.38 ERA in his previous nine starts, pitched seven innings and allowed just one run on seven hits.
Though Baltimore would not admit it, Tuesday's loss, when reliever Jorge Julio allowed four runs in the eighth inning and cost the Orioles a possible five-game lead in the American League East, may have affected the team. Baltimore appeared listless at times on Wednesday, almost with little interest in the game. The Orioles were passive on the bases, and hit into three double plays.
The Orioles didn't leave Pittsburgh satisfied. Paired against a lesser team, Baltimore could not capitalize. There is no shame in losing to Pittsburgh, which has won seven of its past 10 games. But Baltimore must build its lead in the division against teams with losing records. The Orioles are 5-5 on their 13-game trip with three games in Cincinnati remaining.
"At this point we look back and think we should have won two more games," center fielder David Newhan said of the trip. "We've been fortunate the other guys have been having a tough time too. But I don't think anybody is satisfied being 5-5."
Baltimore starter Bruce Chen was not effective early, allowing the first four batters to reach base. Leadoff hitter Matt Lawton reached on a double, which was a catchable ball that Newhan lost in the sun.
"I never picked it up," Newhan said. "I take responsibility for it. It was a tough sun but it's a play I could have run down. I got a tough read on it. It was a terrible way to start the game. It put us in a hole right away."
After the game, Newhan seemed to take the loss the hardest. He sat at his locker for several moments. He did not talk to teammates.
Lawton scored in that first inning on a double by Tike Redman. Jason Bay walked and Rob Mackowiak scored two with a triple. From there, though, Chen was his usual dependable self. The left-hander even had one of the Orioles' hits, a single in the second inning that was the first by a Baltimore pitcher since June 2003. Though he may be Baltimore's most dependable starter, Chen does not have a win in his past four starts, yet he has not given up more than three runs in any of them.
"I thought I made adjustments after the first inning," Chen said. "I was able to make my pitches."
Baltimore reliever Todd Williams faltered in the eighth inning and loaded the bases.
"They put the balls in play and things happened," Williams said. "I got myself in trouble by walking guys."
All three runners scored against Orioles closer B.J. Ryan, who threw a wild pitch for the first run and then allowed a two-run single by Mackowiak.
"You go to him in that situation because you need to get out of the inning," Manager Lee Mazzilli said. "He's the best you have, you have to go to him. You don't worry about the ninth if you don't get there."
Pittsburgh hardly needed such run support on Wednesday. The only Orioles run scored on Miguel Tejada's 17th home run of the season. Otherwise Baltimore was blanked by Wells and two relievers. Mazzilli's lineup lacked right fielder Sammy Sosa, who was given the day off. First baseman Rafael Palmeiro batted cleanup for the first time this season. Though Mazzilli said Sosa was simply getting a day off, perhaps the right fielder's past numbers against Wells dictated the decision. Sosa was 3 for 20 against the Pirates' righty.
It shouldn't fall on Newhan to accept responsibility for the loss. But perhaps it is a good sign the Orioles have become so dissatisfied by failure.