By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun
11:36 PM EDT, July 28, 2011
TORONTO – About two hours before tonight’s game, Orioles center fielder Adam Jones paced around the visiting clubhouse at Rogers Centre and kept repeating to nobody in particular, “Let’s win a series.”
It was more playful encouragement than fiery pep talk, but his message was clear. Jones and his teammates just appear incapable of executing it these days.
The Orioles remained winless in their past eight series overall, and in their past 10 series here, falling to the Toronto Blue Jays, 8-5, before an announced 16,152.
J.J. Hardy's second two-homer game of the series was marred by a poor outing by starter Brad Bergesen and by multiple defensive breakdowns.
“It’s just unfortunate,” said Jones, who was 2-for-4 with two RBIs. “We started off good. We started off on top and just couldn’t maintain it.”
The Orioles made two errors, but they easily could have charged with four in one of their sloppiest games in a season full of them. First baseman Derrek Lee’s error in the first led to a two-run inning. Third baseman Mark Reynolds and catcher Matt Wieters both took turns mishandling throws that would have led to outs, prolonging the third inning long enough for Toronto to score four runs. Reynolds then failed to catch Wieters’ ill-advised pickoff throw in the fifth, bringing home a run.
Is there any wonder why these Orioles are now a season-high 19 games under .500 at 41-60?
“I don’t know exactly what it is. We just need to be consistent," Reynolds said. "Offensively, defensively, pitching, everything. We just can’t get it all clicking at the same time. There are a couple of plays here and there that change the course of the game. It’s just frustrating. It happens with young teams, so you have to just keep playing, try to win as many games as we can from here on out and just have fun doing it.”
The Orioles haven’t won a series in Canada since they took two of three from June 6-8, 2008, and they are now just 3-6 against the Blue Jays (53-52) this year. They haven’t won a series against anyone since they took two of three from the Cincinnati Reds from June 24-26.
That’s doesn’t figure to change this weekend — the Orioles packed up after the game and boarded a late charter flight to New York, where they’ll start a four-game series against the New York Yankees on Friday. The Orioles are 0-6 against the Yankees this season and 12-26 against theAmerican League East.
“We had two sure outs we should have had, and some things that we have to do better, but we’re just trying to get the [starter] to stay a little deeper in the game,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “If we do that, we like our chances, like we have all year. But it hasn’t been the case. It’s just been such an unknown of what our starting pitcher is going to do for us. Guys go out there and get after it. A lot of guys having good swings and good at-bats, but you have to play on all sides of the ball, including the pitching and the defense.”
About the only thing that Bergesen did well was control Colby Rasmus, who went 0-for-5 in his Blue Jays debut and was the home team’s only starter who didn’t reach base. Otherwise, Bergesen didn’t give his teammates much of a chance, allowing six runs (four earned) on six hits and three walks over three innings. It was his shortest start all season, and he needed 83 pitches to get just nine outs. Bergesen, who might leave the team in the next couple of days with his wife, who is due to give birth to the couple’s first child, fell to 2-7 with a 5.79 ERA.
“Obviously, you look at the earned runs, but 80-something pitches in three innings, that’s not going to work,” Showalter said. “It’s disappointing. We had an 0-2 count and two outs [in the third] and nobody on and next thing you know, he’s given up runs that were a dagger for us. His pitches didn’t have a whole lot of depth to them tonight and they put a lot of good swings on them.”
Bergesen was given a two-run lead before he even threw his first pitch on homers by Hardy and Vladimir Guerrero. His reward to his teammates was giving those two runs right back in the bottom of the inning. A leadoff double to Yunel Escobar, two walks sandwiched around Lee’s error, including a bases-loaded free pass of the free-swinging Edwin Encarnacion, and a sacrifice fly by Eric Thames tied the game.
“At this level, momentum is everything,” Bergesen said. “We had it in our favor, and I gave it back.”
With the game tied at 2, Bergesen got two quick outs in the bottom of the third and got up 0-2 on Encarnacion. The Blue Jays designated hitter then muscled a 3-2 pitch over the left-center-field wall. Thames made it back-to-back, drilling a 1-2 pitch into the right-field seats. Bergesen walked Aaron Hill and allowed a single to Travis Snider.
The Orioles should have gotten Hill out trying to go to third on Snider’s single, but Reynolds dropped Jones’ on-target throw.J.P. Arencibia then laced a double into the left-field corner. It should have scored only one run, but Wieters dropped Reynolds’ relay throw as Snider barreled into home plate. Thirty-nine pitches later, Bergesen got out of the inning, but not before a tie game had turned into an 8-2 Jays lead, and another winnable series had been all but lost.
“We’re running a lot of guys out there with ERAs that tell you that they’re struggling,” Showalter said. “We hope that once we go forward, there are some options presented, some from within. We’ll see wherever everything is at the end of this month.”
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