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Oates laments late-inning letdowns But manager keeps losses in perspective


DETROIT -- For the past two days, it looked as if the Orioles had turned back the clock one year.

In losing two straight to the Detroit Tigers, the Orioles more closely resembled a team capable of losing 95 games, which they did last year, than a team one game out of first place, their current standing.

As embarrassing as Saturday night's 15-1 trouncing was, yesterday's 7-4 loss was more frustrating, because the Orioles lost a three-run lead and executed poorly in the final innings.

Even if it was a disappointing end to a four-game series in which the Orioles won the first two, manager Johnny Oates treated the lost weekend as a little side trip most teams take during a 162-game schedule.

"I don't think we expected to play a perfect season," said Oates, who admitted there was a letdown after Jose Mesa gave up three runs that tied it 4-4 in the fifth inning.

"We went a little bit dead when we lost the lead," said Oates. "It's going to happen. It's almost totally impossible to stay gung-ho, to keep a high intensity level every inning, all the time.

"We had it when we got a lead [3-0 and 4-1], but then we lost it -- and no matter how hard we tried to get it going again in the dugout, we couldn't seem to do it," said Oates.

And once the Orioles lost command of the game in the fifth, there was a noticeable drop in execution.

Twice, the Tigers tried to sacrifice in the late innings. Both times, reliever Storm Davis was unable to throw strikes, a factor that might have cost two of the Tigers' final three runs.

"Those are the kind of things you try to eliminate," said Oates. "It's like when we were playing the infield in -- you've got to get the ball down, but we threw pitches up and out over the plate where they could hit a sacrifice fly."

The players also bemoaned their failure to execute afterward, in a solemn clubhouse, as they prepared to travel to Cleveland for a three-game series with the Indians beginning tonight.

"After what happened [Saturday night], you want to bounce back," said center fielder Mike Devereaux. "It's tough. We were up 4-1 and then we let them come back and we lost the game. Those things happen, but some losses are tougher to take than others."

Said Bill Ripken: "We were winning the ballgame and they came back and snatched it away from us. You hate to come in here and win the first two games and then get out of here even. But they showed a lot. They could have packed it in after we went ahead. Give them credit for that, but we should have gotten out of here with three of four."

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