ANAHEIM, Calif. -- On the subject of tough losses, manager Johnny Oates has become something of an expert, which might explain why he did not look particularly shellshocked after the California Angels scored four times in the eighth inning to deal the Orioles a 6-3 defeat on Saturday night.
True, Rick Sutcliffe carried a shutout bid into the seventh inning. True, an Orioles bullpen that entered the game leading the league with a 2.59 ERA blew up in his face. True, the once lightly regarded Angels continued to show the kind of offensive chemistry the Orioles can only dream about.
Oates should have been fuming. The Orioles took a 3-0 lead into the seventh inning and should have entered yesterday's game with a 4-2 record on this tough, 10-game road trip. But after it was over, the manager tried to take it in stride.
"It's been a strange year for everybody in this clubhouse," he said. "If you had told me coming out of spring training that Cal [Ripken] would be hitting .200 at this time and Glenn Davis wouldn't even be on the ballclub and Mike Devereaux would only have half the at-bats he should have and Leo Gomez would be leading the club in home runs and Mark McLemore would almost be leading us in RBI . . ."
His voice trailed off. All those things have come to pass, and the result is an early-season collapse that is threatening to make very short work of what once was a promising season.
Saturday night's game was just another symptom.
Angels left-hander Mark Langston has been one of the most effective pitchers in the American League, but the Orioles got three runs off him in the first six innings -- seemingly enough to carry Sutcliffe to his sixth victory.
David Segui hit his second home run of the season in the third inning. Ripken, whose batting average had dropped to .199 the night before, drove in a big run with a two-out single in the sixth. The Orioles even got a gift run when former teammate Rene Gonzales made a throwing error that enabled Segui to score from first in the sixth inning.
It looked as if, for once, the Orioles had everything going their way. But it all started to come unraveled when Sutcliffe gave up a two-run homer to pinch hitter Torey Lovullo in the seventh that turned it into a one-run game.
Oates brought in the normally dependable Todd Frohwirth to open the eighth, but he walked two batters and gave up a hit that loaded the bases with no one out.
Enter Brad Pennington, who walked home the tying run before retiring one batter. Enter Gregg Olson, who struck out Gonzales and had Damion Easley down to his last strike before Easley hit a three-run single to win the game for the Angels.
Now, the Orioles must try to salvage a successful trip in Oakland, where they play three games with the last-place A's, who also have a lot of frustration to vent.