The Orioles offered a new look last night against the Anaheim Angels. A model of fundamental baseball for most of the past five weeks, they did little right in a 7-2 loss against rookie right-hander Jason Dickson at Camden Yards.
The Orioles entered on a run of five consecutive quality starts and eight straight error-free games. Both streaks fell at the hands of Orioles starting pitcher Scott Kamieniecki (2-1), who walked into a four-run first inning after creating a two-out mess he couldn't escape.
Kamieniecki later committed a harmless throwing error. Reliever Terry Mathews committed a painful one during a three-run eighth inning that saw him flip a double-play ball into center field. His next toss ended up in the center-field stands as Tim Salmon ripped open a 4-2 game with his fourth home run.
The offense wasn't without blame, either. After clubbing the Oakland Athletics for 11 runs Sunday and raising the team average 26 points over the last eight games, the Orioles managed a two-run homer by shortstop Mike Bordick and nothing else. Down 4-2 in the seventh, they ran themselves out of a rally when Chris Hoiles was thrown out by yards at the plate. The unsightly loss dropped the Orioles to 19-9 and allowed the Angels to return to .500 (14-14).
Dickson (5-1) became only the fourth starting pitcher to beat the Orioles this year, joining Roger Pavlik, Doug Drabek and Aaron Sele. Kamieniecki joined the equally short line of Orioles starters who have helped beat themselves.
Kamieniecki entered with a reputation as a cliff diver accustomed to creating peril only to somehow slip past barely nicked. In the first inning he came too close to the rocks.
After routinely retiring the first two batters he faced, Kamieniecki suddenly went looking for his control at the Camden Yards lost-and-found. He walked Dave Hollins, walked Jim Leyritz and then allowed Salmon an RBI single. His pattern became frustratingly predictable. Fall behind hitters, then either follow through with a walk or a flat strike. Pitching coach Ray Miller shuttled to the mound, but he, too, was at a loss for Kamieniecki's sudden lapse.
Kamieniecki walked Garret Anderson to reload the bases and Shawn Boskie went into action in the bullpen. Kamieniecki further stirred a crowd of 41,296 by allowing exiled Oriole Eddie Murray a two-run single to make the score 3-0. Luis Alicea followed with the inning's third single to bump the lead to 4-0.
"You can't stand out there and walk guys," said Kamieniecki. "You give up a ground ball here and a bloop there, which is pretty much what happened tonight, and pretty soon you're in a big inning. You can't let that happen."
The assisted breakout was a rarity against Orioles pitching. It had allowed multiple runs in only one of the previous 43 innings.
Kamieniecki remains something of a curiosity. The league entered the game hitting only .198 against him although he hardly represents a power presence. At the same time, Kamieniecki's first inning gave him 18 walks in 30 innings. Only Armando Benitez and Rocky Coppinger possess more dangerous ratios.
"He's a breaking ball pitcher and he really hasn't found his good breaking ball yet," said Miller. "He had it in the bullpen, but he kind of struggled with it in the game. It's been something he's battled."
Most nights, the Orioles would have been allowed back into the game by indifferent pitching. Most nights, Dickson doesn't pitch.
Against a rookie who opened the season with a shutout of Boston, the Orioles floundered early. Brady Anderson managed their only two hits through four innings via a first-inning double and a third-inning single. Both times he was stranded at second.
Yet the Orioles didn't die. Continuing a welcome weeklong trend, Bordick picked up his team and shook it.
Following Hoiles' one-out single in the fifth inning, Bordick turned on Dickson for a line-hugging home run to left field. The homer was Bordick's first as an Oriole, sixth in two years and 22nd in 2,738 major-league at-bats. Down only 4-2, the Orioles continued to enjoy Kamieniecki's recovery.
After the traumatic first inning, he retired 13 of 14 and allowed only one hit during the four-inning span. In the sixth, Hoiles picked him up by throwing out Salmon stealing. It was Hoiles' first success in 18 attempts.
Kamieniecki created another jam for himself in the seventh inning but this time escaped. Fielding Gary Disarcina's swinging bunt to the third base side, Kamieniecki threw wildly past first base to put the runner into scoring position. It was the Orioles' first error since April 25. Two fly balls got him out of the inning.
Kamieniecki's resilience was encouraging but his sudden loss of bearings mystifies a team that has anointed him its No. 5 starter. He needed 34 pitches to get through the first inning, 68 to get through the next six.
Dickson finally showed his age in the Orioles' seventh. In return, the Orioles showed some inopportune aggressiveness on the bases.
Dickson walked Hoiles to begin the inning and with one out walked Anderson on his 101st pitch. Angels manager Terry Collins then went to Chuck McElroy. Hitting from the right side, where he was struggling at .154, Roberto Alomar drilled a single at the left fielder Anderson. Third-base coach Sam Perlozzo waved Hoiles home as Anderson reached the ball. But Anderson threw a strike and Hoiles was easily tagged out.
Collins responded by calling upon right-hander Mike James to face Eric Davis. Davis struck out and the challenge passed.
The game collapsed quickly in the eighth as Mathews relieved Kamieniecki. Hollins singled. Then, compounding a bad fielding night for pitchers, Mathews gloved Leyritz's double-play grounder and flung it several feet over Bordick into center. With runners at first and third, the Orioles played the infield back. The outfield couldn't go back far enough.
Salmon tore into Mathews' first pitch for a three-run homer to center field, his fourth, and the Orioles had no answer.
Opponent: Anaheim Angels
Site: Oriole Park
Time: 7: 35
TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Angels' Chuck Finley (0-1, 4.86 ERA) vs. Orioles' Scott Erickson (4-1, 2.78 ERA)
Tickets: 10,000 remain