The frustration of a six-game losing streak is gripping the Orioles almost as hard as reliever Steve Kline's hold on his manager's warm-up jacket last night. So far, only one has let up.
Kline was ejected in the eighth inning after being called for a balk, his third this season, and the New York Yankees turned it into the go-ahead run in a 6-4 victory before 45,801 at Camden Yards that sprinkled a little more controversy over a storied rivalry.
The Orioles have been called for eight balks, most in the majors. Nobody's reacted more angrily than Kline.
"I just think they favor the Yankees all the time," he said. "I'm getting [upset] at that. They suck up to them. They're the cream of the crop."
Kline spun toward second base umpire Laz Diaz, assuming he made the call that advanced Jorge Posada to second base, then charged plate umpire Marty Foster and pointed a finger in his face. Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli dashed in front of Kline, who grabbed him while attempting to get closer to Foster.
Umpires ruled that Kline started and stopped. Kline said he thought the batter, Jason Giambi, called for time. Giambi actually was yelling for the balk, along with most of the Yankees' dugout.
"He has every right to be upset," Mazzilli said. "He didn't feel like he did it, I didn't see it, it was in the heat of battle. That happens.
"They said he moved. I didn't see any movement at all. He stepped off the rubber and then they called the balk."
The scene ended with first base coach Rick Dempsey escorting Kline to the dugout, as the reliever kept pausing to yell in Foster's direction.
"I didn't do anything to deceive the runner. It was a bull ... call," Kline said. "I've played nine years and only had like one balk call my whole life. Now I have three [this season]. Once you get hit once, they look at you real hard."
Mazzilli resumed the argument after Kline flipped the ball toward the umpires. Kline seethed in the runway, hands on hips, his face red.
"I just asked [Foster] what I did and he tossed me right away," Kline said. "I used a couple of bad words, but you have to understand we're in the middle of a game. I said, 'Hell, if I'm going to be gone, I might as well get my money's worth.' I was debating if I wanted to put him in the cobra clutch."
His mood didn't improve after Posada scored on pinch hitter Bernie Williams' sacrifice fly, giving the Yankees a 5-4 lead. They added an unearned run in the ninth off Jorge Julio.
"Once you start to take your set position, it's got to be uninterrupted and he started and stopped," third base umpire Dana DeMuth said. "Marty made the call first and Laz made it right behind him. In fact, Marty was calling it the same time Giambi was.
"One umpire on a balk is always blocked out. One umpire always has his back to it. When you have two or three of the others immediately coming up with it, it's a pretty obvious call."
Kline was called for a balk in May that broke a tie in the eighth and cost the Orioles a game. He also disputed that one, replaying it in the team's video room, but last night was his first ejection.
"I'm always getting disciplined from somebody, so here comes another version of it," Kline said. "Everything I do is magnified right now. It's just a bad situation."
Mazzilli, who faces a two-game suspension for making contact with umpire Charlie Reliford during a June 19 argument, accidentally bumped into Foster after Kline leaned into him.
"We have to review the tapes on that, but from what I saw right off the bat, [Kline] hit Lee into Marty," DeMuth said. "He was a little bit out of control."
Mazzilli was just as irritated with Julio for being late covering first base on Ruben Sierra's grounder to Rafael Palmeiro that followed the balk call and an intentional walk to Giambi. Instead of turning the double play, the Orioles settled for one out. Williams' fly ball would have ended the inning.
"Julio's got to get over there and cover first base. He wasn't there and it cost us a run," Mazzilli said. "That's stuff you do in spring training. There's no excuse for that."
Hampered by six walks, starter Daniel Cabrera left with two outs in the sixth, the bases loaded and the Orioles ahead, 4-2. Rookie Chris Ray walked Derek Jeter on a full count to force in a run, and catcher Sal Fasano's first of two passed balls tied the game.
"I'll tell you one thing about that kid, he has no fear at all," Mazzilli said of Ray, 23. "He's going to be a good one."
Larry Bigbie homered in the third inning, and his double started a two-run rally in the fifth that gave the Orioles a 4-1 lead. The game was in their grasp. They lost it about the same time as Kline was losing his temper.
Opponent: New York Yankees
Site, time: Camden Yards, 7:05
TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Yankees' Chien-Ming Wang (4-3, 4.31) vs. Orioles' Sidney Ponson (7-5, 5.42)