CLEVELAND - With two weeks remaining before rosters expand, the Orioles have held internal discussions concerning possible candidates to join the team from the minors. Interim manager Sam Perlozzo will welcome the reinforcements, but they won't alleviate all the problems. Players already in uniform must produce in the clutch, make accurate throws, protect leads early and late.
Perlozzo didn't get enough out of them last night. They haven't lost his trust or patience. They just aren't doing all the things necessary to lift the club out of fourth place and salvage what's left of the season.
Rodrigo Lopez gave up three runs in the first inning, two of them coming on Travis Hafner's homer. The Orioles didn't hit or field, and they didn't solve their problems at Jacobs Field, where they lost again, 6-1, before a sellout crowd of 41,034. The Orioles have dropped 20 of their past 23 games in Cleveland. Once a terror on the road at 18-8, they have lost 25 of their past 35 away from Camden Yards.
In a battle of 12-game winners, Lopez fell short of left-hander Cliff Lee, who allowed two hits in the first inning, but no more until the sixth. He retired 13 of 14 after Melvin Mora's run-scoring single in the first. The only base runner, Brian Roberts, walked and was thrown out trying to steal.
"He was pretty sneaky," said Alejandro Freire, who was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts against Lee (13-4). "He was throwing strikes. He was working his off-speed stuff pretty good, mixing it up. He's a pretty good pitcher."
Victor Martinez added a two-run homer in the fifth, and Aaron Boone had an RBI single, giving the Indians 10 hits. Mora ran the Orioles' error total to three that same inning with a throw in the dirt, and catcher Javy Lopez committed the fourth.
When it goes bad, it really goes bad.
"The grass was a little wet," Perlozzo said, "but I'm not going to make excuses."
If Perlozzo was curious how his club would react to Friday night's 10-inning loss, and a 57-minute rain delay last night, the answer came immediately. It was deceiving but quick.
Roberts led off the first inning with a single, stole second and scored on Mora's single to center field. Mora was hitting .167 over his past 17 games before driving in Roberts.
"You wondered how we were going to come out of the chute, and we get a run the first inning," Perlozzo said. "When they put six on the board, Lee was pretty much in command at that point."
The lead lasted three batters, barely enough time to celebrate it.
Hafner followed with a two-run shot, his first homer since July 6, a span of 76 at-bats. That was enough for pitching coach Ray Miller, who went to the mound only four batters into Lopez's start.
Orioles starters were 7-1 with a 2.71 ERA in 10 games before last night. They allowed more than three earned runs only once in that span. Lopez was about to drop the baton.
"He didn't pitch as bad as the six runs [indicate]," Perlozzo said. "He made two bad pitches, got his changeup up and two guys took him out of the ballpark. They were good selections, bad locations."
Consecutive one-out singles by Ramon Vazquez and Casey Blake almost led to another run in the second. Sizemore grounded to first baseman Chris Gomez, who threw out Vazquez at the plate.
The Indians already had six hits by the third inning. No. 7 came in the fourth, an inning that included a throwing error by shortstop Miguel Tejada and a two-out walk.
The offense wasn't going to bail out Lopez, and he didn't stay past the fifth. Eric DuBose replaced him with the Indians leading 6-1, and the Orioles were headed to their 22nd loss in 33 games. They're 9-6 since Lee Mazzilli was fired as manager.
"We hit the ball on the nose a couple times, a little more than we have," Perlozzo said. "We kind of hit them right at them. But we still need to get more hits and stay in the ballgame."
Lopez had won three straight starts. He was 1-1 with a 1.90 ERA in six career games against the Indians, allowing five earned runs in 23 2/3 innings. Cleveland totaled that many last night.
"I made mental mistakes today and got my team in that position," Lopez said.
Gomez and Mora singled in the sixth, giving the Orioles as many hits as errors. Roberts almost produced a fifth miscue, but he recovered after bobbling a grounder.
Roberts tilted his head back as if unable to believe all the things working against the Orioles. On this night, they were more than anyone on the roster could handle.
Opponent: Cleveland Indians
Site/Time: Cleveland/1:05 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 54/1090 AM