O's are swept aside

The Baltimore Sun

MINNEAPOLIS -- The ugliness was not confined to Jaret Wright's 2 1/3 innings, a brutal outing in which he recorded just two more outs than walks and put the Orioles into too big of a hole from which to recover.

There was left fielder Jay Gibbons botching a foul pop-up that prolonged an inning. There was shortstop Miguel Tejada failing to field a ground ball that resulted in two runs. And there was a series of meek swings against Minnesota Twins starter Ramon Ortiz, a pitcher who lost 16 games last season and had never won a game in five previous starts at the Metrodome.

It added up to a 7-2 defeat before 27,539, a loss that sends the Orioles to 0-3, their worst start since they had the same record in 1995. The Orioles will be off today, an opportunity to digest the season-opening sweep by the Twins, before they begin a three-game series at Yankee Stadium tomorrow night.

"We just didn't do enough things the whole series to win any games," said Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo, who was visibly agitated after the game. "We didn't play good enough defense and our offense was sputtering. We had one [well-pitched] ballgame and didn't make a couple of plays. That cost us to lose three ballgames."

Unlike the previous two nights, when Perlozzo could at least take solace in some positive signs, there were none to be found last night. The Orioles made three errors - and that did not include Tejada's misplay of Luis Castillo's grounder in the Twins' five-run third inning that was generously ruled a hit.

"There's no excuse for that," Perlozzo said. "We're better than that. You've got to make plays. It doesn't matter how many [runs] the other team puts up. The game of baseball is to catch the ball when it's hit to you. We just didn't do it enough."

The Orioles also managed only five hits and two runs in seven innings against Ortiz, who the Twins picked up off the scrapheap this offseason and signed to a one-year, $3.1 million deal after he went 11-16 with a 5.57 ERA for the Nationals in 2006.

After scoring three runs off Twins ace Johan Santana in the fourth inning on Opening Day, the Orioles, clearly missing the presence of catcher Ramon Hernandez and left fielder Jay Payton in the lineup, managed just five runs in the final 23 innings of the series. Their two runs last night came in the sixth inning on Melvin Mora's RBI double and a run-scoring groundout by Tejada.

"We just couldn't get the big hit and that's been pretty much the last two games," Gibbons said. "It's early. Hopefully, we'll get Ramon back here pretty quick and Jay, and we'll battle until then."

And then of course, there was Wright, who in his Orioles debut, allowed six runs (four earned) on four hits and five walks in 2 2/3 innings. When you take into account Wright's six exhibition starts, he has walked 22 batters in 20 2/3 innings in an Orioles uniform. He has also allowed 17 earned runs and 20 hits during that span.

"I thought it was terrible," Wright said when asked to assess his start. "I thought the stuff was OK, but I didn't know where it was going. I got myself in trouble and couldn't get out of it. Mechanics felt OK. It was just bad.

"After spring, you look for things to turn around and it was just kind of the same thing, really. So it's frustrating, but you have to move on."

The Orioles acquired Wright from the Yankees in November for reliever Chris Britton. They believed they were getting a solid back-of-the-rotation starter in Wright, 31. But red flags were raised almost immediately this spring when Wright lasted just one inning in his first exhibition start.

While every other member of the Orioles' rotation went six innings in at least one outing in the spring, the longest Wright pitched was 4 1/3 innings, in his last exhibition start.

In six spring starts, Wright was 1-2 with a 6.38 ERA and logged a staff-low 18 1/3 innings. Before last night's game, Perlozzo said that getting six solid innings out of Wright, who didn't pitch more than 6 1/3 innings in any of his 27 starts last year with the Yankees, would be "ideal."

But the prospects for that were lost somewhere in Wright's 28-pitch first inning, where the Twins took a 1-0 lead on Michael Cuddyer's single.

Wright put himself in immediate trouble in the third, walking the first two Twins before Cuddyer dumped an RBI single into left field. Wright then walked Justin Morneau to load the bases and later allowed a one-out, two-run single to Rondell White. With that, his evening was mercifully over.

"We're going to give him some time. It's just one start," Perlozzo said. "I've always believed that a veteran guy, when he gets out there and a little adrenaline going, will come back. ... I just don't think he had his command, period."

What really upset Perlozzo were the two miscues behind long reliever Jeremy Guthrie in the third inning. Those came courtesy of Gibbons, who dropped Castillo's foul pop-up; and then Tejada, who was eaten up by Castillo's grounder, allowing two runs to score.

It was ruled a hit. That's about the only thing that went the Orioles' way last night, or the past three nights for that matter.

"We're not happy about these three days," Perlozzo said. "We thought we could do something a little better than this series, and we didn't. Now we have to go to New York and it's not going to get any easier."


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