Loewen loses control; O's don't

The Baltimore Sun

The career-high seven walks didn't matter. Adam Loewen said he'd worry about them later. All the young pitcher cared about at this moment was the end result -- another Orioles victory -- and the good feeling that has taken over the home clubhouse at Camden Yards.

"I'm excited about the way I'm throwing even though it hasn't been that great," Loewen said. "Things can only get better, I think. I just want to keep on winning. I don't care how we do it. It's fun coming back in the clubhouse and having fun with the guys after a win. There's no better feeling."

It's a feeling the Orioles are happy to be getting used to these days. Their 5-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays last night in front of 25,898 at Camden Yards was their seventh win in their past eight games, and their 10th victory in 14 games since getting swept by the Minnesota Twins to start the season.

It assured the Orioles (10-7) of the series win, the fourth in their past five series. They'll go for the three-game sweep of Toronto, whose manager John Gibbons got tossed in the fifth inning last night for arguing balls and strikes, this afternoon behind Steve Trachsel. The Orioles are 6-2 against American League East foes, including a 4-1 mark against the New York Yankees and Blue Jays, two teams that beat them 23 times in 38 games last year.

"I think that's great for the whole team," said shortstop Miguel Tejada, who was 1-for-3 with two RBIs, leading a balanced offense that also got RBIs from Corey Patterson, Melvin Mora and Kevin Millar. "I know it's still early, but I think everybody believes in here that we can beat anybody right now. I think the starting pitching is doing a great job and our bullpen is doing a great job."

Loewen improved to 2-0, allowing two runs in a season-high 5 2/3 innings. Chad Bradford then got the most important out of the night, striking out pinch hitter Jason Smith with the bases loaded in the sixth inning.

All told, the Orioles' bullpen took care of the game's final 10 outs, with Chris Ray pitching the ninth for his sixth save. Since Kurt Birkins surrendered a 12th-inning grand slam to the Detroit Tigers' Craig Monroe on April 11, Orioles relievers have allowed just one earned run over 28 2/3 innings, good for a 0.31 ERA.

"That's what we have this year that we didn't have before," Tejada said.

Loewen didn't have his best stuff early, but frequently used his defense to avoid trouble. The Orioles' infield, which included second baseman Chris Gomez, who played with Brian Roberts at home feeling sick, turned three double plays behind Loewen and four for the game.

The lefty appeared to be still going strong in the sixth, getting two quick outs when Frank Thomas bounced into a double play. But then he walked Lyle Overbay on four pitches and Aaron Hill on seven. Royce Clayton followed with an RBI single past the diving Tejada to cut the Orioles' lead to 3-2.

After a laboring Loewen walked Jason Phillips to load the bases, Perlozzo had seen enough and brought in Bradford. The submarine-style right-hander got Smith to wave at a 65-mph curveball.

"I wasn't worried at all when Bradford came in," Loewen said. "I really knew he was going to come through the way they've been pitching lately. That gives us starters a good feeling coming out of the game."

Loewen also said he wasn't concerned about his seven walks that gave him a major league-leading 19 in 19 1/3 innings. The 23-year-old still hasn't made it through six complete innings this season, but he prefers to look at his 2-0 record and 3.72 ERA.

"Really, [I'm] trying to hand the ball off to the bullpen and that's what I did today. I battled my butt off and gave us a chance to win, so I'll worry about that tomorrow and I'll work on that," Loewen said. "I was just getting out of sync and maybe clouding my head a little bit with too many thoughts and trying to make too many good pitches. It's really one of those things where I can come out next time and have no walks. It's going to go away eventually."

Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo chose to focus on the positives.

"Adam doesn't give in; that's the one thing about him," Perlozzo said. "That's the sign of a good pitcher. He's not going to give in out there. He's going to still pitch his ballgame and if he gets it over the plate, he does. But he's not going to give them a cookie to hit. ... I'm not concerned about it really. Adam's ... going to be one of our horses this year."

With Loewen out of the game, the Orioles took advantage of a throwing error by Toronto starter Josh Towers to score two in the sixth and open up a 5-2 lead. Towers, a former Oriole who fell to 1-2, fielded Paul Bako's sacrifice bunt attempt and fired an errant throw into center field in an attempt to get Gomez, the lead runner, at second base.

Patterson then dropped a single into left-center field to score Gomez. Jeremy Accardo relieved Towers and, after striking out Mora, walked Nick Markakis to load the bases and then walked Tejada to bring in the Orioles' fifth run. That was plenty for the Orioles' bullpen.

"What we have right now isn't like what we had before," Tejada said. "Now, it's not just one guy. It's everybody. Every night, it's a different guy. And the pitching. I think this is why we have the confidence right now and we'll have it the rest of the season."


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