The Orioles said after Monday night's loss that it was just another game, one that would not derail the momentum they had built through the first three weeks of the season. By the time they took the field yesterday, they vowed that the one-run loss that featured several missed opportunities in the ninth inning would be long forgotten.
However, for much of a 4-2 loss to the Oakland Athletics yesterday before 14,452 on a beautiful afternoon at Camden Yards, the Orioles played like they were still in a haze.
Third baseman Melvin Mora cost starter Jeremy Guthrie two runs in the first inning because of his inability to field a routine ground ball and then for not covering third base. An apparent mix-up between second baseman Brian Roberts and shortstop Miguel Tejada eventually cost reliever John Parrish two runs in the sixth inning.
And the Orioles' offense managed just three hits and one run in six innings against Dallas Braden, a left-hander who was making his major league debut.
"It's a big loss," left fielder Jay Payton said. "There are no guarantees that we would have won, but those are mistakes we can't have. Those are the kind of mistakes that teams that finish under .500 make."
The Orioles remain over .500 at 11-9, but all the good sentiment they generated from their three-game sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays to start the homestand is starting to fade. And now, after getting swept by the A's, who have won 13 of their past 15 games at Camden Yards, the Orioles face a two-game series with the Boston Red Sox and their two aces, Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett.
"Those are all speculative things that you come up with," Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said when asked if he felt the team experienced some carryover from Monday's loss, in which the Orioles stranded the tying run on third on Mora's failed bunt and Tejada's game-ending groundout. "If you make some mistakes, you lose a ballgame. I can't blame that on a tough loss yesterday. It's a new day and you have to go out and play the game."
Though Perlozzo was visibly annoyed, he said that he had no plans to address the club about its sloppiness, especially after it had been playing so well.
"You go in there and start chewing on them and it's like all the good things we did mean nothing," Perlozzo said. "That's not the case. We have a good bunch of guys out there and they are going to rebound and play well. You are going to have some spots where you lose some ballgames during the year. You don't like to lose them this way, but you are going to lose some games."
Count Mora as one Oriole who agreed with Perlozzo that a speech wasn't necessary.
"My daddy died 26 years ago, so that's when [people] stopped yelling at me," he said. "Nobody yells at me. Everybody is a grown man in here. We make a mistake and we paid for it."
Mora took accountability for booting Mike Piazza's first-inning ground ball that would have almost certainly been a double play that would have gotten Guthrie, the Orioles' long reliever who was starting in place of the injured Jaret Wright, out of the inning. Mora compounded matters by sulking after the error and not covering third base, allowing Eric Chavez to move up a base.
The next batter, Todd Walker, scored Chavez on a sacrifice fly, giving Oakland a 2-0 lead.
"Physical errors are going to be there," Mora said. "That's nothing that I can control. I just need to come here tomorrow and work hard and try to correct what I did."
Using a fastball that was consistently in the mid-90s and even reached 97 at one point, Guthrie retired the next nine A's he faced after the first inning and gave the Orioles five solid innings in just his second major league start. He allowed one earned run on four hits and one walk, while striking out three. Assuming that Wright recovers in time to make his next start, Guthrie will likely be thrust back into a long relief role.
"It's not an audition," Guthrie said. "It never was. We have five starters, and good starters on top of that. We're just here, out of the bullpen, to fill in when we're needed."
Parrish, who hadn't given up an earned run all season, relieved Guthrie in the sixth and loaded the bases. With two outs, he got Oakland catcher Jason Kendall to hit a grounder to Roberts at second. Instead of throwing to first, Roberts flipped the ball to second base, but Tejada didn't get there to cover until Mark Ellis was already on the bag. One run scored on the play and another would score later when Parrish issued a bases-loaded walk to Danny Putnam, giving the A's a 4-1 lead.
The confusion on the play extended to the explanations of what happened from the clubhouse. Perlozzo said that, "If we had somebody covering, he would have been out," seemingly indicating that Tejada was at fault on the play.
Tejada, who had two doubles and played in his 1,100th consecutive game, acknowledged that he was surprised that Roberts didn't just throw it to first.
"I was surprised, because it's bases loaded and two outs," he said. "I didn't know he was going to throw the ball over there. That's why I was surprised to get the ball. What can I say? That's a mental error."
A terse Roberts seemed at a loss to explain the play.
"I have no idea," he said. "It doesn't matter what happened. I made two mistakes and we lost the game. It doesn't matter whose fault it was."