When Steve Trachsel returned to the dugout after he got out of a jam in the sixth inning, Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo approached him and asked how he was feeling. Trachsel was honest. He was getting tired and his right forearm, which took the brunt of Travis Hafner's line drive in the first inning, had tightened up and was starting to affect his control.
So in a tie game and with a potential series victory over the powerful Cleveland Indians hanging in the balance, Perlozzo did something he has grown accustomed to - he went to his bullpen. But he was used to getting far better results than he got yesterday.
Orioles relievers surrendered nine earned runs in three innings, and a pitching duel for much of a splendid afternoon at Camden Yards turned into a 10-1 laugher for the Indians before an announced crowd of 17,944.
A series in which the Orioles (14-18) took the first two games behind good starting pitching and a powerful and opportunistic offense ended with a disappointing series split that featured another sluggish offensive effort against Indians starter Fausto Carmona and a meltdown from the normally reliable bullpen.
"I asked [Trachsel] if he was getting tired, and he said he was starting to get there," Perlozzo said. "At that point in time, you don't take any chances. We were set up late in a good spot with our 'pen. We just didn't get that job done."
With the score tied at 1, Chad Bradford came in for the top of the seventh and got one out before allowing consecutive singles. John Parrish relieved him, and Grady Sizemore hit his first pitch for a double that gave the Indians a 2-1 lead.
Parrish struck out Travis Hafner with the bases loaded to get the second out but walked Victor Martinez on four pitches to force in a run. Trot Nixon added a two-run single before the inning ended with the Orioles facing a 5-1 deficit.
The Indians (19-10) added four more in the eighth on Hafner's grand slam against Jamie Walker, who shouldn't have faced the slugger in the first place. With the bases loaded and two outs, Walker got Casey Blake to hit a ball to shortstop Miguel Tejada, who fielded it cleanly but threw to second base instead of first. Josh Barfield beat the throw at second, enabling Hafner to get to the plate.
"I think he realizes that he should have gone to first base," Perlozzo said.
It was another solid effort but disappointing result from Trachsel, who allowed one earned run on six hits and a walk in six innings. His ERA dropped to 3.70, the best in the rotation. Trachsel, who threw 88 pitches, has pitched at least six innings in four of seven starts but is 0-1 with three no-decisions in those games.
"That's not what I can worry about," said Trachsel, who agreed with Perlozzo's decision to pull him, acknowledging that he was getting tired and his sore forearm was preventing him from commanding his curveball. "I can only worry about what I am doing. I am happy with the way I threw the ball, just not happy with the results."
Expected to be the fifth starter, Trachsel has pitched more innings than the supposed ace of the staff, Erik Bedard, and given up fewer hits than Bedard and Daniel Cabrera. But the Orioles have scored four runs or fewer in five of Trachsel's starts.
Only six pitchers - Ben Sheets, Mark Redman, Jamey Wright, Greg Maddux, Javier Vazquez and Jason Schmidt - have gotten less run support as starters this season than Trachsel has.
"We have a long way to go," said Trachsel, who won 15 games but had a 4.97 ERA for the New York Mets last year. "I am kind of glad we are not in New York, or otherwise there would be some serious panic going on. We've got some issues now with our starting rotation, and some people are going to have to step up. The bats are going to come around. It's just a matter of time."
After collecting 14 runs and 28 hits over the previous two days, the Orioles were held to seven hits yesterday, with their lone run coming on Jay Payton's fourth-inning RBI single. Carmona, who was called up from the minors to start the game after Jake Westbrook went out with an injury, allowed seven hits and an unearned run in seven innings.
He is 2-0 against the Orioles this season, allowing one earned run in 15 1/3 innings. Of the 46 outs he has gotten against the Orioles, 32 have been ground balls. Four of the Orioles' hits yesterday were infield singles.
"We ran into a guy today who has ... probably thrown the ball better than anybody we faced," Payton said. "His sinker is as good as any, and he's learned to command his slider and throw it for strikes. ... He pretty much dominated us today."
Added first baseman Aubrey Huff: "I don't care what team you are. If he's throwing balls like that - keeping it down with that much sink [and] throwing 94 - I don't know many teams that can handle that."