TORONTO -- J.R. House has had five surgeries. He has spent parts of eight years in the minors, while getting only a handful of major league at-bats. He took a year off from the sport to play high-level college football.
Nobody needs to tell the newest Oriole how cruel the game of baseball can be.
When House arrived at Rogers Centre yesterday, he was still accepting congratulations after his first major league home run Saturday helped power the Orioles to a victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. But before he left a quiet Orioles clubhouse late yesterday afternoon, he shouldered some of the blame for a deflating 3-2 loss in front of an announced 38,132.
When an intriguing pitching duel between Orioles rookie Jeremy Guthrie and former American League Cy Young winner Roy Halladay gave way to the bullpens, the Orioles squandered a key opportunity to break a 10th-inning tie when House rounded first base too far after his pinch-hit single and was thrown out.
"It was just a base-running mistake on my part," House said. "It was good to get the hit, but at the same time, it's kind of all for naught when you make a mistake like that and end up getting picked off. It was my fault."
With Brian Roberts on first base with one out, House lined a single to right field off Toronto reliever Scott Downs. Roberts hustled to third base, while Blue Jays shortstop John McDonald cut off Alex Rios' throw. McDonald immediately fired it to first baseman Lyle Overbay, the throw and tag barely beating a sliding House.
Instead of having runners on first and third with one out and Nick Markakis, one of the Orioles' leading RBI hitters, at the plate, there were two outs. Downs (2-2) then retired Markakis on a grounder to second.
"I didn't know how close the play would be on [Roberts] and if it went through, I definitely wanted to try to get to second base to keep out of the double play so we can score that run," House said. "But it's just unfortunate. I was too aggressive. I should have stayed on first base. ... It cost us."
Said Orioles manager Dave Trembley: "He took too big of a turn, that's all. There was no place to go. He did a great job at the plate and we had the table set for the No. 3 guy behind him and we ran ourselves out of the inning. It's that simple."
The loss provided a bitter end to an otherwise uplifting road trip that started with a series victory over the New York Yankees. Had the Orioles (57-65) won yesterday, they would have taken three straight series against the three teams above them in the American League East.
But instead it was the Blue Jays who rushed out of the dugout and celebrated after a couple of good swings and good fortune against Bradford (2-6) in the 10th, starting with Wells' leadoff single. Third baseman Melvin Mora could do nothing to defend against the chopper that bounced slowly down the third-base line.
Frank Thomas then checked his swing and hit a slow roller that Roberts fielded and took the only available out at first base, with Wells moving to second. Troy Glaus ripped Bradford's first pitch into left field for a single, putting runners on first and third with one out. Hill lofted a high fly ball that Jay Payton caught in left-center field, but he had no play at the plate on Wells.
"You can't do anything about that," first baseman Kevin Millar said. "Bradford ran [into] some bad luck. Vernon Wells, swinging bunt and gets a hit. Frank Thomas, check swing and he gets the guy to second. Glaus ambushed him on the first pitch and we're behind the eight ball there."
The Orioles had few chances against Halladay, who steadied himself after a rocky third inning to pitch nine innings and allow only two runs.
In the third, Roberts scored Jay Payton with an RBI single, and then Tike Redman followed with a double down the left-field line, putting Orioles on second and third with no outs. But Halladay allowed only one more run, on Millar's fielder's choice, which started a stretch in which the veteran right-hander retired 13 straight Orioles.
Guthrie, who was coming off three straight subpar outings, was every bit as dominant. He retired the first 11 Blue Jays he faced before Rios' two-out single in the fourth. Rios scored on Wells' bloop double into right field, cutting the Orioles' lead to 2-1.
Glaus tied the game in the fifth, lining Guthrie's 1-2 slider over the wall in left-center field. But that was it. Guthrie retired the final 12 batters he faced, lasting eight strong innings. He struck out six, walked none and allowed only three hits. In the process, he quieted some of the talk that his recent uneven starts were a result of fatigue.
"Those things don't affect me because I know they're not true, so it doesn't really matter one way or another what the people say. I feel strong and I'll keep working," said Guthrie, who was extremely aggressive yesterday with his fastball. "You can't get frustrated with the games in which you feel like you executed most every pitch, except maybe two or three that end up costing you two or three runs. I'm only a few pitches away from where I have been, and today was a sign of that."