As much as their 27-run loss to the Texas Rangers a day earlier was discussed on national television, making the Orioles the butt of scores of jokes for at least one day, the players insisted that they would easily forget about the historic defeat.
However, their latest defeat, a 5-2 setback to the Minnesota Twins last night before an announced 19,389 at Camden Yards, might have stung them more, simply because it was a game the Orioles felt they gave away.
"I'm not so sure if they won or we lost, if you understand what I'm saying," said Orioles manager Dave Trembley, whose team has lost three straight and is 10 games under .500 for the first time since July 22. "You give them credit. They got the hits at the end there, but it was after the horse was out of the barn, so to speak."
Steve Trachsel pitched 7 1/3 innings in his latest productive outing, but was ultimately saddled with a hard-luck loss, thanks to a key walk, an untimely wild pitch and a go-ahead error by Miguel Tejada.
Trailing 1-0 in the eighth with Aubrey Huff's second-inning home run having provided the only run of the game, the Twins (64-63) scored four times off two of the three Orioles pitchers used in the inning. Minnesota scored the go-ahead run when Tejada booted Michael Cuddyer's slow groundball to short with the bases loaded and two outs. Jason Kubel followed with a two-run double, breaking open a game that the Orioles led for six innings.
The night was not a total loss. With a fifth-inning walk, Orioles first baseman Kevin Millar broke the franchise record by reaching base for the 50th consecutive game. That broke Ken Singleton's record, set in 1977. But it also was little more than a consolation prize to Millar, who acknowledged that the club's latest loss was just as difficult if not more so than the 30-3 thrashing the Orioles received Wednesday.
"The streak [has] been fun," Millar said. "Hopefully, I keep this thing going ... but tonight was a tough loss because we fought. It was a good ballgame. We just came up on the short end of the stick. We have to bounce back."
They'll have to do it against Minnesota ace and reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana, a scary proposition when you consider that the Orioles managed just four hits and two bases-empty home runs last night and were completely shut down by Boof Bonser, a second-year pitcher who hadn't won since June 10.
Tejada cut the Orioles' deficit to 5-2 in the ninth inning with his 13th home run, but it wasn't enough to negate his eighth-inning error, his second of the game and his team-leading 11th of the season.
Trembley said after the game that it is a "fair assessment" to characterize Tejada as being in a fielding slump, but the shortstop, who has always taken more pride in his defense than his offense, emphatically disagreed, saying that he thinks he's been playing "good" defensively.
"I don't want to say that I'm in a slump, because when's the last time I made an error?" said Tejada, who also fumbled Garrett Jones' groundball in the fifth. "In this game, you never know. Today's game is over and tomorrow I'll be working on my defense. I think I'll be fine. I know I've made some errors, but that's a part of the game."
In fairness to Tejada, the inning probably shouldn't have gotten to that point. Trachsel, who had rarely been in trouble through the first seven innings, could do nothing about Nick Punto's bunt single to lead off the eighth, rolled and stopped perfectly down the third base line.
After Alexi Casilla moved Punto over to second with a groundout, Trachsel got ahead 0-2 on No. 2 hitter Jason Bartlett. However, he couldn't put him away, bouncing four pitches in the dirt to issue a walk. The last one got away from catcher Ramon Hernandez, the wild pitch allowing Punto to move to third.
Trembley brought in left-handed specialist Jamie Walker to face Joe Mauer, who barely made contact, sending a slow roller to second baseman Brian Roberts that tied the game at 1. The Orioles then intentionally walked Torii Hunter to put runners on first and second, and both Twins moved up a base when Hernandez fired an errant throw into center field to try to pick off Bartlett at second base.
After Walker walked Justin Morneau, Trembley brought in Chad Bradford. The Orioles reliever did his job by getting Cuddyer to hit a slow roller to Tejada. However, with Hunter running by him and Tejada rushing forward to field the ball, it hit off the heel of his glove and got away.
"I don't want to say that I rushed, because that's a slow ground ball," Tejada said. "I think I did the right thing just going after the ball, [but] I just booted it. ... That happens in baseball."
Trachsel fell to 6-8 despite giving up one earned run, four hits and two walks in the 7 1/3 innings. He is 1-1 with a 2.53 ERA in five August starts after going 1-4 with a 8.67 ERA in eight starts in June and July.
The veteran right-hander has cleared waivers, and the Seattle Mariners, Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Dodgers are among the teams that have inquired about him at different points of the season. The Orioles have no problem trading Trachsel, but no team has come forward and offered a prospect that meets their asking price. Perhaps last night's outing could change that.
"Especially after [Wednesday], I knew I had to try to go deep," Trachsel said. "Everything felt great. I just have to keep throwing the ball like that."