The Orioles wandered into the danger zone again last night, clutching a slim lead like an overstuffed purse, the late innings their dark alley.
Teams usually try to win games at this juncture. The Orioles try to avoid another mugging.
The Tampa Bay Devil Rays snatched their three-run lead in the eighth and ran away, sending 15 batters to the plate against relievers Jim Hoey, Brian Burres, Chad Bradford and Kurt Birkins, scoring 11 times and extending the Orioles' losing streak to seven games with a 15-8 victory before an announced 17,781 at Camden Yards.
Jamie Walker tossed a scoreless seventh inning with the Orioles ahead 6-3, but Hoey allowed five of six batters to reach base -- including a bases-loaded walk to Dioner Navarro and a game-tying, two-run single by pinch hitter Greg Norton.
Burres walked Akinori Iwamura and surrendered an RBI single to Carl Crawford and two-run single to Carlos Pena. Five more runs scored with Bradford on the mound. And a game spiraled out of control again -- bringing back hurtful memories of last week's 30-3 loss.
"When that inning started, I said, 'Please God, don't start another one. We don't want to be in the same situation as what happened last time,' " shortstop Miguel Tejada said. "What can I say? Our pitchers are trying to make the best pitches they can. Right now, we're in a tough time."
Nine straight Tampa Bay batters reached base, and the Orioles allowed 11 runs in an inning for only the second time in club history. The Washington Senators scored 11 against them in the sixth inning on May 11, 1962.
"It's not fun. It's embarrassing, it's tiring, it's not good," second baseman Brian Roberts said. "We've been through this too many times. And it's not a lack of effort, it's not a lack of trying, it's not a lack of preparation. It's just not working out."
The Orioles (58-72) tied a club record by hitting six homers at home, including two by Tejada, who followed Nick Markakis' two-run shot in the first. The Orioles hadn't hit back-to-back homers this season before last night, when they did it twice. Tejada and Kevin Millar homered in succession in the eighth, after Tampa Bay had gone ahead 14-6.
It wasn't enough to influence the outcome, but it made the eighth inning last 1 hour, 1 minute, 46 seconds.
"I thought the full moon was last night, not tonight," manager Dave Trembley said.
Aubrey Huff and Ramon Hernandez also connected for the Orioles, who have allowed 53 runs after the sixth inning on this 1-7 homestand. The bullpen's ERA is 19.50 in those games, and 21.27 during the losing streak.
"When you bring in four pitchers in one inning, you know you're in trouble," Trembley said.
After turning in six scoreless outings, Hoey has allowed 10 earned runs in his past three appearances spanning 1 2/3 innings.
"I just wasn't confident in myself," he said. "I was a little nervous out there and right off the bat, I gave up a single. After that, I started getting nervous. I couldn't find my [arm] slot. I couldn't find nothing.
"My arm is fine. My arm is tremendous. I just don't feel the same way that I did in the minor leagues. I'm not in the right state of mind now. It's not me. I'm not used to doing this."
The Orioles haven't won since confirming that Trembley would remain as manager for the 2008 season and arranging a news conference for him at the B&O; warehouse that included his wife, Patti, and sentimental tales of his long journey to the majors.
The only escape from the losing came from Monday's open date in the schedule.
"I think every time you lose it breaks your heart," Trembley said. "Every time you don't play up to your expectations, you are letting somebody down or you are not meeting the expectations that you have."
Daniel Cabrera started last Wednesday's game, when the Texas Rangers became the first team in 110 years to score 30 runs. He was gone last night before more insanity took hold, and this time, he had a 5-3 lead.
The Orioles were ahead 4-1 in the fifth before Tampa Bay scored twice with two outs -- the first coming on Pena's 31st homer. Cabrera made it through the sixth and put his trust in the bullpen.
Cabrera needed 28 pitches to get through the first inning, and the Devil Rays took a 1-0 lead on Iwamura's leadoff triple and Crawford's single.
Center fielder Corey Patterson had some difficulty fielding Iwamura's ball, but he turned the tables in the bottom of the first with a shot that cleared B.J. Upton's head in center for a triple. Upton also whiffed on his first attempt to grab it, and Patterson cruised home on Markakis' liner onto the flag court in right off Devil Rays starter Jason Hammel, who hasn't won in 17 major league starts.
Hammel retired 10 of 11 batters before Huff hit his 13th homer, and the fifth against his former team. Hernandez, mired in an 0-for-26 slump, connected off reliever Scott Dohmann in the seventh for his first homer since July 16.
The Orioles were in control. And then they were victims again.
"It's hard," Tejada said. "As players, it's not frustrating for us because tomorrow we're going to be out there again trying to win a game. I really feel sorry for the fans. They come every day to see our team win and we're not winning."
Past 10 games
Date Opponent Result WP/LP
8/28 Tampa Bay L, 15-8 Hoey
8/26 Minnesota L, 11-3 Bedard
8/25 Minnesota L, 8-1 Liz
8/24 Minnesota L, 7-4 Hoey
8/23 Minnesota L, 5-2 Trachsel
8/22 Texas (2nd) L, 9-7 Hoey
8/22 Texas (1st) L, 30-3 Cabrera
8/21 Texas W, 6-2 Bedard
8/19 @Toronto L, 3-2 (10) Bradford
8/18 @Toronto W, 5-3 Trachsel