New faces but same result for O's

The Baltimore Sun

The Orioles' new starting pitcher lasted only 2 2/3 innings. Their new reliever all but thwarted their comeback by allowing a two-run home run in the seventh inning. And their offense squandered numerous chances with repeated failures to get big hits with men on base.

The floundering Orioles assured themselves a 10th straight losing campaign with a performance that could easily serve as a microcosm of a season that cannot end soon enough. In his first start in the major leagues in more than a year, Victor Santos surrendered five runs and the Orioles never could dig out of the hole he created, falling 10-5 to the Los Angeles Angels before an announced 15,371 at Camden Yards.

Santos, whose contract the pitching-desperate Orioles purchased from the Cincinnati Reds last week, allowed all of his runs in the third inning, two of them coming on Vladimir Guerrero's two-run homer. Guerrero, who had missed the previous four games with an inflamed right triceps, also connected for a two-run shot off Fernando Cabrera in the Angels' three-run seventh. That came after the Orioles had cut a once-five-run Angels' lead to two runs.

It was the Orioles' 17th loss in the past 20 games, and it also was their 82nd loss of the season. The Orioles (61-82) would need to go 9-9 over their final 18 games to even finish the season with 70 wins, which they accomplished last year for their lowest win total since 2002.

They are also just 1-4 on the current homestand and face American League Cy Young Award candidates the next two nights in Kelvim Escobar and John Lackey.

Down two runs in the bottom of the sixth, the Orioles had men on first and second with no outs. Angels manager Mike Scioscia relieved shaky starter Joe Saunders and brought in Chris Bootcheck, who struck out Ramon Hernandez and got Jay Payton to hit into an inning-ending double play. Payton ripped off his helmet and angrily slammed it to the dirt.

Guerrero then connected for a two-run home run off Cabrera in the seventh, making the outcome a formality. Kevin Millar was 3-for-4 with a two-run home run in a losing effort.

Santos 1-4 with a 5.14 ERA in 32 relief appearances for the Reds this season. He spent most of this season in the majors, but was designated for assignment Aug. 18. The right-hander was then sent outright to Triple-A Louisville, where he went 1-1 with a 1.11 ERA in eight games, four of which were starts.

Last night represented Santos' first major league start since Sept. 5, 2006. He became the 12th pitcher to start for the Orioles this season and their ninth different starter since Aug. 26. He is the 25th pitcher used by the Orioles in 2007, surpassing the club record of 24, which was set in 2006.

Santos didn't last long. After pitching two scoreless innings, the right-hander was knocked out of the game in the third, giving up hits to the first four batters that he faced. Reggie Willits tied the game with an RBI single, and Chone Figgins put the Angels ahead, punctuating a long at-bat with a double in the left-center-field gap.

Orlando Cabrera extended the Angels' lead to 3-1 with a sacrifice fly to right field. With still just one out, Santos hung a first-pitch curveball to the wrong guy, and Guerrero launched it over the outstretched glove of Tike Redman and the center-field wall.

It was the 23rd home run of the season for Guerrero. He gave the Angels a 5-0 lead and ended Santos' night. Santos allowed five earned runs on seven hits in 2 2/3 innings.

Rob Bell came in and got the Orioles out of the third without any further damage, but he allowed an RBI double to Figgins in the fourth that extended Los Angeles' advantage to 6-1.

It was significant cushion for Angels left-hander Saunders, who entered last night with a 14-6 record and a 4.40 ERA in his career. He beat the Orioles in their only other matchup, holding them to two earned runs in six innings June 2 at Angel Stadium.

Saunders allowed a leadoff double to Millar and a single to Aubrey Huff in the second, putting runners on first and third with no outs. Hernandez then bounced into a run-scoring double play, though he clearly beat out second baseman Howie Kendrick's throw at first base. Orioles manager Dave Trembley put up a mild argument with first base umpire Dale Scott before retreating to the dugout.

In the bottom of the fourth, Millar cut the Angels' lead to 6-3 by driving Saunders' first pitch several rows up into the left field seats. Millar's 16th home run of the season traveled 366 feet.

The Orioles inched closer with a run in the fifth after Redman started the inning with a triple off the scoreboard in right. Brian Roberts then drew a walk. Melvin Mora struck out, with Roberts taking second on the play. Nick Markakis then drove in Redman with a groundout to shortstop, making the score 6-4.

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