ARLINGTON, Texas -- In seemingly no time at all, the 2008 Orioles had gone from a mere afterthought to one of the most surprising stories through baseball's first week. The transformation, accomplished with six straight wins that earned them the best record in the major leagues, was a result of an opportunistic offense, solid pitching and surehanded defense.
However, in a span of six grueling hours yesterday on the field at Rangers Ballpark, those elements mostly abandoned the Orioles and the result was a momentum-killing doubleheader sweep at the hands of the Texas Rangers.
In the nightcap, the Orioles rallied from three runs down after a rocky outing from Adam Loewen to tie the score in the eighth inning. However, they were beaten, 5-4, on Ian Kinsler's RBI single in the eighth off Chad Bradford. The Orioles dropped Game 1, 3-1, making two errors that led to Texas runs, and failing to punish Kevin Millwood for his early control problems. C.J. Wilson got the save in both games.
As the Orioles (6-3) packed their bags after the game, they were the victims of a quick reversal. When they arrived in the visiting clubhouse yesterday afternoon, they carried a six-game winning streak. When they departed for Tampa Bay for the start of a three-game series tonight against the Rays, they carried a two-game losing streak.
"You play a doubleheader on the road, you'd like to win the first," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "You don't win the first one and you're trying to do everything you can to win the second one. It didn't happen. It was a long day on both ends. It's much shorter when you win, much longer when you lose. That's just the way it is."
Loewen, again showing little command of his pitches, gave up four runs in five innings. Three of those runs came in the third, when Loewen walked three batters and gave up a two-run double to Milton Bradley and an RBI single to David Murphy. Loewen steadied himself, but not before allowing 10 base runners and needing 92 pitches to get through five innings.
"I felt really, really good," Loewen said. "Then the third inning was definitely my worst. The ball was getting away from me, and I couldn't figure out my release point. ... I really felt like everybody did their job today but me. We're a solid team all the way around. I think we're going to rebound from this pretty quickly."
Loewen did avoid the loss as the Orioles got Jay Payton's two-run homer in the sixth off Texas starter Kason Gabbard to cut their deficit to one run. Kevin Millar tied the score at 4 in the eighth inning with a groundout that scored Melvin Mora, who led off the inning with a double. But the Orioles stranded two base runners in the inning, and a total of 14 in the doubleheader.
"In both games we had opportunities to have big innings and we didn't," Trembley said. "We didn't hit with men on base. I think on the road you have to do that."
In Game 1, Rangers shortstop Michael Young broke a 1-1 seventh-inning tie with a bloop single off Orioles starter Steve Trachsel (1-1) that scored Kinsler. Texas added an insurance run in the inning on Josh Hamilton's sacrifice fly that scored Young from third. He got there by stealing second and advancing to third on catcher Ramon Hernandez's throwing error.
Trachsel turned in a solid outing, allowing three runs (two earned) in 6 1/3 innings. However, his counterpart, Millwood, was better, holding the Orioles to one earned run in seven innings.
Millwood, who has now beaten the Orioles in six consecutive starts, allowed only three hits, two of them to Adam Jones, and walked five Orioles. However, he consistently worked his way out of trouble.
His greatest escape was in the third inning when the Orioles loaded the bases with one out but couldn't convert even though their two hottest hitters were at the plate. Aubrey Huff lined out to third baseman Hank Blalock, and Luke Scott struck out on three straight pitches.
"It was one of those days," Millar said. "We'll go to Tampa tomorrow and bounce back. ... We just have to play good baseball. Get back to swinging the bats and try to get a series out of it."