O's fall below .500

The Baltimore Sun

OAKLAND, Calif. -- When the Orioles beat the Los Angeles Angels on Friday to start their 10-game road trip, they were three games over .500 and just a game out of first place in the American League East.

The fall has been quick, and at times brutal. A short pre-game meeting, called by manager Dave Trembley, didn't stem the tide last night, and the Orioles are below .500 for the first time since losing Opening Day.

Starter Brian Burres was not sharp and the Orioles' offense stayed in its deep slumber in a 4-2 loss to the Oakland Athletics before an announced 11,492 at McAfee Coliseum.

The Orioles (16-17) have lost a season-high four straight games and six of their past seven. They'll try to prevent a three-game sweep this afternoon behind Jeremy Guthrie.

Burres allowed a run in the first inning and two more in the third, a hole the Orioles couldn't get out of against A's starter Justin Duchscherer and relievers Alan Embree and Santiago Casilla.

Duchscherer allowed just two runs on four hits and two walks over seven innings, while Embree and Casilla each pitched a scoreless inning. The Orioles, who have been held to two runs or fewer in five of their past seven games, mustered their only offense in the fourth with an RBI single by Aubrey Huff and a sacrifice fly by Luke Scott. They had only four hits and have had five hits or fewer in four of six games

The Orioles trailed only 3-2 heading into the bottom of the sixth, but Burres allowed an unearned run after third baseman Melvin Mora's fielding error. Burres gave up four runs (three earned) on eight hits and a walk over 5 1/3 innings, losing his second straight start to fall to 3-3.

Trembley held a short team meeting with his players on the field before batting practice. He told them to relax and reiterated that he still had confidence in the club, which was just a half game out of last place in the AL East.

"We have been competitive in just about every game, and I think that's because of our pitching," Trembley said. "The other parts of the game will come, and I'm confident they will. It's just a matter of getting this started."

Burres had been pitching well coming into the game, but it was clear from the first inning that he was in for a struggle. After getting two quick outs, Burres allowed three straight singles, the last, by Brown, driving in a run. He then issued a walk to Bobby Crosby before getting out of the inning on shortstop Luis Hernandez's nifty catch of Mark Ellis' low liner.

In the third, Burres gave up three straight singles to the same trio - Frank Thomas, former Oriole Jack Cust and Emil Brown - that performed the feat in the first. With the bases loaded and no outs, the A's received back-to-back RBI groundouts by Crosby and Ellis to extend their lead to 3-0.


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