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O's walk off losers

The Baltimore Sun

NEW YORK -- Standing in front of his locker in a quiet visiting clubhouse, Orioles reliever Jim Johnson willingly shouldered the blame for his team's 2-1 loss last night to the New York Yankees.

It was Johnson's ninth-inning walk to pinch hitter Bobby Abreu that put Hideki Matsui on second base and in position to score on Robinson Cano's two-out single to left field. Cano's hit broke a tie and sent the Yankees storming out of the dugout to celebrate the series victory before an announced 49,452 at Yankee Stadium.

"The walk really killed us," said Johnson (0-2), who had struck out Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi before issuing the free pass to Abreu. "You can't defend a walk. It's frustrating, because [Brian] Burres pitched his butt off and we just couldn't get it done. I'll take the blame for it."

About a minute later, across the clubhouse, leadoff hitter Brian Roberts explained what he felt cost the Orioles (24-22) the game and wasted one of the best performances of Burres' career.

"We just haven't been good enough [offensively]," said Roberts, who was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. "That's the bottom line. Our pitchers have done what they needed to do. The bad part of it is the guys that are supposed to be doing it offensively are not doing it. Guys like Freddie [Bynum] and [Adam Jones] and some of the younger guys are doing a good job.

"Unfortunately, it's guys like me and Nick [Markakis] and some of the other [veterans] that aren't carrying our weight. ... We just have to do a much better job."

In the Orioles' 24 wins this season, they've averaged more than six runs. In their 22 losses, they've averaged barely two runs.

After scoring 12 runs in the series opener, the Orioles managed just one run over the final 18 innings of the series. They were shut down Wednesday by lightly regarded Darrell Rasner and controlled last night by Ian Kennedy, 23, whose struggles earned him a trip to the minors earlier this month.

Kennedy allowed only one run in six innings, on Bynum's RBI triple in the third. The Orioles loaded the bases with one out later in the inning, but Kennedy struck out Markakis for the second of three times and then retired Aubrey Huff on a flyout. The Orioles had only five hits, two after the third inning.

"When the game's over, you can look back on that and say, 'Hey, we had an opportunity to do something there,'" Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "It didn't happen."

The shame of the Orioles' latest anemic offensive performance was that Burres' gem went unrewarded. The only run Burres allowed in 7 2/3 innings came on a fourth-inning sacrifice fly by Shelley Duncan. Burres walked none and retired 13 of his final 14 hitters.

"That's as good as you're going to pitch here," Roberts said.

In the ninth, with the crowd already energized by Yankees manager Joe Girardi's hat-throwing tirade and ejection after Giambi's ninth-inning strikeout, Cano delivered.

Jay Payton's throw to the plate to try to get Matsui sailed too high for catcher Ramon Hernandez to make the tag.

"Johnson has just been remarkable for us, and he'll be better because of tonight's opportunity," Trembley said. "He's one pitch from getting out of it. That's it."

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