By the fourth inning yesterday, every item on Orioles manager Dave Trembley's wish list had been reduced to wishful thinking. Brian Burres hadn't kept Jacoby Ellsbury off base, avoided the big inning or put himself in position to get deep into the game and rest a tired bullpen.
And as a result, a season that looked so promising about 10 days ago continued to spiral in the wrong direction. The Boston Red Sox continued their weekend merry-go-round on the bases at Camden Yards, pounding Burres for seven earned runs and 12 hits in four innings of a 9-4 victory over the Orioles before an announced 45,031.
The Red Sox will go for a four-game series sweep tonight of an Orioles team that has lost four straight games and nine of its past 11, falling to three games under .500 for the first time this season. The Orioles (26-29) dropped to 1-8 on Sundays this season and have lost eight straight Sunday games since beating the Seattle Mariners on the first weekend of the season.
"The three things we were looking for, Boston got," Trembley said. "They got a very good start out of [Bartolo] Colon. They got outstanding defense; they made every play. And they got timely hitting. That was the story of the game. Unfortunately, our expectation was that Burres was going to give us a better start. It didn't happen."
For all the talk about the Orioles' improved play this season, they now have a worse record than last year's team did at this point - the 2007 Orioles were 27-28 - and things won't get any easier even when the Red Sox leave town after tonight's series finale.
The Orioles will play 18 of their next 24 games on the road, where they are 10-18 this season, and six of their next seven series against teams with winning records. That starts with a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins, who have beaten the Orioles nine straight times.
"I don't worry about what's happened in the past," Trembley said. "There's not much I can do about it. I learn from it. The team learns from it. Sometimes you're up against it. I think what you do is just battle, you grind, you meet the challenge, you do the best you can, don't feel sorry for yourself and let's go get them. That's it."
In the first three games of the series, the Red Sox outscored the Orioles 20-9. They have hit seven homers in the series compared with two by the Orioles, including a two-run shot by Luke Scott yesterday off Colon. The Red Sox have stolen 10 bases to the Orioles' three. Ellsbury has stolen seven of those bases and reached base in nine of his 17 plate appearances in the series.
"Right now, they're running on all cylinders. I'd say that," Trembley said.
Burres (4-5) allowed 13 base runners and needed 89 pitches to get through four forgettable innings. The Red Sox scored three runs in the third inning and three more in the fourth, when Manny Ramirez, who hit his 500th home run a night earlier, and Mike Lowell hit back-to-back homers to extend Boston's lead to 7-1.
With the bullpen covering 10 innings the previous two days, Steve Trachsel was called on to pitch the final five innings in just his second regular-season relief appearance in 419 career games.
"I really just pitched behind a lot and didn't locate down," Burres said. "I got a lot of balls up, and they swung it pretty well. When I did make a bad pitch, they didn't miss it. Even a couple of good pitches got hit. It was just one of those days I have to try to learn from."
In his past two starts, Burres has allowed 15 earned runs and 22 hits, including six home runs, while logging just 7 2/3 innings. His ERA has jumped from 3.16 to 4.87 in the process. His performance yesterday was just too much for the Orioles to come back from.
"We lost three games. It happens," second baseman Brian Roberts said. "You hit a bump in the road and you keep plugging along. Every team hits them at some point. There's still a long ways to go, and you keep battling."