Not wanting to lean so heavily on his bullpen again last night, uncertain whether it would hold up under the weight, Orioles manager Dave Trembley issued a plea of sorts to rookie pitcher Radhames Liz.
"Liz better give us some innings," Trembley said before taking the field for batting practice. "Otherwise, I'll be asking a little bit too much of some people."
It was asking a lot of Liz, who had gone six full innings only once in his previous six starts, and he fell a little short of the challenge.
After getting the first two outs in the opening inning, Liz walked the next two batters, threw a wild pitch and allowed a two-run single to Torii Hunter. He gave up two homers in the third inning before finding a nice rhythm but didn't make it out of the sixth in the Los Angeles Angels' 11-6 victory over the Orioles before an announced 21,819 at Camden Yards.
Even the smallest triumphs are appreciated by Trembley. And if Liz had not dropped a foul pop-up with two outs in the sixth after colliding with catcher Ramon Hernandez, he would have come closer to reaching his manager's stated goal.
Instead, Liz (4-3) was charged with an error and walked No. 9 hitter Jeff Mathis to bring reliever Lance Cormier into the game. Liz allowed six runs and seven hits, walked four and threw 102 pitches.
"The last part of the game, I don't think, was the big deal for me," he said. "The big deal was in the first inning, when I walked the two batters and when I faced Hunter and I was down in the count. I was trying to hit the corner and I didn't, then I tried to go down the middle."
Only 56 of Liz's pitches were strikes, an issue that must be corrected if he is going to succeed at this level.
"I would say his ball-strike ratio was not where it needs to be in order to put himself in a situation where he can pitch in some kind of comfort zone," Trembley said. "He was pitching behind a lot, and leadoff walks and two-out walks, and those kinds of things have a way of catching up with you in a hurry."
An entire team is trying to catch up these days. The Orioles (48-55) have lost five in a row and 15 of their past 20. They are assured of dropping their eighth straight series.
"We have to keep scoring and put everything together," said Melvin Mora, who was hit by a pitch behind the left knee in the eighth inning and is questionable for today. "Right now, we don't put our pitching and hitting together. You need to battle."
Aubrey Huff hit his 20th homer, a three-run shot in the first inning that gave the Orioles a 3-2 lead. But in the third inning, Casey Kotchman lined a two-run homer onto the flag court, Hunter cleared the center-field fence with two outs, and Liz had thrown 57 pitches before returning to the dugout.
Better able to locate the strike zone, and with a few Angels swinging early, Liz retired eight straight batters before walking Hunter with one out in the sixth. Garret Anderson singled, Howie Kendrick's infield hit increased the lead to 6-3 and the error and walk ended Liz's night.
Luke Scott drove Angels starter Jon Garland (9-6) from the game with a two-run homer in the sixth, the ball traveling 400 feet and bringing the Orioles closer to a tie. But Juan Rivera's three-run shot off Fernando Cabrera in the eighth blunted the comeback, and Hunter homered again in the ninth to give him five RBIs.
"For the most part, we didn't make pitches when we had to," Trembley said. "I don't particularly want to say it is one guy or the other guy. I think you can collectively put that in the hat and say it about everything that you saw."
Before last night, Orioles starters had posted a 6.97 ERA this month. They have a 10.32 ERA during the current losing streak.
Over the past 20 games, Jeremy Guthrie is the only member of the rotation to go at least seven innings, and starters have a 7.70 ERA. They have failed to complete five innings on six occasions. And since the All-Star break, they've gone six innings only twice in 10 games and posted an 8.35 ERA.
"I have a new respect for the term 'patience,' " Trembley said.
It's wearing thin, along with a bullpen that's been used to excess.