If the ball hadn't soared directly into the sun, maybe Chris Waters' second career start would have gone differently.
But into the sun it went, and Orioles shortstop Alex Cintron couldn't see well enough to keep the ball from dropping to the grass. Waters walked the game's second batter on four pitches, several nowhere near the plate. Then, as big league stars will do, Texas Rangers center fielder Josh Hamilton punished him with a thunderous homer.
Just like that, a pitcher who had been masterful in his one-hit debut was on his way to allowing six runs. Waters wasn't alone in his struggles. The Rangers abused five Orioles pitchers yesterday on the way to a 15-7 victory before an announced 26,878 at Camden Yards.
"When the ball dropped, I did get a little rattled," Waters said. But he added that he hadn't felt comfortable with his fastball from the moment he left the bullpen.
"Whether that play is made or not, you still have to be able to regroup and make pitches," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said.
The Orioles had limited Texas' mighty offense to one run in the previous two games. But Waters and his mates simply couldn't prevent the Rangers from exacting thorough, 20-hit revenge.
"You can't hold a team that hits like that down forever," said Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts, who tied a career high with four hits. "We won two of three, and we'll take that."
Waters produced one of the finest debuts in club history last week against the American League West-leading Los Angeles Angels.
Trembley kept a close eye on the rookie in the run-up to his second start and felt he did a good job staying calm and keeping to his routines. He figured if Waters could keep his pitches over the plate and down, he would be fine.
He couldn't keep them down, and he wasn't fine.
After Cintron misjudged Ian Kinsler's pop-up to start the game, the Rangers piled on four hits and four runs, highlighted by Hamilton's 420-foot shot to center. Waters said he couldn't tame his fastball and paid for it.
"I just need to get more consistent with my fastball," he said.
To Roberts, Waters didn't look shaken. "He's a pretty calm kid," the second baseman said. "Sometimes, things just don't go as well as you'd like. You can't give a team like that extra outs."
The Orioles fired back quickly against Texas left-hander Matt Harrison. After Roberts doubled to lead off, Melvin Mora struck the first scoring blow with a homer to center that sailed 8 feet farther than Hamilton's. After a so-so 2007, Mora, who had three hits and four RBIs, is on pace to drive in more than 100 runs for the first time since 2004.
After the Orioles added a run in the second, designated hitter Aubrey Huff put Waters in the lead in the third, lining his 23rd home run into the right-field bleachers. The two-run shot extended Huff's hitting streak to 18 games, a career high and team high for the season.
Waters couldn't hold the advantage. He walked the leadoff hitter in the next inning, and Kinsler, who led the Rangers with five hits, punished him with a two-run homer.
"Waters was a different pitcher today," Trembley said. "His location was up."
Reliever Randor Bierd (0-2) didn't do any better against the Texas hitters. He faced five and failed to record an out as the Rangers piled up six runs in the fifth. Cintron's troubles continued as Gerald Laird's soft liner popped off his glove and Jason Ellison's grounder scooted under his outstretched arm to bring in two runs.
"It's just one of those days," the Orioles shortstop said. "I can't say anything. I've just got to forget it."