CLEVELAND - For all manager Dave Trembley preaches about the three tenets of a winning team - defense, pitching and timely hitting - his Orioles continue to show that they've mastered only one of those characteristics.
While they keep scoring runs and erasing late-game deficits, the Orioles' defense continues to botch plays and their starting pitching and middle-relief corps remain unreliable at best, combustible at worst.
Last night, the Orioles scored five runs in the seventh inning, taking a one-run lead in a game they once trailed by five. But they handed the game right back to the Cleveland Indians with three defensive miscues in the bottom of the seventh in a 13-8 loss in the series opener before an announced 23,408 at Progressive Field.
"It's embarrassing," said Orioles reliever Jamie Walker, who allowed two homers in the eighth as the Indians blew the game open, scoring six runs in the seventh and eighth innings. " ... You have to win when you score seven or eight runs."
It was a rough start to a seven-game road trip as a potentially uplifting victory for the Orioles (56-61) turned into a frustrating loss. The Orioles have given up 28 runs and 33 hits in their past two games, a fact not lost on Trembley.
"We didn't pitch well enough, plain and simple," said Trembley, who might make some roster moves before today's game to aid a bullpen that has logged nine innings in two days.
With the Orioles leading 8-7 after a five-run seventh, reliever Rocky Cherry allowed a leadoff double to Shin-Soo Choo and a single to Ryan Garko, putting runners on first and third with no outs. Pinch hitter Kelly Shoppach followed with a ground ball to third baseman Melvin Mora. The Orioles had Choo, who initially broke for third, in a rundown, but catcher Ramon Hernandez held on to the ball too long, allowing Choo to get back to the bag.
The next hitter, Jamey Carroll, tied the game at 8 with a sacrifice fly. Walker then got Asdrubal Cabrera to hit into what easily could have been an inning-ending double play, but it hit off Mora's glove and trickled into shallow left field, and the Indians took the lead.
It became a 10-8 advantage when first baseman Kevin Millar opted to take the out at first on Grady Sizemore's ground ball before throwing home.
"Obviously, there was probably lapses in concentration," Trembley said.
Trembley said the tone was set by Dennis Sarfate, whose third straight subpar start likely has him ticketed for the bullpen. Putting the Orioles in a four-run hole before getting a second out in the game, Sarfate allowed seven runs (six earned) in four-plus innings. He surrendered five hits and walked five.
"I [stunk]," said Sarfate, who has allowed 17 runs in three starts. "The guys score eight runs, we should win a game."
About the only thing that went right for Sarfate was his teammates again took him off the hook of a loss. With the Orioles trailing 7-3 to start the seventh, Indians starter Fausto Carmona issued back-to-back, one-out walks and then a single to Alex Cintron to load the bases. Brian Roberts made it a three-run game with an RBI single to right field.
"I thought we had the momentum there," Markakis said. " ... That's just how baseball is sometimes. You score some and you give them up."