Rays feast again on O's pitching

The Baltimore Sun

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Third baseman Aubrey Huff was in a crouch, his elbows resting on his knees, his eyes staring straight ahead. Brian Roberts was near second base, his arms resting behind his back and his eyes fixed on the ground.

In the outfield, Jay Payton stood completely still with his arms folded, while Nick Markakis paced back and forth with his back to home plate.

By the sixth inning yesterday, the Orioles had the look of a beaten and battered team that couldn't wait for this three-day nightmare at Tropicana Field to end. When it finally did before an announced 32,379, the Orioles had absorbed a 10-4 loss and a humbling three-game sweep in which they were outscored 34-16.

"We got our butts kicked," first baseman Kevin Millar said. "What else are you going to say? You guys watched the three games. There's nothing really else to say."

The numbers will do just fine. The 34 runs the Rays scored were a club record in a three-game series and the most the team has scored in a three-game span. Tampa Bay, which has beaten the Orioles eight consecutive times and in 11 of 14 games this season, batted .367 in the series, got 40 hits and drew 25 walks.

Things got so ridiculous yesterday that shortstop Jason Bartlett, who hadn't hit a homer since last August, connected for a solo shot off Jamie Walker. Bartlett was then hit by Jim Johnson in his next at-bat, angering Rays manager Joe Maddon, who felt it was intentional.

If it was, it might have been the only time all series an Orioles pitcher threw the ball where he wanted. Once in each game of the series, an Orioles pitcher allowed four straight Rays to reach base without making them swing the bat. Jeremy Guthrie and Chris Waters each walked four straight batters, and Alberto Castillo hit two and walked two yesterday in the Rays' three-run sixth inning that extended their lead to 8-1.

In the series, Orioles pitchers had only two 1-2-3 innings. They also allowed an astonishing 74 base runners in 25 innings and added three wild pitches for good measure.

"As an understatement, not very pretty," said Orioles manager Dave Trembley, whose starters had a 13.87 ERA in the series and logged just 12 1/3 innings. "I'm not real pleased as punch that I have to sit there and watch 180 pitches every day."

So bothered by what they saw from their staff, Trembley and pitching coach Rick Kranitz have called a pitchers-only meeting today in Boston, where the Orioles (63-73) begin a three-game series.

"I think it just comes down to basically throwing the fastball over the plate," Trembley said. "I think that will be addressed [today]. Obviously, we're looking for people who can get people out. I would hope that people are intuitive enough to understand what the heck's going on around here and take better advantage of the opportunities they're given."

Brian Burres became the latest Orioles starter to struggle, allowing seven earned runs, nine hits and four walks in five-plus innings. He got two quick outs in the first before giving up three straight hits, including a two-run single to Willy Aybar. He allowed another run in the second on Shawn Riggans' RBI double and two in the third on Ben Zobrist's sacrifice fly and Bartlett's single.

His ERA, which stands at 6.08, has risen after each of his past four starts.

"It's definitely frustrating right now, knowing that you can pitch better than you are," Burres said. "You just have to keep your head up and try to get back to where you know where you can be."

That might as well be the Orioles' mantra. They have lost 10 of their past 12 games and head into Boston today for a matchup against another team that needs to keep its postseason aspirations alive.

"No one feels sorry for us," Millar said. "This is the big leagues. The Tampa Bay Rays aren't feeling sorry for us. The Boston Red Sox aren't going to feel sorry for us. We got to go in there and find a way to win some games, to dig down deep and have somebody step up on the pitcher's mound and throw the game of their life and have hitters step up when the time is right. That's the bottom line."

Copyright © 2020, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
50°