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Rough road trip: O's fall, finish 0-6

The Baltimore Sun

BOSTON - There was the bunt that was rolling foul before bouncing off a spike mark, a home run taken away by a superb defensive play and a throwing error that resulted in another excruciating loss on a road trip that couldn't have gone much worse.

"When you're in last place and you're struggling as much as we are, bad things happen," Orioles third baseman Aubrey Huff said.

Learning about 24 hours before the game that they would need to scratch ace pitcher Jeremy Guthrie, the Orioles got a total of six shutout innings from emergency starter Lance Cormier and Dennis Sarfate and took a four-run lead over Daisuke Matsuzaka into the seventh inning at Fenway Park.

But that just set the stage for another Orioles collapse, completed in the ninth when rookie pitcher Jim Miller fielded a bunt and sailed a throw into left field, scoring the winning run in the Boston Red Sox's 5-4 victory in front of an announced 37,373.

"Just to have the game in your hand and have it go down like that, you don't want to see that," Sarfate said. "It just [stinks] to play like that, have a good chance to win and things happen."

It was, however, a fitting end to a brutal road trip, in which the Orioles (63-76) lost all six games and were outscored 60-26, had to temporarily shut down their two most effective pitchers (Guthrie and reliever Jim Johnson) because of injuries and surrendered 10 or more runs four times. The Orioles' six straight losses are a season high, and they have lost 11 of their past 12.

Asked about the road trip, manager Dave Trembley said, "Well, it's not exactly a cup of tea, I can tell you that."

Jacoby Ellsbury leaping over the wall in right field and robbing Huff of a home run and a couple of questionable calls by the umpiring crew only added to the Orioles' frustration. Hitting coach Terry Crowley was tossed by plate umpire Jeff Nelson for arguing a called third strike on Ramon Hernandez that ended the top of the ninth. Replays showed that the pitch didn't even flirt with the inside part of the plate.

Trembley also went nose-to-nose with third base umpire Jim Joyce, who called Huff out on a close play at third that would have put the Orioles into position for an insurance run.

"I thought he was out of position again, just like he was out of position [Saturday] night on the play at the plate," Trembley said. "I've got a lot of respect for what those guys do, but it seemed like every darn call, everything that could possibly go against us did."

Also going against the Orioles is Trembley having very few experienced options out of the bullpen, which was especially tough after Cormier and Sarfate combined for six exemplary innings and veteran Jamie Walker couldn't get out of the seventh without allowing a solo homer to Dustin Pedroia and loading the bases with one out.

Rocky Cherry, who has spent most of the season at Triple-A Norfolk, walked in a run in the seventh and then surrendered a game-tying two-run triple to Mark Kotsay in the eighth.

"It's kind of tough when it's Sept. 3 and you got to start your whole bullpen when you don't have anybody in the minor leagues to come up and start for us," Walker said. "That was a [bad] pitch [to Pedroia]. But like I said, all of us are pitching in situations where we normally wouldn't."

That included Miller, who was making just his second major league appearance. He did well to strand a potential go-ahead run in the eighth. However, in the ninth, he allowed a leadoff single to Alex Cora. Coco Crisp then dropped a bunt down the first base line and didn't even run right away because the ball was rolling in foul territory. But it veered back to the left - "never seen anything like it," Sarfate said - and by the time Miller picked it up, he couldn't throw out Crisp.

Ellsbury dropped down another bunt and Miller fielded it quickly, but his throw to third base was well wide, allowing Cora to score without a throw.

"I think if I make that throw like I should make it, I have a real good chance of getting him," Miller said.

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