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Rookie stifles O's

The Baltimore Sun

Last week, Scott Lewis pitched against the Orioles' Double-A Bowie team.

Last night, the Cleveland Indians left-hander made his major league debut at Camden Yards.

With the way this season has spiraled out of control the past few weeks, was there any question that the soft-tossing rookie would have more success against the Orioles than he did versus the Baysox?

Lewis dominated last night, allowing just three hits in eight scoreless innings as the Indians beat the Orioles, 7-1, in front of an announced 12,438.

"I've never seen hitters look that bad against a young guy coming from Double-A," said Orioles shortstop Alex Cintron, who had two of the Orioles' six overall hits. "We were fouling a lot of pitches and we missed a lot. I was kind of surprised."

Only Aubrey Huff's ground-rule double in the ninth inning against reliever Masahide Kobayashi enabled the Orioles (64-80) to avoid a shutout.

Lewis, 24, barely touched 90 mph with his fastball but was effective with a 75-mph changeup, a decent curveball and a slight hesitation in his delivery that neutralized a lineup that didn't include regulars Nick Markakis, Kevin Millar or Melvin Mora. He shut down the Orioles - losers of 15 of 17 and 18 of 22 - one week after giving up three runs in 5 2/3 innings in a no-decision against the Baysox in Game 1 of the Eastern League Southern Division finals.

"He threw the ball over the plate and changed speeds," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "He had command of his fastball, his pitch count was down and he got a lot of outs on less than three pitches."

It's the kind of performance Trembley is begging for from his young pitchers, such as last night's starter, rookie Chris Waters (2-3), who lasted 5 2/3 innings and gave up five runs on nine hits, two walks and a hit batsman.

"[Waters was] just the opposite. His fastball command wasn't there," Trembley said. "His ball-strike ratio was 50-50, didn't have very many first-pitch strikes and, in the middle innings, the bottom of their lineup got to him."

Lewis' outing was reminiscent of Waters' Aug. 5 debut against the Los Angeles Angels, when he allowed just one hit in eight scoreless innings. Since then, Waters is 1-3 with a 7.00 ERA in seven starts.

"I won't say it is easy to get here, because it is not," Waters said. "But it is a lot harder to stay here."

Waters surrendered runs in three innings, including a three-run fourth highlighted by a two-run double from No. 9 hitter Asdrubal Cabrera. He also served up one of Kelly Shoppach's two solo homers.

The Orioles have allowed five or more runs in 19 of their past 22 games, and the frustration is mounting.

"I'm trying to come in here every night with a certain sense of dignity and respect, and I don't like losing," Trembley said in his post-game interview. "I don't like losing, it's that simple."

Afterward, the mood was sullen in the clubhouse.

"It's been brutal," said Millar, who, in the midst of a 2-for-25 skid, was given the night off. "We've gotten blown out. It's just the way things are right now. But I don't think you are seeing lack of effort. You aren't seeing guys hang their heads."

These final weeks, he said, might be the most important of the year - just to see how the team reacts and responds to the losses.

"You start judging guys right now when things aren't going your way," Millar said. "That's when I think you get a hell of a lot more respect."

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