Olson improved, but O's drag on

The Baltimore Sun

TORONTO - With the way Garrett Olson's previous start went, anything the rookie left-hander did last night against the Toronto Blue Jays probably could have been characterized as progress. That's the reality when your previous outing resulted in only two outs and your demeanor gets publicly questioned by your manager.

Olson actually performed reasonably well, finishing an out shy of a quality start. However, he still was saddled with the defeat last night in the Orioles' 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays before an announced 29,063 at Rogers Centre.

"Obviously, he went into the sixth [inning], which was a big improvement from the last time he pitched," said Orioles manager Dave Trembley, who this week attributed Olson's biggest problem to nerves.

Trailing by a run in the ninth, the Orioles loaded the bases with just one out against former Orioles closer B.J. Ryan. However, Ryan got pinch hitter Melvin Mora to foul out and retired Brian Roberts on a groundout to end the game. Blue Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay scooped up shortstop John McDonald's throw, securing the Orioles' 19th defeat in 24 games.

After winning the series opener Tuesday, the Orioles (67-84) dropped the next two games and remain winless in a series since taking two of three from the Detroit Tigers in mid-August, a span of nine series. They finished the season series 5-10 against the Blue Jays and are 21-41 against American League East foes. Only the major league-worst Seattle Mariners have a worse record within their division in the AL.

The Orioles, who were once 18-10 in one-run games, lost their seventh straight game decided by a run and are 2-17 in such contents since June 18.

"It's been a dogfight," said Orioles first baseman Kevin Millar, who went 0-for-3, including a ninth-inning strikeout against Ryan, and is hitless in his past 18 at-bats. "It's a matter of getting that hit at the right time. We haven't done that lately. Early on, we had things going our way."

A start after Olson surrendered six earned runs and got just two outs against the Minnesota Twins, the shortest outing for an Orioles starter in a noninjury situation all season, he allowed three earned runs on four hits and three walks over 5 2/3 innings.

He exited in the sixth inning with his pitch count at 99 with men on first and second and two outs and the Orioles ahead 2-1. Reliever Jim Miller's first pitch went to the backstop, putting two runners in scoring position. Pinch hitter and former Oriole Gregg Zaun lined his second pitch into right field for a two-run double that put Olson on the hook for the loss.

"He had gone as far as he was going to go," Trembley said of his decision to yank Olson. "I felt comfortable bringing in Miller. I was going to do what I thought I could do to help the team win the game."

It was Olson's third loss in four decisions. He again looked tentative at the start, allowing a first-inning solo homer to former Oriole Jose Bautista and walking two in the second inning before getting out of the jam. From there, he was much better, retiring seven straight Blue Jays at one point.

"I might have been [tentative]. I don't know," Olson said. "There's just a different feeling about this ballpark, I guess. But after the first inning, I started to find my groove again and just tried to maintain it."

Trembley and pitching coach Rick Kranitz spent considerable time with Olson after his disastrous start against the Twins. They urged him to settle down and stop pitching as if his spot in the rotation were on the line.

For the most part last night, Olson kept his cool. He even got out of a tough spot in the fifth - the Blue Jays had men on second and third with one out - without allowing a run. The escape turned out to be Olson's only victory of the night.

"Obviously, it's a bittersweet feeling," Olson said. "As a team, we came in with expectations taking this series. You don't want to lose the game. It was very hard for us to swallow."

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