O'S COVER THE BASES WITH BLUNDERS

THE BALTIMORE SUN

For much of the first half of the season, the Orioles have been bothered by their lack of consistency.

They've hit, but haven't pitched well. Or they would get a great effort on the mound and waste it with base-running or fielding errors, or a slumping offense.

In Sunday's 5-3 loss to the Washington Nationals that ruined a potential sweep and ended their 2009 interleague schedule at a franchise-tying-best record of 11-7, the Orioles were consistent.

They made mistakes in the field, on the base paths, on the mound and at the plate while losing in front of an announced 25,068.

"It's always a combination of things. I don't think it's just one thing," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "But the mistakes that were made [Sunday] were made in more than one area."

"More than one area," Trembley repeated for emphasis.

* There was the offense:

Five times Sunday, the Orioles' leadoff hitter reached base safely, but they couldn't sustain a rally against Nationals starter John Lannan (5-5), who gave up three runs and seven hits in 7 1/3 innings for his fifth consecutive quality start.

* There was the defense:

Rookie catcher Matt Wieters, who threw out a base stealer Sunday for the first time in his past 11 tries, committed his third error in four games. He sailed a throw over third baseman Oscar Salazar's head in the eighth inning that allowed Josh Willingham to score the Nationals' fifth and final run.

"It was just a matter of rushing the throw a little bit to third," Wieters said. "I thought I had a little less time than I actually had."

Wieters, who was hitless in three at-bats, also made a key mistake in the sixth. Center fielder Adam Jones threw a perfect strike to the plate to nab Willingham attempting to score, but Wieters dropped the ball.

"I hope he got it all out of the way," Trembley said of Wieters' rough afternoon. "There was a little bit of everything for him today. First time for everything, and today was the first time for him."

Since it was Wieters, the young phenom, the mistakes were more glaring, his manager said.

"It just so happens because it's Matt Wieters, everybody's interested in him," Trembley said. "He made a mistake, made a couple of them. We'll move on."

* There was the base running:

In a continual problem this season, the Orioles made two costly miscues on the base paths. With two runners on and no outs in the second, Salazar grounded out to first baseman Nick Johnson, who stepped on the bag and then alertly threw behind Luke Scott at third base to catch Scott in a rundown for the eventual second out.

"I think you've got time to stay right where you're at," Trembley said. "It looked to me like [Scott] had his head down."

In the eighth, Aubrey Huff hit a hard liner to right-center that scored Ty Wigginton to cut the lead to 5-3. Huff thought the ball was a sure double, but it was slowed by the outfield grass and right fielder Elijah Dukes easily threw out Huff at second for the final out of the inning.

"By the time I see him field it, I am already four steps into it. I am such a big guy, it's hard to stop," Huff said.

"If I don't keep going, I am probably going to get picked back at first anyway. So I just gave it a shot. In hindsight, it's kind of a stupid thing to do, down by two."

* And then there was the pitching:

Rookie David Hernandez (1-2), recalled from Triple-A Norfolk on Sunday to make the start, pitched relatively well. Yet his one mistake traveled 442 feet - a two-run homer by Adam Dunn that gave the Nationals (22-51) a fourth-inning lead that they never relinquished.

It wiped out the Orioles' chances of sweeping their regional foe and continued their woes in series finales (6-19), on Sundays (3-9) and in day games (6-14).

This time, it wasn't just one faulty component that sank the Orioles (34-41).

"We made too many mistakes in a lot of different areas," Trembley said. "And that was the game."

Inside

Fill-in pitcher Hernandez keeps Orioles in the game PG 5

Box score

for Sunday's game PG 4

RED SOX @ORIOLES

Tonight, 7:05

TV: MASN HD

Radio: 105.7 FM

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