Orioles manager Dave Trembley has effectively kept his composure throughout this train wreck of a season, answering the same questions day after day about his club's inability to win close games, hit in clutch spots, keep key players healthy and stay away from mental mistakes that continually haunt the team.
After Sunday's 4-3, 10-inning loss to the Washington Nationals, Trembley's frustration -- and perhaps the pressure of being on the hot seat as his club enters a day off with a majors-worst 14-31 record -- boiled over.
In his post-game media session, Trembley was asked for his interpretation of a mental miscue in the sixth inning when Corey Patterson failed to move from second to third on a deep flyout to center. Patterson eventually made it to third but was stranded there.
"That is about as plain as the nose on my face, what you should do. That was a mistake that was made by a guy with a lot of experience," Trembley said. "You can go ask Corey Patterson instead of asking me because that's an insult to my intelligence."
After answering one more question, Trembley ended his session, saying, "That's about it," and walking away fuming.
The lingering question now is whether this is about it for Trembley as Orioles manager, given that the team again failed to win a road series, dropping two straight after winning Friday's first game against the Nationals (23-22).
"Of course we want him here; so far he has done a good job in our eyes," center fielder Adam Jones said of Trembley. "He's on us. He can't control the win-loss record. He can't go out there and play the game for us. All he can do is write the best lineup in his eyes. ÃÂ The stuff on the field is our responsibility, it's just the manager always has to take the heat for it."
President of baseball operations Andy MacPhail has said repeatedly that his focus is on improving the talent on the roster and not on Trembley's employment status. But with the Orioles continuing to lose in heartbreaking ways, owner Peter Angelos and MacPhail could use Monday's day off to re-evaluate the team and potentially make changes.
MacPhail, who spent the week watching Triple-A Norfolk play, could not be reached for comment.
Adding injury to insult, the Orioles might be searching for their third closer in six weeks after Alfredo Simon hobbled off the field in the bottom of the 10th with a strained left hamstring. He said he expects to be fine in a few days but will be re-examined Tuesday.
Simon pitched a perfect ninth and then injured himself while running to cover first on the first out of the 10th. Reliever Cla Meredith (0-2), who had previously warmed up, was summoned without warning. On his fourth pitch, he took the loss, serving up a game-winning homer to Josh Willingham before an announced 27,535 at Nationals Park.
"I'm disappointed after the effort the guys gave today," Meredith said. "Obviously, I want to step up and be better in that situation. If anything, just for them, the way they played today. I just got to be better than that."
The Orioles were trailing 3-1 in the top of the ninth against Nationals closer Matt Capps, who had been 16-for-16 in save chances. But they put together a two-run rally, which started with Luke Scott's infield single and Jones' double and ended with Matt Wieters' RBI groundout and a game-tying single by Julio Lugo, who had driven in just one run in his first 60 at-bats this season.
Essentially, though, the game was won -- and lost -- in the first inning.
The Orioles started Sunday's game with consecutive singles and had runners on the corners with no outs against Nationals starter John Lannan, who entered with a 6.02 ERA.
Those were the only hits Lannan allowed in 5 1/3 innings.
Miguel Tejada hit into a double play to bring Patterson home from third for the Orioles' first run, and last until the ninth.
In the bottom of the first, Kevin Millwood allowed two singles and hit Willingham to load the bases with two outs. Roger Bernadina then hit a towering fly to center. Jones gave chase, but the ball bounced off his outstretched glove, giving Bernadina a three-run triple.
"Just missed the ball. I mean, there's no elaboration -- just didn't come up with it," Jones said. "You either catch it or you don't. I didn't. You are supposed to make that play."
Millwood pitched 6 1/3 innings and didn't allow another run while striking out eight. But for the sixth time this season, and third straight start, he didn't get a decision. He is still looking for his first win as an Oriole.
"It was a battle all the way through," said Millwood, whose ERA is 3.71. "They put some good at-bats together. It seemed like every time I missed, they hit it. ÃÂ Collectively, we weren't very good today."
Patterson, who had two hits and a run, took responsibility for his base-running miscue, saying he initially thought the ball would hit off the wall and he wanted to make sure he scored.
"It was a bad play on my part, I've got to probably play it safe and go on and tag there," Patterson said. "It was unfortunate. I still thought it was a well-played game. Me, personally, I could name three or four things that happened, but I'm not going to name-call anybody or say excuses."
Whether the loss means any dramatic changes for the club is yet to be seen. For the short term, though, it meant visible frustration from the embattled manager and pointed comments from the veteran starter, who said that just when the Orioles seem to be shaking off the early-season malaise, they beat themselves.
"It feels like that has kind of been the story of our season," Millwood said. "We have some young guys in here, but that's no excuse. I think everybody knows how to play the game; it just seems like we make the same mistakes over and over. And we just keep losing the same way."
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