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BAL@LAA: Orioles fall on a 12th-inning sacrifice fly

ANAHEIM -- An Orioles season that has already gone from good to bad made new headway into ugly territory Saturday night with a collapse that epitomized how bad things have gotten for Baltimore.

Tasked with a two-run lead in the 12th, Orioles closer Kevin Gregg was yanked before he could record an out in Baltimore's 9-8, walk-off loss to the Angels, a series defeat marred by defensive miscues and an exasperatingly ineffective offense.

Gregg -- who wasn't helped by the continued struggles of young third baseman Josh Bell -- faced five or more batters without getting an out for the second time in four outings and exited with the score tied in favor of Troy Patton, who surrendered Bobby Abreu's game-winning sacrifice fly.

The late-inning meltdown extended the Orioles' streak to 15 series without a win and dashed any hope of recording what would be their first road series win since May 13-15 at Tampa Bay. Baltimore's continued backslide also has the club on pace to eclipse the 100-loss mark, a dubious distinction it has reached just once since 1954, and one that becomes more of a reality with Saturday's heartbreaking defeat.

"It's not devastating," manager Buck Showalter said of his club's seventh consecutive loss in a one-run game. "I mean there's things devastating in your life, OK? In the world. It's a tough loss for us, but we get to do it again -- we have to do it again -- around the corner."

But late Saturday night -- and into the wee hours of Sunday morning on the East Coast -- the immediacy of the Orioles' latest loss, which puts them a season-high 29 games under .500, reverberated off the quiet walls of the visiting clubhouse.

"You got to take care of the baseball," said Gregg, who allowed a leadoff single and hit Mike Trout but seemed more concerned with Bell's two botched plays, one of which allowed a run to score.

"Sacrifice bunt and you throw it away. You have [Peter] Bourjos running down to first. You have to know about his speed," added Gregg, who was removed after issuing a bases-loaded walk, which tied the game, to the next batter. "Obviously, a questionable call at first base [regarding if Bourjos was safe]. If both of those things are done, you're looking at a different situation."

Instead, the Orioles were handed their third consecutive loss in a game in which they recorded 12 or more hits, out-hitting the Angels for the second consecutive evening with nothing to show for it.

"It happened one after the other," Bell said of a 12th-inning debacle in which he threw away Hank Conger's bunt and made a lunging stop on Bourjos' grounder only to get off a too-late throw. "You have to try to nip things before they start. I just don't like the outcome."

"It just [stinks]," said starter Tommy Hunter, who was charged with six earned runs over 6 1/3 innings. "There's no other word you can really put to it. When your team goes out and they fight for you it's tough to be on the [losing end].

"You look back. You look back at the first inning, the second inning, the third inning, -- what differences could have been made to where it doesn't even go to extra innings? And like I said, it all starts with your starter. A little jump that we need to fix."

And while there have been plenty of times this season a frustratingly erratic Orioles offense has gone into hiding, held in check while an opposing starter cuts through the lineup, it would have been awfully hard to justify any cliched "tip of the cap" to the Angels' pitching staff Saturday night.

The O's hit struggling starter Joel Pineiro -- making his first start since Aug. 3 after a demotion to the bullpen -- early, but were unable to come up with the big blow in an exasperating display that got uglier long after Pineiro's exit. After a two-run eighth to tie the game, the Orioles put the leadoff man on in the following three innings and couldn't score.

Even after Adam Jones, who had four hits, came up with the big RBI single in the top of the 12th, Baltimore couldn't hold on, squandering a chance for a rare road win in a sloppy display of walks, errors and a hit batter by Gregg, who was charged with his fifth blown save in 22 chances.

"We had some guys that don't have much experience that weren't able to execute," Showalter said. "They aren't the only ones, but we got a man on second, and in some situation you got to be able to move the runner at least 90 feet. Or one out, man on third at least put the ball in play. And we don't do it."

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