O's skid hits six with loss to Yankees
Bullpen struggles as Orioles watch three-run lead slip away
BALTIMORE -- In the most crucial moments Monday night at Camden Yards, the Orioles melted under the mounting pressure triggered by a long losing streak, a list of injured starters and doubts as to whether they even belong in the American League East race.Steve Kline, with sweat dripping off his cap and trying desperately to prevent the Yankees from scoring the go-ahead run, bent down in his usual stretch position on a 3-0 pitch to Jason Giambi in the eighth inning. Kline has had a self-admitted miserable season, with every one of his fun-loving idiosyncrasies in St. Louis turning into fatal flaws in Baltimore. As Giambi focused on the pitch, Kline appeared to flinch his left shoulder and home plate umpire Marty Foster called a balk. And perhaps typifying the Orioles' frustration, Kline went into a rage, charging Foster before he was separated by first base coach Rick Dempsey and then finally manager Lee Mazzilli. Kline was ejected, the Yankees scored the go-ahead run and the Orioles lost a bitter 6-4 decision, their sixth straight loss. A crowd of 45,801 watched the Orioles squander a 4-1 lead and allow the Yankees to rally with the help of walks, errors, passed balls and, yes, the balk. Kline's balk allowed Jorge Posada to move to second base. He moved to third on a fielder's choice and eventually scored on a Bernie Williams sacrifice fly for a 5-4 lead. Before being called for a balk May 8, Kline had not been cited for a balk in more than eight years, when he committed one in his first Major League game in April 1997. "They said I moved. I saw time out, stepped off and they banged me," Kline said. "The whole Yankee bench yelled. I just think they favor the Yankees all the time. I am getting [irked] of that. They are the cream of the crop. "You gotta have some type of flexibility on the mound. I am going to play statue [Tuesday] and pose on the mound for seven hours. I thought it was kind of a bogus call in a tight game like that. If I moved, I moved. This is just icing on the cake." Kline could just as well been describing his team, which is in a tailspin and now is ahead of the Yankees by just three games, meaning if this slide continues, the Bombers, who once again were called out by owner George Steinbrenner for their lackluster play, could leave Baltimore one game behind the Orioles. Yeah, for all the hard work the Orioles have put in this season, they are looking like a team that's unsure of themselves. Mazzilli, who stepped in between Kline and Clark so Kline would not make contact, was angry at reliever Jorge Julio's mishap after Kline was ejected. Julio came on and intentionally walked Giambi to put runners at first and second and no outs. He then induced a bouncer to second from Ruben Sierra. First baseman Rafael Palmeiro fielded it and made an unhurried throw to shortstop Miguel Tejada, who then couldn't throw hard to first because Julio was not there yet to cover. Sierra, still with speed at 39, beat the throw. Williams then followed with the sacrifice fly. "Julio's gotta get over and cover first base, that's the bottom line," Mazzilli said. "He wasn't there and it cost us a run. He's gotta get over there. No excuses for that." Mazzilli said he had no problem with Kline's tantrum, calling Foster's ruling a "delayed reaction." "[Kline] should be upset, he should be," Mazzilli said. "There was no balk there. You know, the game's on the line and when stuff like that happens, you should be upset." Said catcher Sal Fasano: "I thought he moved his shoulder. But I don't know, it's not my call to make and I'm glad. But in my honest opinion, I thought he did [move]." Mazzilli's got more problems on his hands than a mercurial reliever. Daniel Cabrera had dominant stuff but the inconsistent right-hander couldn't harness his control and piled up the pitches. He threw 116 in 5 2/3 innings and his walks helped the Yankees rally from a 4-1 deficit. He allowed a one-out single to Hideki Matsui in the sixth and one out later, walked Giambi. Sierra followed with a broken-bat RBI single to score Matsui. Cabrera then walked pinch-hitter Tino Martinez to load the bases. Mazzilli decided to go with rookie Chris Ray, who is two weeks removed from Double-A Bowie. Ray proceeded to walk Derek Jeter on a close 3-2 pitch just off the plate to score Giambi and then Fasano couldn't backhand a slider to Robinson Cano and Sierra scored the tying run. That was the momentum-changing blow. "We played pretty well tonight and then just had five bad minutes," designated hitter Jay Gibbons said. "I personally thought we had it, but we let it slip away. This can snowball, and it has a little bit. It's going to be a tough week and a half."
Gary Washburn is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.