O's chance at comeback falls short
Baltimore continues to find ways to claw back in tight games
MILWAUKEE -- Some habits die hard. It took five innings for the Orioles to get a hit and seven for them to score on Saturday, but there they were, trailing by a run with a chance to make it up late in the game. Baltimore, which has specialized in one-run victories and unlikely comebacks this season, fell just short of any late heroics in a 3-2 loss to Milwaukee.
Pinch-hitter Melvin Mora drilled a two-run double to right-center field in the ninth inning, giving the Orioles one final crack at tying the game. That chance came in the form of pinch-hitter Jay Payton, who popped up to end the game. Milwaukee closer Salomon Torres picked up his 10th save in as many opportunities since taking over the full-time role.
"I have a feeling every night that we were going to win," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "It doesn't surprise me and it shouldn't surprise anybody else. We're going to come back [and] we're going to make you earn it. If we lose, it's not going to be a gimme. It shouldn't be a surprise to anybody anymore because it just happens so many times."
Indeed, the Orioles have made up a two-run deficit to win 17 times this season, which is the most in the Major Leagues. By way of comparison, Baltimore managed that feat just 18 times all last season. The same disparity is evident in one-run games, where the Orioles have racked up a 17-11 record this year after going 13-31 under the same circumstances last year.
The Brewers (40-34) took control from the first inning on Saturday, and Milwaukee starter Seth McClung helped make sure they stayed in front. McClung (5-3) threw four no-hit innings, dispatching the Orioles with ease as his team built a three-run lead. He didn't give up a run until the seventh, when pinch-hitter Oscar Salazar drilled a two-run shot to left-center.
That was all the Brewers would allow, but the Orioles (38-35) managed to make it a close game despite finishing with just four hits. When asked what was working for McClung, right fielder Nick Markakis was nearly at a loss for words.
"I don't know," he said. "I really don't know. He was up there throwing strikes and guys were missing pitches. He was just getting people out. ... I think guys were trying to do too much, including myself, instead of trying to stay within ourselves. It happens sometimes. You can't win every game. We still have a chance to come out tomorrow and win the series."
Multiple Orioles mentioned that it was hard to see once the roof opened up, but they allowed that the Brewers had to deal with the same hazards. And it didn't affect Milwaukee early. Baltimore starter Daniel Cabrera gave up two hits and a run in the first inning and a two-run home run to right fielder Corey Hart in the third before finding his comfort zone.
"That's why we lost that game -- a big mistake on the pitching side," said Cabrera, who hasn't won since May 20. "I missed my spot. The breaking ball was working really good in the bullpen, so I told [catcher] Ramon [Hernandez] that we're going to use it more today. And it worked. ... Today, the ball moved really good -- better than the last four starts."
Baltimore got so desperate for offense early that Trembley leapt at his first chance to use a pinch-hitter. The Orioles had two men on base and one out in the fifth inning, but they also had the bottom of the order coming up. And instead of pinch-hitting for Cabrera, Trembley elected to sub in Alex Cintron in place of Freddie Bynum, who had started at shortstop.
Cintron struck out on three pitches, and McClung went on to strike out Cabrera (5-3) to erase the threat. The right-hander recorded his fourth straight quality start, and Trembley said that he had to roll the dice early.
"In a National League game, especially when you're behind, there's one opportunity that you get to score," he said. "You've either got to use the bullet that you have then or bypass it and hope you get another shot late in the game. Usually that doesn't happen. I put Cintron up to hit because he's a contact guy and I thought he'd get a run in. It didn't happen.
"It's too early in the game to take Cabrera out, especially with the situation last night where you used your bullpen as much as we did. If it works, it looks great. If it doesn't, so be it and you move on."
Trembley moved on to another opportunity for a pinch-hitter, and this one came through with the best possible result. Salazar came up with one man on base and two outs in the seventh, and he made it a one-run game with a blast off McClung. That gave the Orioles homers in eight straight games and their first pinch-hit homer since April 17 of last season.
Milwaukee left two runners on base in both the sixth and seventh innings, giving the Orioles a chance to break back. Baltimore went quietly in the eighth, though, and wasn't able to knot the game in the ninth. Only two of the road team's starters -- second baseman Brian Roberts and center fielder Adam Jones -- were able to reach base more than once in the loss.
That performance stood in stark contrast to the series opener, when Baltimore finished with 13 hits and eight runs.
"That's why they play 162 games," said Trembley, writing off the wild swing in performance. "You don't play off what you did last night [and] you don't play off what you did today. It's a new game, it's a new environment, it's a new pitcher [and] it's a different lineup. What you did last night doesn't mean a hill of beans to what you did last night."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.