Liz's struggles continue in loss to Tribe
Righty's troubles highlighted by mound mate's dominance
BALTIMORE -- Eighteen starts, no progress. Radhames Liz continued his hard-knocks introduction to the Major Leagues on Tuesday, when he was pulled before completing five innings for the fifth time in his last eight starts. The Indians loaded the bases in the first inning against Liz and he allowed three earned runs in his brief outing, sinking the Orioles in a 6-1 loss.
Liz, who made his first four big league starts in 2007, moved into the rotation in June of this year and has given up at least four runs in half of his 14 starts. The Indians got three extra-base hits against him Tuesday, but a steady stream of singles and walks kept them in business. And Liz, true to his efforts, said he's largely the same as he was last year.
"I think I'm probably the same," he said, "But now I can make some decisions in situations and not just throw the ball."
"I think his breaking stuff was better," added Baltimore manager Dave Trembley, rounding out the right-handed rookie's scouting report. "I think last year in September, he was a high fastball pitcher, strictly. He didn't trust anything else. I see him as trying to go to his secondary pitches a little bit more and trusting that approach a little bit better."
Liz (5-5) had gotten hammered in his last start, a 14-2 rout at the hands of the Red Sox. He proved less combustible Tuesday, but not for lack of opportunities. Cleveland (70-73) scored in four of the first five innings but stranded six runners in scoring position over that span, and Liz allowed 11 baserunners before getting pulled with two outs in the fifth.
"Obviously, he wasn't commanding the fastball as well as he's done some other times," said catcher Guillermo Quiroz. "His changeup and his slider were working pretty good, but he needed his fastball and he was up in the zone."
Leadoff man Grady Sizemore walked and scored on a two-out hit in the first inning, and Michael Aubrey drilled a run-scoring hit in the third. David Dellucci hit a run-scoring triple to deep center field in the fourth, and Kelly Shoppach and Andy Marte both doubled in the fifth. Liz has now lost five of his last seven decisions and can make three more starts this season.
"I missed a lot of pitches, especially with the fastball. I think my breaking pitches were better tonight than my fastball," Liz said of his outing, which actually lowered his ERA (7.75). "In the first inning, I was throwing a lot of pitches. But in the second inning, I got comfortable again. My stuff was working better, but I still missed a lot of pitches and got a lot of foul balls."
"He was better. But he didn't pitch good enough to win," said Trembley. "For the majority of the game that he's in there, you're still looking at a 50-50 split, balls and strikes. You're not going to get a whole lot of success doing that.
"And when your club is coming off an offensive game like they did last night, that needs to be better to keep them in the tempo of the game and the rhythm of the game. I think you saw that's what [Indians starter Jeremy] Sowers did for his ballclub."
Baltimore never really challenged against southpaw Sowers, using a groundout from Ramon Hernandez in the fourth inning to break the shutout. Luke Scott hit a leadoff double in the fifth but wound up stranded on second. The Orioles (64-79) have lost nine of their last 10 games and 17 of their last 21, going from three games under .500 to 15 below.
Sowers (3-8) worked eight innings to tie a season high and set a new season low for runs allowed. Baltimore allowed a run in the first inning for the 64th time this season and the 16th time in its last 21 games.
"Sowers pitched a better game. That's the long and short of it," said Trembley in review. "He pitched a great game. He had command. He pitched down. His tempo was good, quick. He got ahead, kept his pitch count down early."
Sowers didn't just keep his pitch count down, he did something Trembley often cites as a concern -- commanded the fastball. The left-hander attacked early and used his fastball aggressively, whereas Liz often threw his outside the strike zone. That one trait, according to Trembley, was mainly the difference between the two starting pitchers on Tuesday night.
"When you have command of your fastball, you get people out," he said. "You can see what happens with young Major League pitchers against good Major League hitters. ... They'll take, they'll make you throw it over the plate. They'll get you in counts and they'll force you to throw a pitch that maybe you shouldn't throw. They'll make you come in with fastballs when maybe you should throw something else.
"I did see some things better with him, but obviously, the other guy was far-and-away much better."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.