O's bullpen can't follow Burres' lead
Lefty allows three hits in seven before Yanks walk off to victory
NEW YORK -- Close wins were the signature of the early-season Orioles, a team that exceeded all expectations by playing a classic brand of baseball. Now, the strategy hasn't changed, even if the results are markedly different. Baltimore fell prey to a 1-0 loss to the New York Yankees on Saturday, a result that left the O's just 2-19 in their past 21 one-run games.
That streak includes nine losses in Baltimore's past nine one-run games, and it helps devalue the team's 18-10 start under those circumstances. The latest defeat was perhaps the cruelest, as the Yankees and Orioles went scoreless for eight innings. But Jim Miller hit Yankees captain Derek Jeter on the left hand with a pitch in the ninth inning, and two outs later, Robinson Cano singled to win the game.
"I'll take the starting pitching," said Orioles manager Dave Trembley, "because that's the area we're going to have to improve on and this is a very good sign for us. We're losing the one-run games, and we're not knocking in the runs when we get the opportunities, but that's baseball. I've got no problem with that. That stuff happens. But to get well-pitched games at the end of the season and to get your starters to go longer and deeper in the game, that's a real positive for everybody."
The starting pitching made the game, but the endgame boiled down to relief. Baltimore went scoreless in the top of the ninth against closer Mariano Rivera, and the Orioles elected to stick with Miller, a rookie who had pitched a perfect eighth inning. Things went awry immediately, though, when Miller hit Jeter to put the leadoff man on base.
"We were trying to go in with the fastball, and it just got away," said Miller of the errant pitch. "It got away from me and ran back up and in. Obviously, in that situation -- the bottom of the ninth inning and nobody on, nobody out -- I'm not trying to hit a guy to put the go-ahead run on base. It was just a fastball that got away from me."
The Orioles could have gone a variety of directions after pinch-runner Brett Gardner stole second base, but they elected to intentionally walk Bobby Abreu and set up a force play. Alex Rodriguez gave them their desired goal, but Juan Castro threw wide of first to kill the double play. That brought on Jamie Walker, who struck out one batter and walked another before giving up the winning hit.
Walker, who spiked his glove after Cano's winning hit, apologized for his outburst after the game.
"I've never done that -- I apologize for that," Walker said. "Obviously, I try not to ever show any emotions. I wouldn't have shown any if I got him out. That's my bad throwing the glove, and I'll have to deal with my kids on that one."
Starter Brian Burres stepped back into the breach on Saturday, plugging a gap in Baltimore's rotation with a dominant outing. Burres, who has been hooked from the starting staff on numerous occasions, stepped in for Daniel Cabrera and shut out New York for seven innings, allowing just three hits and allowing the Yankees to put just two runners in scoring position.
Burres' performance was quite a surprise, considering his pedigree. Burres started the season in the rotation and was later removed due to inefficiency, but he has reentered the picture due to multiple injuries. Burres took the place of Cabrera on Saturday and kept the Yankees from really mounting a serious challenge.
"I thought I did what I could do, wanted to do -- throw strikes and let the defense do the job that they did," said Burres, who has lost four straight decisions. "They did a great job behind me. That's just how it goes sometimes."
"I think the big thing with him is he got a lot of rest in between pitching," added Trembley. "He's got more life on his fastball, more finish with his pitches. ... That's why when he was starting, I thought he was obviously much more effective when he didn't pitch on five days -- when he pitched on six or seven. He looked very strong today with his pitches."
Burres looked so strong, in fact, that the Yankees could count their good scoring opportunities on two fingers. The first one came in the first inning, but Burres was able to strand Abreu at third after a double and a wild pitch. New York (83-72) didn't get back to second base until the fourth inning, when Abreu reached on an error and advanced on a hit before getting stranded.
Meanwhile, the Orioles (67-81) had the same problem against rookie Alfredo Aceves. Brian Roberts reached base three times, including a double in the first inning, but he wasn't able to score. Baltimore never made it as far as third base, stranding runners at second in three rallies, before Aubrey Huff hit a towering fly to right field in the eighth inning.
That was about as much offense as the Orioles could muster en route to their fourth straight loss.
"I felt the first inning was probably our best shot, but then there were some other opportunities that with a hit, it probably would have worked out in our favor, and it didn't," said Trembley of his team's inability to get on the scoreboard. "Obviously, you'd like to get a win for the team. Today, I would have liked to get the win for how well Burres pitched."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.