Gonzalez's struggles spoil Tejada's big day
Closer blows second save; slugger homers, drives in four
BALTIMORE -- An afternoon full of hopeful cheers and homage to past Orioles greats took a momentary lapse as a smattering of boos greeted Mike Gonzalez in Friday's pregame introductions.
Those early jeers paled in comparison to the frustration that spilled over when the crowd of 48,891 watched in dismay as Gonzalez unraveled against the bottom of the Blue Jays batting order.
"I know what I'm about and I know what I can do," said Gonzalez (0-2), who gave up two runs in 2/3 of an inning, suffering his second blown save and ballooning his ERA to 18.00 in three games.
"I'm just off to a bad start and I need to turn it around as fast as possible."
Friday's 7-6 loss to the Blue Jays, in front of a record-breaking home opening crowd at Camden Yards was the most damaging yet.
Overshadowed by the blown save was the performance of Miguel Tejada, who went 3-for-5 with a homer and four RBIs, in his first appearance back in Baltimore since being traded away in December 2007. Also wasted was the 2 1/3 scoreless innings thrown by Mark Hendrickson and the job setup man Jim Johnson did to keep the score tied. Gone, too, was the effort by pinch-runner Felix Pie, who legged out Cesar Izturis' center-field single, scoring all the way from first base to give the Orioles the one-run edge heading into the ninth inning.
"The game is ruined," manager Dave Trembley said, "because we don't close it out."
Gonzalez opened the final frame by walking Edwin Encarnacion and throwing a wild pitch, followed by Travis Snider's double that tied the game at 6. Snider advanced to third on John McDonald's bunt, and Jose Bautista's sacrifice fly put the Blue Jays on top.
Trembley, who was one batter away from removing Gonzalez in Thursday's save, had seen enough and summoned Cla Meredith out of the bullpen. The sidearmer struck out Alex Gonzalez.
"There's no sugarcoating it, there's no excuses and there's not looking any other way," Trembley said. "We didn't close it out. Gonzalez was in there to do it, and he didn't do it."
Both Trembley and Gonzalez insist the lefty with the herky-jerky delivery is healthy. Asked to identify the problem, Gonzalez said it's a few little things, like adjusting to a division full of foreign hitters and getting in better counts.
"My stuff is good enough, I definitely feel that," Gonzalez said. "My confidence is not down whatsoever."
And if any of his teammates had any doubts, they weren't willing to voice them following Friday's loss.
"I think his resume speaks for itself," starter Brad Bergesen said of Gonzalez, who allowed just four earned runs in his final 32 1/3 innings for Atlanta last season.
"[We have to] keep getting him the ball, that's the only way," center fielder Adam Jones said. "If he reels off a couple [saves] in a row, gets the confidence, he's going to be fine. We wouldn't have signed him if we didn't trust him. So, we just got to keep giving him the ball."
But for how long? On Friday, Gonzalez and Meredith warmed up in the bullpen at the same time, and Gonzalez wasn't given the chance to finish the ninth inning. Suffice it to say, his leash is growing shorter with each disappointing outing.
"Obviously, Gonzalez isn't off to the start that he wants or that we expected," Trembley said. "You live with it. It doesn't sit with you real good, but that's all I can tell you."
"It's tough on him and it's tough on the team," catcher Matt Wieters said. "We've played well and been in games, but that's just something we've got to do is win some of these ball games and hopefully get on a roll."
Friday's loss dropped the Orioles to 1-3 on the season, with all three of their defeats a result of a blown lead. Baltimore led in all three games in Tampa Bay and went back and forth Friday afternoon before taking the lead for the first time in the bottom of the eighth.
Almost forgotten given Friday's heartbreaking finish was a mediocre outing from starter Bergesen, who labored through a 30-pitch first inning and allowed five earned runs on eight hits over 4 2/3 innings.
For Bergesen, the afternoon never went quite as expected, starting with the leadoff single he allowed to Jose Bautista in an 0-2 count.
"Then it just snowballed from hitter to hitter until I kind of started finding a groove for the next three innings," Bergesen said. "By that time, I was done."
The first inning didn't just cost the Orioles an early exit from their starter; it also saw Brian Roberts strain an abdominal muscle while sliding headfirst to steal second base. Roberts, who scored the game's first run, did not come back out for the second and wasn't available after the game for comment. Trembley said he is listed as day-to-day.
Given how Gonzalez has pitched, the Orioles' ninth inning is on equally uneven footing.
"We should have had three wins right now, and that's what's getting under my skin," Gonzalez said. "What's a problem for me is the way the guys are playing; the guys are playing great baseball, they can hang with anybody in this league right now.
"They're getting it done, I just need to go and do my part."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.