Orioles fall to Rangers in walk-off fashion
Reliever Berken yields sac fly to Cruz in ninth inning
ARLINGTON -- With the advantage of an 0-2 count on Josh Hamilton in the bottom of the ninth Wednesday night, Orioles reliever Alberto Castillo decided there was only one way to get the Rangers' slugger out. Throw the slider.
Hamilton had, after all, already hit one home run and had the umpires miss a call on what should have been another one, so Castillo felt it was best, with runners at first and second in a tie game, to pitch carefully to Hamilton. And he had gotten ahead with two sliders.
"He was hot," Castillo said. "I didn't second guess any pitches."
Castillo walked Hamilton on four sliders that weren't close. Rangers left fielder Nelson Cruz took advantage of the bases-loaded situation, lifting a sacrifice fly to center field against the Orioles' third reliever of the inning, Jason Berken. The result was a disappointing 4-3 loss for the Orioles in the opener of a quick two-game series against Texas at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Orioles manger Dave Trembley didn't like that Castillo didn't go right after Hamilton, and saw the walk as one of two key moments in the Orioles' eighth one-run loss of the season.
"We need to be more aggressive right there," Trembley said. "That was five or six pitches in a row that were way out of the strike zone."
Castillo's walk of Hamilton set the Rangers up for the win. An error on a sacrifice bunt helped the Rangers score two runs in the bottom of the seventh to take a 3-2 lead, spoiling a gutty effort by Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie.
Rangers catcher Matt Treanor started the inning by reaching on a swinging bunt single. Orioles reliever Matt Albers then bobbled the ball on a sacrifice bunt by Julio Borbon and threw too late to beat the speedy Rangers center fielder. A sac bunt by Elvis Andrus moved the runners to second and third, and Trembley had Albers intentionally walk Michael Young to load the bases.
Albers then made a quality pitch to Ian Kinsler, but the ground ball was slowly hit and Orioles second baseman Ty Wigginton's only play was to first base, allowing a runner to score, tying the game at 2. Vladimir Guerrero then hit a sharp ground ball off the glove of third baseman Miguel Tejada and Borbon scored as the Orioles fell behind, 3-2.
"We needed to get the out on the bunt," Trembley said.
The Orioles did respond in the top of the eighth as Cesar Izturis, who had all three RBIs, singled to tie the game, but that didn't last very long.
The Orioles used three pitchers in the bottom of the ninth. Cla Meredith started the inning allowing a double to Young. He then walked Kinsler, and Trembley went for the lefty-lefty matchup, bringing in Castillo to face Hamilton, and that's when the critical walk occurred.
Trembley then brought in Berken to face Cruz. Berken fell behind Cruz, 0-1, and the Rangers' right fielder lifted the next pitch into center field. Adam Jones made the catch, but his throw home was high and late as Young stepped on home plate.
The Orioles scored their runs in the top of the second. Tejada and Luke Scott started the inning with singles, and after Matt Wieters struck out, Jones produced an infield single to load the bases. Rangers starter Rich Harden then struck out Garrett Atkins, but Izturis picked up his teammate, blooping a single into center field for a 2-0 lead.
For Izturis, who was 4 for his last 41, it was a confidence-boosting hit.
"I needed it bad," Izturis said. "It was a big hit for me and for the team at the right time."
The Orioles got all they could ask from Guthrie, who went six innings, allowing seven hits, one of them a home run, to Hamilton in the bottom of the second to cut the Orioles' lead to 2-1.
The Orioles and Guthrie caught a huge break in the bottom of the fourth when Hamilton's deep drive to left field cleared the wall for what should have been ruled a home run, but second-base umpire Doug Eddings ruled it a double on the field. Major League Baseball rules allow the play to be reviewed, but that didn't happen. Crew chief Dana DeMuth said he watched the video and said it should have been ruled a home run.
Hamilton was still at second with no outs and Guthrie was able to keep him right there by making quality pitches. He got Cruz to fly out to right field and Justin Smoak and Treanor to ground out to keep the score at 2-1.
Guthrie labored in the fifth and sixth innings with the humidity, and pitching out of jams in the early innings finally catching up to him. But he kept the Orioles in the game, and he continues to make a strong impression on his teammates.
"Guthrie pitched his guts out tonight," Wieters said.
Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.