Taxed bullpen unable to hold onto lead
Wigginton plates four runs, homers in loss to Nationals
WASHINGTON -- The Orioles couldn't hold three separate leads on Saturday afternoon, losing the game and possibly one of their most effective relievers.
Koji Uehara, sidelined with right elbow pain, wasn't available for the third consecutive game, and a short outing from right-hander Brad Bergesen, who was the third consecutive Orioles starter to fail to make it out of the sixth inning, forced manager Dave Trembley to work with what he deemed a three-and-a-half-man bullpen.
It was little surprise that the short supply of arms resulted in the Orioles coming up short, 7-6, in a rainy series-evening defeat to the Nationals in front of an announced crowd of 30, 290 at Nationals Park.
Bergesen toiled through five innings, allowing three runs and getting his pitch count up to 98, and took the mound in the sixth looking for a quick frame. Instead he surrendered three straight hits, including a triple to No. 8 batter Roger Bernadina, and turned the ball over to reliever Mark Hendrickson with a 6-5 lead and a runner on first.
"That's the type of pitcher I am, I try to chew up as many innings as I can," Bergesen said. "I hate to put the added pressure on the bullpen, those guys were going out there every single night so they were tired. So to have them pick up an extra inning on my behalf, I'm not too happy with that part."
Making his first appearance since Sunday's spot start, Hendrickson gave up two runs -- one of which was charged to Bergesen -- to hand the Nationals their first lead and that score held up.
- 134 wins
- 118 wins
The team's typical long man, Hendrickson was one of the three rested arms on Saturday afternoon. The O's 'pen had to piece together the final 3 2/3 innings of Friday's game, and Thursday's starter Brian Matusz lasted just 2 2/3 innings, resulting in a 74-pitch outing from the team's second long man, Jason Berken. Reliever Cla Meredith entered Saturday having pitched in three straight games, while lefty specialist Will Ohman had appeared in five of the last seven. Reliever Matt Albers was coming off Friday's 35-pitch outing and was the only reliever aside from de facto closer Alfredo Simon, who Trembley could feasibly turn to without Uehara.
"I'm not making excuses or anything, but it throws the whole bullpen out of whack [without Koji]," Trembley said. "And you're putting guys in situations where you're asking them to do a little bit more or less, or you go with another guy a little bit longer."
That was the case with Bergesen, who struggled through the game's first five innings, but took his at-bat in the top of the sixth nonetheless. The right-hander yielded a season-high six earned runs on 11 hits over five-plus innings in one of his worst outings of the season.
Following a dismal 0-2 start in his first three outings, Bergesen was sent to Triple-A for 10 days to get straightened out. Following a pair of promising starts, his last two outings haven't been nearly as effective, as the right-hander acknowledged that Saturday's struggles, at least in part, was a continuation of May 17's loss to Kansas City.
"I really wanted to get back to throwing my sinker a lot more," Bergesen said. "[The] scouting report [on] a lot of these guys were saying you had to mix, and I think I got a little away from my strength. I just need to get back to what I do best."
Trembley said, given the team's bullpen situation, he opted to put Bergesen out on the hill to start the sixth. The Nationals had their bottom three hitters up and the hope was the right-hander could give the club another three outs.
"We just came up short," Trembley said. "There are a couple other things, maybe, we could have done. We got some runs, we had the lead, we had the bottom of the lineup coming up in the sixth, after we had just scored. All the momentum was on our side, and we just didn't get it done."
Most of that momentum came courtesy of Ty Wigginton. The second baseman put up a four-RBI afternoon, but it wasn't enough to lift the Orioles to a win. Wigginton put Baltimore on the board in the first inning with a two-out, two-run single, and he struck again off Washington starter Craig Stammen in the sixth. Wigginton sent a 1-0 pitch over the left-field wall, also scoring Luke Scott, for his team-leading 13th homer.
The Orioles other two runs came courtesy of an odd inside-the-park homer by Adam Jones, who capitalized on Nyjer Morgan's outburst for a two-run, fourth-inning roundtripper. Jones sent Stammen's offering deep to center field, and the speedy Morgan made a leaping attempt at the fence, slamming his shoulder into the wall in the process. Morgan's cap flew off his head and the ball deflected, first off his glove and then the wall, as Morgan slammed his glove down in disgust. By the time left fielder Josh Willingham scrambled to get the ball in, a hustling Jones was safe at the plate.
Morgan said his outburst was a result of frustration, and he initially thought Jones' ball went over the fence.
"I guess it didn't, and it was standing right there," Morgan said. "I really didn't check out the inside-the-park homer. My emotions got to me, because I knew I should have had the ball."
The exciting play did little to brighten the mood for Jones, who sat sullen in front of his locker following the Orioles' 30th loss.
"All losses are the same, they're all disappointing," Jones said. "No loss is different. Give the credit to them. They came out and swung the bats. They put up 15 hits. There's nothing we can do about that."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.